Unpacking Proteins - Amino Acids and Why they Matter to Your Workout

Mon, 22 Jul 2019
If you’re a fitness buff, you probably know how important proteins are pre- and post- workout. You may be taking a protein powder to enhance your physical performance, improve your endurance, or help with muscle repair and recovery.

Proteins play an important role in muscle recovery, one of the most important stages in exercise & training. Exercising causes tiny tears in your muscles, which give you that despised post-workout ache. However, once your muscles have recovered, they are bigger and stronger. To optimise muscle recovery, sufficient protein, and rest is essential, allowing the body time to condition and heal itself.

Shopping for a good protein powder can be confusing, in a market inundated with infinite options. Understanding which protein products that will better serve your needs and goals requires a little bit of understanding of the building blocks of protein - amino acids.

Amino acids are involved in most bodily functions, including tissue repair, cell growth, fat metabolism, and keeping free radicals in check. They are important for muscle support, and serve as a source of energy.

Eating a balanced diet is essential to getting the amino acids we need for optimal health. Unfortunately, with eat and run lifestyles, which make convenience foods more appealing, we may not be getting sufficient protein.

On top of the difficulty of maintaining a balanced diet, there are other factors hindering us from getting adequate protein, including:

  • Hormones that are fed to livestock
  • Fertilisers used in agriculture
  • Smoking and drinking

If you are not getting sufficient protein from your diet, you could consider supplementing with one of the following:

1. Protein Powder

Whey and Casein are the standard forms of protein powders. They are excellent sources of protein, as they offer all the essential amino acids your body needs. They’re convenient, may be taken as a meal replacement, and may suppress hunger pangs. Whey protein digests faster, and acts as a quick fuel, hence taken during and post workout.

Casein is a slower burning, sustained source of energy, due to its slow digestion time. It is best taken just before bed time, to support muscle recovery while you sleep. Whey is often the preferred option, as it is more palatable, and gives a quick energy boost during workouts. Both are contribute to muscle growth and recovery.

Plant based proteins, such as yellow pea, rice, hemp and sunflower protein are seeing an increase in popularity. These are often fortified with vitamins, minerals, fibre and digestive enzymes. The downside to plant proteins is that they are not complete proteins, in other words, do not offer all the essential amino acids. As such, you can combine different plant proteins, such as yellow pea and rice, to get the complete range of essential amino acids.

2. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs are comprised of the essential amino acids - leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are metabolised in the muscle instead of the liver, and can be taken to enhance your protein powder, which already contains a certain amount of BCAAs.

As they are metabolised in muscle cells, BCAAs can be taken to enhance muscle bulk and repair, and are useful for athletes training for a competition. As with most things, BCAAs should be taken in moderation, as excessive supplementation with the above three amino acids may result in an imbalance in your amino acid profile.

3. Creatine

Creatine is composed of the essential amino acids, glycine, arginine and methionine. It is naturally produced by the body, and may also be taken as a supplement, to support energy during your workout, and muscle recovery. Creatine provides short bursts of energy to your muscles during exercise, and acts as a muscle ‘plumper’, giving the appearance of bigger, bulkier muscles. As it doesn’t contribute to muscle repair or recovery, creatine should be taken pre-workout.

As most of us want to be strong, fit and healthy, remember, protein supplementation is not just for bodybuilders, or competitive athletes. If you are working towards a lean, toned physique, better energy levels, and less muscle soreness post workout, you could benefit from protein supplementation. Allowing your muscles to repair and recover is just as important as your workout. This will preserve your muscle health, and minimise injury. Be smart and stay strong!

Working towards a mean, lean body, want to bulk up, or support muscle recovery post workout? Check out Singapore’s leading protein brands on Fitlion today!

 Written by
 Chloe Yeo
 BioMed-Chemist, Formulator, Fitness Freak & Full-time free spirit
 Dedicated to helping people find their best self through nutrition and positive vibes.
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