Proteins come from essential amino acids, which are building blocks for the body. If you lack even one of the essential amino acids you not only reduce your body’s ability to build and maintain your muscle, but it can also interfere with the productions of things like key digestive enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters.
Your training and racing will damage the structural proteins in the body. It is this damage that will cause soreness after you do a hard workout. In order for it to repair itself, the body will need essential amino acids.
It is believed that about 75% of athletes are deficient in at least of the essential amino acids, if not more, which results in a failure to recover quickly or even completely.
Amino Acids in the Athlete’s Body
There are many athletes who will calculate their protein based on things like their weight and physical activity, but the body doesn’t really have a certain protein requirement. The requirement is the essential amino acids. Once the proteins are digested they are broken down into the amino acids needed for the body. These particular amino acids will then reassemble by the body to become the protein structures that are able to be easily used at the cellular level.
Amino acids play an important role in the formation of proteins that are found in every tissue of the body. But they also play an important role in every part of the chemical process that will end up affecting the cellular energy production along with the physical and mental health of people. Since this is the case, amino acids play many different roles besides just nutrients. A few more of these include the formation of:
• Ligaments, tendons, and bones
• Immune antibodies
• Enzymes and blood transport proteins
• Hormones (thyroid, melatonin and growth hormone, among others)
• Neurotransmitters (such as adrenalin, dopamine, and serotonin)
• Skin, hair and nails
• Enzymes utilized for the digestion of food
The 22 amino acids needed for the body are found in foods that we commonly eat. Eight of the amino acids are ‘essential’ because if we don’t have them the other 14 cannot be made.
Athletes put more of a demand on their bodies, which means that they have a higher need of the essential amino acids. Also those who suffer from either serious injury or illness need more amino acids to recover. The body is not able to repair itself if it does not have a good supply of amino acids.
Many believe that one protein source is just as good as another when it comes to building or even repairing the tissue in the body. But after closely examining the different proteins available, this is not really the case.
Each of the proteins contains different amounts and blends of the 22 amino acids. There are some that have a higher ‘biological value’ than the others; the use of them will provide a better balance of the eight essential amino acids that are able to help the body re-assemble the usable proteins. Some of the best examples include things like organic grass-fed meats, poultry, wild fish and whole eggs.
There are some foods that have a lower value biologically, which means they don’t have a good mix of the eight amino acids, making it harder for the body to re-assemble them into usable proteins. Some examples include things like whey, soy, nuts, beans and egg whites.
Vegetarians and athletes who use protein bars and/or powders that are whey, soy or casein based will be surprised to find that these particular proteins, regardless of what the hype is, are not well utilized by the body. In fact they say that about 40% of the whole eggs are use anabolically, used for growth and repair while only 18% of the powdered proteins are used anabolically.
To make matters even more complicated, those who eat high biological valued proteins may not be able to digest them as well because they don’t have a good supply of stomach acids or digestive enzymes, which is caused by stress and age.
Evaluating and Restoring Your Amino Acid Levels
You can find out the status of your essential amino acid levels simply by providing a few drops of blood from a simple finger stick.
Many of athletes, endurance athletes in particular, have an amino-acid deficiency because they are either not able to eat enough high quality proteins or because they are unable to digest and/or absorb them properly.
Then as a result, if they want to improve their performance and well being will need to supplement their diet. To do this they will need to have a balanced essential amino acid formula that will not require it to be digested and will be able to directly help manufacture usable proteins.
It is good to remember that not all of the amino acids supplements available are created equal. The majority of them do not have the needed ratio of the eight essential amino acids combined with the artificial flavors, colors, non-nutritive fillers and preservatives.