Amino acids have long been a popular supplement to take. On their own, they help with the process of protein synthesis. Since the human body is 20% protein, they are required for our well-being. Medical opinions on whether taking additional amino acids have varied over the years, so it is up to each of us to weigh the pros and cons to determine if and when supplements may be necessary for better health.
What Are the Pros of Amino Acids?
1. They can help to fight fatigue.
When you’re exercising, your body is consuming its resources in order to provide the energy output required for the task at hand. Amino acids not only help the fat consumption process move along swiftly, but they can also help to fight off the effects of fatigue as they occur so you can exercise for longer periods of time. Even when glycogen levels are severely depleted, amino acids can help you keep on going.
2. They help to support better immunity.
People who exercise a lot are actually exposing themselves to high levels of potential illness without the support of amino acids. As the body exercises, there is a need for more amino acids to be present. This is because the protein synthesis is required to repair muscle damage, strains, and other issues the body faces through any form of exercise. As this repair is going on, the immune system gets a natural boost as well, making it possible to fight of more illnesses that may be headed your way.
3. They help with glucose control.
People who are struggling to maintain their blood glucose levels can benefit from an extra dose of amino acids. Although it doesn’t improve insulin resistance, it will improve how the body regulates blood sugar levels. The end result is a more stable number and that can provide more consistent energy – or keep a number within an optimum range.
4. It is easier to recover after a workout thanks to amino acids.
Because amino acids help to kickstart the protein synthesis process, having them available in greater quantities can help to hasten the recovery effect. People who take high amounts of leucine after exercising, for example, have one-third higher protein synthesis rates than those who do not. This makes it possible to workout more often, burn more calories, and keep a metabolism rate high.
5. Supplements help the body to stop breaking down its own resources.
There’s a fat burning zone that helps to provide energy by removing excess quantities of fat through working out, but sometimes the body needs amino acids to distribute that energy effectively. If there isn’t enough protein around to be converted, the body will begin to strip muscle tissue for it and you have no control over what muscles are used. Amino acid supplements can help to stop this process without having the extra levels of protein.
6. Specific results can be achieved.
Doctors might prescribe a course of l-arginine to help with a high blood pressure issue. Other supplements can be taken to control blood sugar levels or correct other health issues that are both acute and chronic in nature. With that being said, however, it is also very possible that taking an amino acid supplement above and beyond what a normal dietary intake may be could have zero effect whatsoever and could be more harmful than helpful.
What Are the Cons of Amino Acids?
1. Extended use of amino acid supplements can cause the body to become out of balance.
There are 22 known amino acids that provide benefits to human health. Almost all supplements, including the branched chained variety, do not contain all of them. They instead focus on certain areas, such has building strength or improving glucose control. Over time and with extended use, the supplemental amino acids can begin to deplete the others that exist to create future health problems.
2. They taste terrible.
Amino acids have a very distinct odor to them. Imagine walking through the sulfur spring steam at Yellowstone National Park while carrying a rotten steak and you’ve got some idea of what the experience is like. The taste of amino acids is very similar. To correct this issue, artificial flavors and sweeteners are added so that the flavor and odor of the supplements are palatable. In essence, you’re eating amino acid candy.
3. The body can begin to rely upon them.
Unfortunately many amino acid supplements are provided at levels that are much higher than the recommended daily amount of intake. Just as caffeine and other stimulants can take over the bodies adrenal systems, having high levels of amino acids consistently can make the body require them for protein synthesis to occur. Although the body can once again adapt if this need occurs, there is always a painful transition process that limits a person’s overall productivity.
4. It may rob the body of natural energy resources it needs otherwise.
In a 2010 study of Stage 4 cancer patients, it was found that a strong enough supplementation of amino acids could help patients actually put on muscle tone even though they were losing weight overall because of their disease. This means that amino acids may take some of the finite energy resources the body has, use them how it best sees fit, and not leave enough behind to help fight off something problematic.
5. Out of balance amino acids can create out of balance moods.
When amino acids are balanced, a person’s emotional control tends to be balanced as well. When too many of one amino acid is being consumed, however, there tends to be a corresponding change to a person’s emotional control that is equal to the lack of balance that exists in the number of amino acids that are present. High levels of methionine can actually lead to stunted growth patterns and even lead to heart disease. Certain diseases like PKU cannot process amino acids, so supplementing them could even lead to brain damage or death.
6. Excessive amino acids can reduce kidney functionality.
People who are struggling with kidney health should avoid adding amino acids to their daily dietary or supplement needs. This is because these blood filtering organs are directly affected by amino acid levels. Additional side effects, such as stomach cramping, nausea, and diarrhea may also occur and require an immediate stoppage of any or all supplementation.
The pros and cons of amino acids show that there are some potential health benefits that could be achieved. They also show that nothing might be achieved by taking them. It is up to you and your medical provider to determine if taking a supplement or making dietary changes is the right course of action to take for your health.