Amino acids and athletic performance

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Athletic performance is an issue of major concern for athletes. Among sports supplements, amino acids are believed that have ergogenic action. What is exactly their role in exercise and how can they improve athletic performance?

Amino acids

   Proteins and peptides are composed of small structural blocks linked together, the amino acids. Amino acids in total are 20 and some are considered necessary, while others are not. Amino acids that can be synthesized by the human body are considered as non-essential. However, there is also a group of amino acids that body can not synthesize them and are considered as essential (lysine, leucine, isoleucine, valine, phenylalanine, threonine, methionine and tryptophan). Histidine and arginine show a very low rate of biosynthesis, so they are semi-essential.

The role of amino acids in exercise

   Amino acids are among the most famous and studied ingredients regarding their effect on athletic performance. They mediate in many stages of metabolism and biochemical processes, such as the secretion of anabolic hormones, as a source of energy during exercise, tissue regeneration as well as mental and neural function.

   Amino acids have been studied individually or all together in amino acid formulas. In summary, the actions of amino acids in the exercise are categorized into three main axes:

  • Increase of muscle mass
  • Increase of strength
  • Fast recovery after exercise or fatigue


   BCAAs (Branched-chain amino acids) is a group consisting of 3 amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs are not metabolized in the liver, but through blood circulation, they are immediately transferred in muscle cells for further metabolism and energy production. Due to the aforementioned action, they are considered as a source of energy for muscle cells, especially when there is an increased demand or lack of carbohydrates in anaerobic activities. Additionally, they are structural elements of muscle fibers and are involved in gluconeogenesis. BCAAs also significantly reduce muscular or mental fatigue, because they affect the secretion of serotonin, thus improving athletic performance. The catabolism of BCAAs is lower when there is consumption of carbohydrates during exercise.

Arginine, ornithine and lysine

   Arginine, ornithine and lysine are amino acids that lead to an increase in NO production, which causes vasodilation, thus achieving a better transfer of nutrients and oxygen to the tissues. Supplemental administration of these amino acids help to faster recovery after exercise. In addition, they are believed to mediate in the production of growth hormones, which in turn cause an increase in muscle synthesis.


   Glutamine is an amino acid that takes part in the production of energy of lymphocytes and macrophages, cells of the immune system. According to studies, administration of glutamine prevents fatigue and symptoms of over-exhaustion. It has a regulatory effect on the muscles, as it speeds up the repair of damaged tissue, especially in cases of injury and prevents the excess accumulation of lactic acid in muscles in anaerobic sports. As a result, glutamine can reduce muscle mass fatigue, while also takes part in gluconeogenesis.


   Taurine is an unnecessary sulfur-containing amino acid that has antioxidant properties and improves cardiovascular function while takes part in the function of the central nervous system. According to studies, supplemental administration of taurine can improve athletic performance, especially in endurance sports, while significantly reduce fatigue and exhaustion due to an increase of VOmax.

Cocktails of amino acids

   Amino acid formulas seem to outweigh the benefit of taking individually amino acids. The reason is that many amino acids act synergistically with each other. In particular, formulas of amino acids have anabolic action, contribute to rapid recovery from muscle fatigue and reduce tissue damage occurring during intense exercise. In addition, studies have shown that formulas of amino acids modify some hematopoietic factors, resulting in increased oxygenation of cells, which significantly improves athletic performance. Recommended intake is 1 to 3 hours before exercise or just after training.

   In Vita4you you can find a wide variety of formulas for amino acids for athletes.


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