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Do Amino Acids Build Bigger Muscles?

Amino acids enhance workout performance, promote recovery, and help build muscle. But do we need to buy supplements to keep on hand during workouts? Let’s take a look.

By
Brock Armstrong,
Episode #437
Photo of some amino acid supplements

Amino Acid Supplements

Now that we've sorted out how much protein we need, let's look at amino acids supplements. Think of these supplements as the building blocks of protein. In general, when you purchase them, there are two types: branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) and essential amino acids (EAAs). Let's explore what each does.

BCAAs

BCAAs have been used by bodybuilders and other strength-based athletes since the 1980s. They contain three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are known to help your muscles repair faster and encourage recovery after a tough workout. If you ask around, especially at the gym, you'll find they're pretty darn popular. But are they really necessary?

The short answer is probably not. Unless a person has a very restricted diet, most people don't get much benefit from taking BCAAs.

Unless a person has a very restricted diet, most people don't get much benefit from taking BCAAs.

Yes, leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the three main amino acids your body uses to repair muscle, and after a tough workout, your muscles need repair. But these amino acids will repair tissue whether they are from a meal or from a canister with the words Max, Power or Mega printed on it.

EAAs

EAAs are sometimes called the "indispensable amino acids" because they cannot be synthesized by your body, which means they must be eaten. The nine amino acids humans cannot synthesize are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine.

What makes them different? Well, EAAs are vital for muscle tissue development and cell repair when the muscles are recovering.

You can think of it like this: BCAAs are the switch that turns on muscle building, and EAAs are the actual fuel that makes muscles grow. BCAAs prime your body for muscle growth, but you need the other building blocks to build actual tissue.

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