Often hailed as the ‘building blocks of protein’, amino acids are essential for the synthesis of enzymes, some hormones and neurotransmitters, metabolic pathways and mental stabilisation.
Just about every function within the human body needs amino acids.
Along with amino acids, minerals and vitamins also affect our exercise capacity and performance, so it’s important for athletes and physically active people to make sure that they’re consuming the recommended amounts of minerals, as even small deficiencies can impair performance, leading to fatigue and muscle damage.
Mineral needs for athletes
Important minerals for an athlete are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron, and the benefits range from minimising fatigue to keeping bones strong.
Minerals are essential, meaning the human body can’t make them, but needs them for normal, healthy function
The best way to guarantee you are consuming all the necessary minerals that your body requires is to eat a wide range of foods, such as meat, fish, dairy, beans, fruit and vegetables, liver, cocoa, dried fruit, nuts, egg whites, yoghurt and fish.
The best way to take mineral supplements
Large quantities of minerals taken at the same time will compete with each other for absorption, although combinations of smaller quantities of minerals found in multivitamins are not an issue.
Stomach acid and substances such as vitamin C, citrus, or vinegar, can enhance mineral absorption, but don’t take fiber with minerals and other supplements, as fibre binds with nutrients and can reduce absorption.
Amino acids and supplements
Some amino acids are unique in the way they’re used in the body, especially in relation to fitness and exercise. As the most common nutritional supplements taken by athletes, amino acids are taken in the form of capsules, powders, sports gels as well as pre- and post-workout snacks and beverages.
Amino acid supplements fall into two basic categories: Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).
Essential amino acids are ‘essential’ because they can’t be made by our bodies, so we have to get them from our diet or from supplements. If you’re following a moderate to high protein diet, then you probably won’t need an EAA supplement because you’re already covering your essential amino acid bases.
Benefits of amino acids
BCAAs can assist with muscle growth, and can help increase endurance for athletes who depend on quick bursts of power (like sprints) where glycogen (a type of glucose) depletion is a major problem, which can lead to exhaustion and a decline in performance.
BCAAs are associated with greater fat burn, reduced fatigue, improved recovery, increased mental focus, reduced muscle soreness, and overall improved performance.
Those looking to take on a more vigorous exercise regimen may have an increased need for mineral and amino acid intake for a variety of reasons, including not only a potential boost to athletic improvement, but also overall health and wellbeing.