When serious athletes work out, they often take supplements to help give them the nutrients they need for more energy, endurance and to help them recover afterwards.
Amino acids are a popular ingredient in many of the supplements they take or they may take amino acids pills in addition to other supplements.
The non-athlete wanting to get in shape may wander about taking amino acids and other supplements, but they may want to know if amino acids are addictive before trying them.
Why Athletes take Amino Acids
There are many reasons that athletes take amino acids after they workout. Amino acids are essential for good health and they occur naturally in the foods most of us eat.
However, amino acid supplements provide athletes with extra energy, they help boost muscle growth and they help repair muscles and tissues in the body during recovery so athletes can get back into the gym quickly.
Both competitive and amateur bodybuilders are fond of taking a type of amino acid called branched chain amino acids, abbreviated as BCAAs, because they help in muscle growth.
In competitive bodybuilding, the size of the athlete’s muscles is one of the criteria on which they are judged. They need large, well defined muscles to impress the judges and win competitions.
Along with muscle growth, the BCAAs can also help burn fat, which helps muscles look more defined. Muscles naturally have fat and water around them, but when bodybuilders use BCAAs supplements and limit their water intake before a competition, they can burn off that fat and muscle. This helps sculpt their muscles so they can show how well they are built
To get into shape for competitions or for games, athletes go through intense workouts. These workouts lead to small tears in muscle tissue and connective tissues that must heal in order to help prevent soreness and to allow them to get back into the gym.
Amino acids can help quicken the repair process so an athlete, or even a non-athlete, can get back into the gym as soon as possible to maintain their training routine.
Are Amino Acids Addictive?
Amino acids are not addictive as other substances like steroids or prescription drugs. In fact, researchers have been studying amino acids for their ability to help heal the brains of drug addicts.
Since they are natural components of the body, the body can put them to work whether they are consumed in food or taken as supplements.
However, there can be too much of a good thing. Taking too many amino acid supplements can have harmful effects on the body.
Harmful to Kidneys
A possible side effect of taking too many amino acids is kidney damage. These organs are responsible for filtering out toxins and other waste in the blood, but if you take too many amino acids, or vitamins, they can increase the levels of these compounds in your bloodstream. That forces your kidneys to work harder in order to filter out the excess compounds.
Consuming high levels of protein, of which amino acids are the building blocks for, can also increase your risk of kidney stones.
Although smaller kidney stones can usually pass through your urine undetected, larger kidney stones can cause blockages that may need to be surgically removed. Passing kidney stones can be extremely painful as well.
Possible Heart Disease Link
The amino acid N-acetylcysteine, also known as cysteine, has been linked to cardiac disease. Consuming too much of this amino acid can cause chemicals to form that can send messages that the body is not getting enough oxygen.
When that happens, the arteries will narrow and your blood pressure will increase in the lungs, which then causes the heart to swell.
Increases Blood Pressure
Two amino acids, tyrosine and phenylalanine, can cause your blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels if too many amino acid supplements are taken.
They may also cause rapid heartbeats and dizziness in some people as well. These problems can be worse in people who take MAO inhibitors or antidepressants.
It is important to consult with your doctor if you have a history of high blood pressure before you take any amino acid supplements. Even if you don’t have a history of high blood pressure, talk to your doctor if you take antidepressants as they can also cause a bad reaction.
Problems for Diabetics
For people who are diabetic or have pre-diabetes symptoms, taking amino acid supplements can interfere with insulin levels. The amino acid cysteine can negate the effects of insulin in those who depend on it to control their diabetes.
Cysteine can reshape insulin molecules, which then interferes with the ability to metabolize sugar. This can cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels.
Possible Damage to Liver
Taking too many amino acid supplements can have a toxic effect on the liver. When amino acids are metabolized in the body, ammonia is released, which is toxic. Taking too much amino acids can lead to ammonia accumulating in the liver, which can be very harmful for it.
How to Take Amino Acid Supplements
While there are many benefits to increasing your levels of amino acids, especially if you’re an athlete that must train several times a week, you should try to get most of them from your diet.
Over supplementing with them can have dangerous side effects, especially if you have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Some medical professionals suggest that amino acid supplements should not be consumed over three times per month without consulting a physician.
Instead of using supplements, you can get the same benefits from amino acids by consuming protein at every meal.
Foods high in quality protein include chicken, salmon, eggs, Greek yogurt and roast beef, which are just a few of the foods you should include in your diet.
Supplementing too much with any vitamins, minerals or amino acids can have ill effects on the body. If you want to use supplements, make smoothies or shakes with protein powder to enhance your workout regimen.