In the fitness world, amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein that aid the muscle-building process, along with other benefits. They are also primarily known as the supplement every successful athlete uses on a daily basis to boost performance and aid the post-workout recovery process. While there is no denying that workout supplements such as BCAAs definitely should have a place on your kitchen shelf, it’s important to understand their history first in order to expand your knowledge on the subject and make informed decisions when it comes to your nutrition, supplementation, and training.
Keep in mind that the history of amino acids goes way back before the age of sports science and their integration into the fitness world. With that in mind, let’s revise the past, the present, and even the future of amino acids and their role in your fitness lifestyle.
The discovery of amino acids
The story of the amino acids begins with French chemists called Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin and Jean Robiquet and, wouldn’t you believe it, an asparagus. By isolating a compound from the vegetable that was later named asparagine, the first amino acid was discovered. In 1806, mind you. This spiked the scientific world’s interest in the building blocks of lifeas a whole, and prompted the search for other amino acids.
In the decades to follow, chemists would discover cystine (1810) and monomer cysteine (1884) in kidney stones. One of the most important amino acids, leucine, was discovered in 1820 (along with glycine) when chemists extracted it from muscle tissue – which is why leucine along with valine and isoleucine are considered essential amino acids for muscle-protein synthesis. By 1935, all 20 of the common amino acids were discovered and categorized, which led William Cumming Rose (a biochemist and nutritionist) to successfully determine the minimum daily amino acid requirements. From then on, amino acids became the focal point of the rapidly-increasing fitness industry.
The importance of amino acids
In a nutshell, amino acids are essential for human life. When we take a closer look and focus solely on muscle hypertrophy, strength gain, conditioning, aerobic exercise, and recovery, then we start seeing patterns and benefits of daily intake and possibly supplementation. Over the decades, biochemists were able to accurately categorize the structure and ratios of compounds in the human body – 60% water, 20% proteins (amino acids), 15% fat, and 5% carbohydrates.
For the athlete and the sports science community as a whole, this allowed the creation of a though experiment that would later fuel countless studies and research papers: does supplementing with branched chain amino acidshelp athletic performance and recovery, or is adequate nutrition alone enough to produce the desired effects? The definite results all still lacking, but the mounting body of research would suggest that supplementation with amino acids could be beneficial to athletes from all sports. In a very short timeframe, amino acids became the primary focus of the fitness industry, and athletes rushed to include them in their lifestyle any way they could.
Integration into the fitness lifestyle
Amino-acid-focused nutrition has been the hallmark of the bodybuilding diet from the earlies days of the sport, with the grand-father of bodybuilding and strength training Eugene Sandowbeing one of the first athletes to emphasize protein intake, albeit in moderation. Nevertheless, every great athlete since has followed suit. After all, bodybuilding dietswere quickly gaining traction and popularity, the great Steve Reeves made sure of it.
Before BCAA supplements, though, athletes used to get their amino acids from whole foods and rich protein sources such as dairy, meat, and eggs. Unbeknownst to them, egg consumption provided the entire spectrum of amino acids needed to maximize muscle growth – something we know now to be scientifically true. Along with eggs protein, whey protein is nowadays also considered to be the highest-quality protein available.
Fitness and the amino-acid balance
This brings us to another important issue that has been gaining traction in the fitness world for decades: what is the right amino acid balance and how should you tailor your nutrition to achieve it? Needless to say, all the bodybuilding greats of the golden era were not only meat eaters, but they also highly emphasized whole egg consumption and dairy products in their diets.
Nowadays, though, more and more people are limiting these protein sources and even eliminating them completely from their lives. This trend, although justified, can have negative effectson muscle growth, recovery, and athletic performance in general. Because dairy, egg, and meat proteins are rich in all amino acids, they provide complete protein structures needed for proper cellular repair and multiplication. Balancing plant protein with the aforementioned sources allows the athlete to optimize and maximize performance and recovery.
So, what does the future hold for the research of amino acids? In general, researchers will continue to unravel the mysteries of these building blocks of life in order to determine their intricate involvement in all processes related to the human body. As for the sports science community, research will primarily focus on increasing athletic performance and dosing, allowing athletes from all sports to balance their amino acid intake through nutrition and supplementation to maximize their fitness potential.
About the Author:
I’m a fitness and health blogger at Ripped.me, and a great fan of the gym and a healthy diet. I follow all the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life, and l love to share my knowledge in this field through useful and informative articles.