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Benefits of Amino Acid Supplements for Your Pre- or Post-Workout Regimen

Wondering how to support your muscles before, during, or after a workout? Say hello to essential amino acids.

October 22, 2021

Benefits of Amino Acid Supplements for Your Pre- or Post-Workout Regimen

Wondering how to support your muscles before, during, or after a workout? Say hello to essential amino acids.

October 22, 2021

Benefits of Amino Acid Supplements for Your Pre- or Post-Workout Regimen

Wondering how to support your muscles before, during, or after a workout? Say hello to essential amino acids.

October 22, 2021

What is an essential amino acid?

Amino acids make up every protein in every cell in our bodies. These amino acids belong to two main categories: non-essential (the kind our bodies naturally make from other things) and essential (the type that we must obtain through diet).

How many amino acids are there? There are 20 different amino acids, nine of which are essential. The remaining are non-essential.

Both categories of amino acids play a vital role in supporting a healthy body and exercise endurance. That’s why taking amino acid supplements can help you make the most of your workout routine, whether it’s three times a week or one time a week.

Wondering how? Here’s everything you should know about amino acid benefits thanks to Marissa Arterburn, a nutrition scientist for XS™ products, and Kristin Morris, a principal research scientist for Nutrilite™ products who has a doctorate in nutrition biochemistry.

What do essential amino acids do?

Essential amino acids can only be obtained through diet and consist of nine different proteins, three of which are considered branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). All nine uniquely support your body:

  • Isoleucine (BCAA): Supports healthy muscle metabolism, and the conversion of fats and carbohydrates into energy.
  • Leucine (BCAA): Impacts blood sugar, converts fat into energy, helps repair muscle, and supports protein synthesis.
  • Valine (BCAA): Supports muscle growth and converts carbohydrates into energy.
  • Lysine: May support collagen and protein production as well as calcium absorption.
  • Histidine: Helps support nerves.
  • Methionine: May play a role in the development and metabolism of energy from food.
  • Threonine: Supports fat metabolism, and structural tissue.
  • Phenylalanine: Can assist in enzyme and neurotransmitter function.
  • Tryptophan: Helps to produce serotonin and melatonin.

Foods with amino acids

Since these amino acids are only present in foods, you’ll want to make sure you include them in your diet. There are many foods with amino acids, and those that contain all nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins.

Complete proteins include beef, lamb, pork, tuna, poultry, eggs, yogurt, salmon, shrimp, soy, buckwheat and quinoa. Because most of these are animal proteins, vegetarians and vegans should take extra steps to ensure they’re consuming enough essential amino acids.

“Getting essential amino acids from the food you eat is the best way to give your body the nutrients it needs,” Arterburn said. “If you like to eat beef, chicken and eggs all day every day, that is one way to get these essential amino acids. But if that sounds unrealistic, essential amino acid supplements are an easy way to fill any gaps you might have in your diet.”

Can help with exercise performance & results

We’ve talked a lot about how essential amino acids can impact your workout regimen—but just how helpful can they be? Some essential amino acid supplements can support muscle protein synthesis, which is important for everyone, but especially after intense exercise.

“Certain essential amino acid dietary supplements may also provide your muscles with the proper nutrients to help them reach a muscle-building state,” Arterburn said, “not to mention that they may help speed up recovery and improve performance for your next workout.”

XS™ Muscle Multiplier*‡ Essential Amino Acid Supplement, for example, was shown in a recent clinical study to increase power and strength in participants who used it daily for 10 weeks. It delivers all nine essential amino acids plus an extra amount of the nonessential amino acid l-arginine.

“The 4.1g blend of EAAs plus l-arginine was clinically shown to improve endurance, helping participants lift more weight and repeat more reps when combined with regular weight or resistance training and a healthy, balanced diet,” Morris said. “It was also shown to fuel muscle recovery and repair and help relieve mild muscle soreness and fatigue.”

May improve body composition

One of the biggest challenges while trying to build and maintain muscle is to also burn fat. Perhaps you’ve heard that higher-protein diets may help you achieve this goal. That’s because protein can shift your muscle metabolism to an anabolic state, where it builds and repairs muscles rather than breaking them down.

But essential amino acid supplements may help, too. Studies have found that consuming enough of these nutrients may have the same effect since they include six additional amino acids. In essence, when adequate amounts of essential amino acids are available for muscle protein synthesis, your body is more likely to burn fat instead of muscle during a workout.

In fact, results of the same clinical study using XS Muscle Multiplier mentioned above showed that daily use of the amino acid supplement combined with regular resistance training improved body composition by increasing lean muscle while reducing body fat.

“The results indicate that the supplement would be perfect to use on non-training days as well as training days to support lean muscle protein synthesis and help reduce normal muscle protein breakdown,” Morris said.

“It’s important to note, however, that XS Muscle Multiplier shouldn’t be combined with any other proteins when consumed. That includes protein shakes or other protein supplements,” Morris continued.

XS Muscle Multiplier contains free amino acids, which are in pre-digested form and ready to be used by your body. If combined with other protein sources, your body will focus on digesting those proteins before muscle repair.

“Taking it alone allows your body to almost funnel those amino acids directly to your muscles for the most muscle protein syntheses,” Morris said.

Leucine benefits

The branched-chain amino acids – isoleucine, valine and leucine – are designated as such because of how the molecules are structured compared to the other amino acids.

“Another thing they share is that they all impact your muscles, either through metabolism, growth or repair,” Arterburn said. “That’s why they are often found in essential amino acid supplements that are popular with athletes or those with highly active lifestyles.”

The three amino acids work more effectively as a team. Isoleucine delivers an energy boost needed to fuel workouts, while valine helps prevent the breakdown of muscles. Leucine is the key amino acid for muscle recovery and building lean muscles*, so it’s often highlighted in essential amino acid supplements. XS Muscle Multiplier Essential Amino Acid Supplement was intentionally formulated to have a leucine level at two and a half times the concentration of the traditional BCAA ratio.

When to take essential amino acid supplements

There are several times throughout the day when taking essential amino acid dietary supplements can support your body, Arterburn said.

  • After lifting weights: To make the most of your workout, you may want to supplement with essential amino acids. Bodybuilding and other styles of resistance training can be draining, but these vital nutrients may complement the positive effects of muscle protein synthesis when consumed alone within 30 minutes to 2 hours after a workout.
  • After endurance workouts: Endurance training—like running, cycling and swimming—can be catabolic, which means it can cause your body to break down muscle and fat. Taking essential amino acid supplements within 30 minutes to 2 hours after long training sessions may help your muscles repair more quickly. (We know what you’re thinking—the last thing you want to do is eat or drink something heavy after a long run. The good news is that essential amino acid dietary supplements are typically lighter on digestion than complete protein sources.)
  • Between meals or on non-training days: We know that essential amino acids can help facilitate muscle protein synthesis. So, it should come as no surprise that taking them regularly at any time of day can provide your muscles with a steady supply of extra support.

Essential amino acid supplements are also great for people who don’t do any sort of structured workout or resistance training, Morris said.

“Our bodies actually begin to lose muscle mass at the age of 25,” she said. “XS Muscle Multiplier can help reduce normal muscle protein breakdown whether you go to the gym three times a week or just engage in light resistance training once a week.”

Regardless of your workout routine, the best essential amino acid supplements are the ones that make your body feel its best.

“When combined with other healthy habits like prioritizing sleep and nutrient-dense food, you can help give your muscles the support they need,” Arterburn said.

*When combined with regular weight/resistance training and a healthy, balanced diet.

†This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.