The branched-chain amino acids Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine are 3 protein building blocks that are…
There are about 270 to 280 different amino acids. Exactly 20 of them form the proteins in the human body. That is why they also play a major role in muscle building.
However, only the essential amino acid variants are indispensable for the human body. These can only be taken in through food, as our body does not form these organic compounds itself.
The so-called semi-essential acids take a special position here. They are produced to a small extent by the body, but must also be absorbed through food.
Every essential and semi-essential variant can play an important role, especially in sports and in muscle building or muscle training. They support a faster and improved muscle build-up and the increase of muscle mass.
Some studies have already investigated certain effects on muscle build-up and performance. Substances of this kind are found both in natural form in certain foods and in the form of food supplements.
Simply explained – these are amino acids
Amino acids are essential basic building blocks for the human body. They represent the basic structure of all proteins.
In contrast to carbohydrates and fats, amino acids also contain nitrogen (N) and can form tissue.
Besides their function as basic building blocks for proteins, they also serve as hormones. In addition, acids of this type are the precursor of neurotransmitters and enzymes that are important for a large number of different metabolic processes.
Protein-forming compounds (also “proteinogenic”) fulfil a special function. This is because the body produces more than 50,000 different proteins from a total of 20 proteinogenic amino acids.
We should differentiate between the non-essential and the essential acid variants. While our body does not produce the essential variants itself, the non-essential acids are produced in the body itself.
How the essential amino acid variants work
There are a total of eight essential amino acids, which we would like to introduce to you below.
Doctors stress that humans should ensure a sufficient supply of these special acids. For each of these acids reveals modes of action that help you to stay physically and mentally fit.
The following effects are attributed to the individual acids:
Due to its structural conditions, Leucine belongs to the “branched-chain amino acids” (BCAA).
This essential amino acid plays a decisive role in the build-up and maintenance of muscle protein. Leucine plays an important role in the provision of energy in the muscle and therefore also in the corresponding healing processes for muscle injuries. It also promotes the increase of muscle mass.
You can find Leucine mainly in salmon, chicken breast, eggs, peas, wholemeal wheat flour and walnuts.
Like Leucine, Isoleucine is one of the BCAAs that support targeted muscle growth and the increase of muscle mass.
On the one hand, it serves as a valuable energy supplier and as an important component in the formation of new glucose (here: gluconeogenesis). On the other hand, Isoleucine also participates in the hormone regulation of our organism and activates the growth hormone somatotropin (STH).
This is a growth hormone which is responsible for longitudinal growth during puberty as well as for good utilisation of amino acids in muscles, bones and liver. The hormone also stimulates the breakdown of fat.
This is also important for weight training and fitness.
Very important for power athletes who want to gain muscle mass: Isoleucine stimulates the secretion of insulin, which allows amino acids and glucose to enter the muscle cells more easily.
The absorption of Isoleucine makes it easier for wounds, among other things, to heal. A targeted intake or supply of BCAA could show successful effects in diseases such as schizophrenia, liver cirrhosis and the hereditary metabolic disorder phenylketonuria.
On the other hand, a lack of Isoleucine can sometimes lead to listlessness and muscle weakness or to a reduction in muscle mass.
Meat and fish products, legumes and nuts are particularly rich in this particular amino acid.
These groups have an increased need for Isoleucine:
- Endurance and strength athletes who do intensive muscle training and fitness programs.
- People who are exposed to high physical stress.
- People who have clinical pictures with an additional need for branched-chain amino acid variants.
Valine, like Isoleucine and Leucine, is one of the branched-chain acid compounds and provides particularly high energy for the muscle cells. In addition, this essential amino acid sends important messenger substances for the nervous system.
Valine not only has a supporting function in building protein but also stimulates insulin secretion and ensures that the other amino acids are quickly absorbed by the liver and muscles.
Valine is also involved in the release of somatotropin (STH).
If, on the other hand, there is a lack of Valine, this can lead to
- hypersensitivity to tactile stimuli,
- growth disturbances,
- painful cramps.
In many cases, the muscle mass decreases and movement problems occur.
Especially foods such as poultry, cereals, legumes, eggs, salmon, walnuts, cheese and beef have very high Valine content.
Phenylalanine is a component of peptides and proteins, but at the same time, it is also important for the formation of proteins and various hormones such as adrenaline, the happiness hormone dopamine and noradrenaline.
In addition, Phenylalanine acts as the precursor of the amino acid Tyrosine and, according to scientific findings, is said to be able to improve your performance during periods of stress.
You can absorb Phenylalanine by eating poultry, pork, salmon, soybeans, peas, pumpkin seeds and eggs.
Lysine helps to ensure the preservation of connective and muscle tissue. It is also needed – together with Methionine – for the synthesis of Carnitine, which is important for fat metabolism.
Especially vegans are recommended to ensure a sufficient supply of Lysine. This is because the majority of vegetable foods are low in Lysine.
Only legumes such as lentils, peas and soya are comparatively rich in this amino acid.
In addition to these, salmon, chicken breast, tofu, pumpkin seeds, beech wheat flour, chicken eggs and walnuts also contain large amounts of Lysine.
This amino acid is involved in the Isoleucine and vitamin B12 biosynthesis. Threonine, for example, is frequently found in the collagen of connective tissue.
Collagen is an important substance of tendons, ligaments, teeth and bones. Glycoproteins such as mucins are also rich in Threonine.
In addition, the amino acid is an essential component of important antibodies.
If you take too little Threonine over a longer period of time, this often results in fatigue and tiredness. This makes effective muscle training more difficult, for example.
Threonine-containing foods include beef, chicken breast fillet, salmon, chicken eggs, peas, walnuts and whole wheat flour.
Tryptophan is said to have a mood-lifting effect. This is due to its function as a precursor of Serotonin molecules.
If you do not take enough Tryptophan with your food, your body will not produce serotonin. Serotonin can be described as a kind of “feel-good hormone” that ensures a good mood and balance.
You can ingest tryptophan naturally by eating soybeans, peas, chicken breast, cashews and unsweetened cocoa powder.
The active ingredient Methionine is one of the sulphur-containing amino acids. Methionine is, therefore, an important building block for proteins and also important for numerous body processes.
Studies show that Methionine excretes fatty substances and thus prevents arterial congestion.
After prolonged muscle injuries as well as in the regeneration phase after resistance training, our need for Methionine is particularly high.
A lack of Methionine can lead to skin and hair growth disorders, fatty liver and other metabolic disorders.
Further type: Semi-essential amino acids
In addition to the essential and non-essential amino acids, there is another type with the semi-essential variants.
As the name already suggests, the body produces only a part of this acid. But as this is not enough, we have to supply these semi-essential variants additionally through food or supplements.
For athletes, strength athletes and for the build-up of muscle mass, L-arginine and Histidine are of particular importance.
L-Arginine for muscle mass and general fitness
Since L-Arginine specifically expands our blood vessels, athletes like to use the acid as a pre-workout booster and pump supplement for fitness and muscle building.
This improves the blood circulation, which then also increases the oxygen and nutrient transport in the muscle.
In this way, you increase your performance and muscle strength during sports or muscle building.
Various studies confirm this. According to these studies, the doctors administered three grams of Arginine per day to athletes for three weeks. The result was that the athletes achieved an increase in performance of 8 %.
L-Arginine also plays an important role in muscle building. Here the amino acid supports the release of growth hormones such as Glucagon or Prolactin. This leads to an improved and faster muscle building.
Arginine is also an important factor in the biosynthesis of Creatine, which provides for improved energy supply to the muscles and for increased muscle growth.
At a glance – the most important features of L-Arginine:
- increased insulin sensitivity
- vasodilatory effect
- improved circulation
- improved nutrient and oxygen transport to the muscle
Histidine ensures the bioavailability of zinc
Histidine has a special molecular structure that binds zinc or iron and makes it useful for the human body. Together with zinc, Histidine forms the so-called Histidine-zinc complex, which ensures the bioavailability of zinc.
Zinc is particularly important for various metabolic processes in the muscles. It also functions as an important functional component of the muscle pigment Myoglobin.
Histidine has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and protects your immune system.
It also controls growth and the body’s own repair mechanisms. If you have too little Histidine in your body, this can lead to inflammatory skin changes and delayed wound healing after operations.
Technical literature confirms (partially) the effect of BCAAs
In principle, especially the Branched-Chain Amino Acids seem to be suitable to promote muscle growth and to support the increase of muscle mass.
Even if the specialist literature puts into words what scientific results show, not all preparations can keep their promises.
That is why it is important that you take a close look at amino acid supplementation and decide for yourself which product can support you in your efforts. At amino4u, for example, we offer a combination of all eight essential amino acids in our amino acid complex.