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.

Brock Armstrong
6-minute read
Episode #437

Best Sources of Amino Acids

Protein-rich foods are not all created equal. Some foods are said to provide a complete protein, while others are known to be incomplete. The difference between the two comes down to which amino acids are present in each food. 

When a food contains all the essential amino acids, it is said to be a complete protein. Most animal proteins are considered complete proteins. But vegetable sources of protein, (beans, seeds, and grains) are often missing some of the essential amino acids and are considered incomplete proteins.

Amino acids are found in a number of healthy, protein-rich foods including beef, salmon, egg yolks, cheese, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and many nuts. 

In her article Protein Density: How To Get More Protein for Fewer Calories, the Nutrition Diva points out that protein density does not take into account protein quality. Because they contain a more optimal distribution of essential amino acids, animal proteins have a higher biological value than plant-based proteins. So there you go, unless your lifestyle has you avoiding animal protein, you are best off avoiding the plant-based protein choices. 

Should You Take Amino Acids?

Increasing your dietary protein (up to a point), or even supplementing your diet with amino acids, can help you improve your body composition, but only if you fit into one of these two criteria:

  1. You are not currently eating enough protein.

  2. You are exercising at a high enough level to exceed your current level of protein intake. 

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About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show.