The nutritional key for those of you interested in losing excess body fat or in adding lean, well-shaped muscle is protein. To shape or sculpt your body, you need sufficient protein intake to fuel the changes. There have been scores of recent books highlighting this fact including the very popular and philosophically sound Zone Diet by Dr. Barry Sears. On average, books such as The Zone Diet point out that we tend to over-eat carbohydrates and under-eat protein. If you understand the simple fundamentals of how your body processes these two food fuels, you will be in a better position to evaluate the critical importance of protein in assisting you in your fat loss and body shaping goals.
Normally our diets are very high in carbohydrates and fats. When you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar immediately raises. This causes your pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin which removes the sugar from the blood and stores it as fat. Conversely, when you eat proteins your blood sugar levels remain low. This causes the pancreas to secrete glucagon. Glucagon travels to the fat cells and extracts fat to be burned as energy.
As important as protein is, oddly, there is no nutrient more misunderstood. To begin, you should understand that a protein is simply a group of different amino acids bonded together. Different types of proteins are comprised of different amounts of individual amino acids. This might be important, depending on what goal you are trying to achieve with protein use. Youíll learnsre about this later in this article.
First, let’s talk in general terms about protein sources. Basically, there are five general sources of protein/amino acids:
1. Protein from whole foods such as meats, grains, and vegetables.
Whole food sources are acceptable because they are widely available and they taste good. On the negative side, however, whole-food proteins normally spoil quickly and may contain risky microorganisms which can make you sick or in extreme cases can even kill you. Additionally, food proteins normally have high levels of fats or carbohydrates and are highly fibrous, therefore more difficult to digest. Further, depending on the specific food source, they may cause allergies or lose their potency during cooking.
2. Simple Food Concentrates.
Simple protein concentrates are normally about 80% pure protein. The remaining 20% is made up of by-products, fats, etc. What specifically comprises the 20% depends on the protein concentrate product used. The truth is some concentrates are better than others. The important fact to remember is that 40 grams of protein concentrate only contains 80% protein, that is, about 32 grams of actual protein.
On the positive side, protein concentrates ordinarily taste good and mix well. On the negative side, allergies are still possible with their use, and depending on the type and quality of the protein concentrate, it may have high levels of fat or sugar and an absence of important individual amino acids such as glutamine.
3. Intact Protein Isolates.
Intact Protein Isolates are normally about 90% pure protein. Generally, they have properties that are very similar to protein concentrates with the exception that they are inherently purer. In other words, protein isolates are better manufactured, more expensive protein sources.
4. Protein Hydrolysates.
Protein hydrolysates which are often referred to as peptides or short protein chain amino. A protein hydrolysate is normally just an isolate that is enzymatically broken down into smaller amino chains (one, two, or three amino long). Protein hydrolysates normally contain no fat or sugar, are hypoallergenic, are very “friendly” digestively and possess the fastest amino uptake of any protein source. On the negative side, they are normally not as pleasant tasting as plain isolates, as the enzyme hydrolystate process normally leaves the isolate with a more bitter taste.
5. Single Free Form Amino Acids
Single free form aminos which are manufactured through fermentation by microorganisms in large biological chambers. These can be manufactured as pharmaceutical grade pure injectables but are very costly, taste terrible, have poor mixability, high digestive irritability and are absorbed relatively slowly.
The second important characteristic of protein to consider is itís parent source. This is important as the amino composition of a protein varies with the parent source. In other words, for muscle growth, the parent protein source caseinate is more desirable than an egg source since it has more of the critical muscle amino glutamine. There are literally hundreds of different parent protein sources of varying degrees of purity. This fact alone can complicate the decision making process for a person. To make things simple, we will highlight a few of the most popular parent sources of protein.
Whey Out Front.
Whey is by far the best selling form of protein in the marketplace today. Whey is one of the two ingredients that is separated from milk (casein is the other). Years ago it was thought to be a waste product left over from the production of certain cheeses. When cheese is produced, milk is “curdled” separating the curd from the whey. The curd is cottage cheese and is predominantly casein. The whey is a sweet, liquified protein complex that contains a large amount of the milk sugar lactose as well as fat and cholesterol. When food chemists realized that whey had an abundance of important amino acids and a better protein profile than the old stand-by egg, they set out to separate the whey protein from the less desirable components of the mix. In other words, the trick was to get a pure whey based protein that was lactose and fat free. Eventually this was achieved through two processes. First, whey was microfiltured. This is a simple physical process where the whey protein was sifted through tiny mesh filters. This serves to separate the whey protein from the secondary ingredients. The second process used is called Ion Exchange. Ion Exchange is a patented and highly sophisticated process where proteins are extracted by taking advantage of the difference between their electronic charge and that of the other ingredients in the mix. Ion Exchanged, microfiltered whey is fat and lactose free and therefore very easy to digest.
Now, before going any further remember that a protein like whey can either be a concentrate (about 80% protein) or an isolate (about 90% protein). So 20 grams of whey concentrate will yield about 16 grams of pure protein while 20 grams of whey isolate will yield a more respectable 18 grams of protein.
A majority of athletes interested in increasing nitrogen retention and muscle growth take an Ion Exchanged Whey protein powder supplement. The relevant question is why? Well, first, due to itís excellent mix of aminos, its solubility and itís digestibility, whey has a very high Biological Value. Biological Value is a general measure of how well a protein is utilized by the body. In fact, whey contains the highest concentration of the branched chain amino acids (about 25%). The branched chain aminos are critical to muscle metabolism and are the first aminos used during muscle catabolism. Secondly, whey isolates contain quadrapeptides (4 amino chains) which have been shown to have analgesic effects on sore muscles (if you are really understanding this, youíll realize that if the whey is hydrolized it wonít contain these 4 chain aminos as hydrolized protein by definition contains single, di and tri amino chains). Third, whey has been shown to stimulate the natural production of Insulin-like growth factor 1, a powerful muscle building hormone.
For the above reasons, not to mention the millions of dollars of advertising (most somewhat deceptive), whey has become the best selling protein product in the marketplace. Certainly it is a decent choice for protein gourmets, however, it lacks many of the highly desirable properties that soy protein possesses, especially for women.
Soy: The Bean Is Queen.
Soy is an ingredient that comes from the soybean. Recently, elite athletes and active women all over the globe have begun trading in their whey based protein powders in favor of soy protein powders. Soy has many advantages for athletes and for active women. First, soy is extremely rich in the muscle critical five amino acid cluster (the 3 branched chain aminos, glutamine and arginine) that will help to develop lean tissue. In fact, nearly 35% of soy protein is made up of these aminos as compared to 18% in whey protein or 16% in beef.
Second, soy protein can be a key to increasing health as it is extremely rich in phytoestrogens and isoflavones. Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals resembling estrogen which have been proven to assist women of all ages in numerous positive ways including reducing the risk of crippling osteoporosis and reducing the liklihood of PMS, irregular menstruation and difficulties during menopause. Further, the isoflavones contained in soy have been proven in double blind scientific studies to lower the risk of hypertension, lower total cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol that sticks to artery walls) and battle mutagenic cell process and various forms of cancer. These results have been demonstrated on doses as low as 47 grams daily.
Third, soy is highly digestable and has a scores a perfect 1.0 in scienceís best, current protein quality standard test known as the Protein Digestability Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS).
Casein: The Forgotten Milk Protein.
Remember when we talked about whey we mentioned that casein was the “other” component produced from milk in the cheese making process. In fact, casein is really just cottage cheese with a higher amount of the milk sugar lactose and the mineral calcium. If you are wondering why you shouldnít just be reaching for defatted cottage cheese rather than mixing up those shakes, well, really, itís not a bad idea except cottage cheese has a terrible tendency to spoil quickly carrying it around in your gym bag. Honestly, although casein gets virtually no attention these days it really isnít a bad source of protein. If I had the choice between a whey concentrate and a casein isolate; I would definitely choose the casein isolate. Why? Well, first casein has a whopping 20.5% glutamine content. Glutamine is a very important amino acid that can help spare muscle mass during intense training or severe dieting. Second, casein is a more body stimulating amino. Huh? What the heck does that mean? Simple. The amino acid tyrosine is responsible for increasing the levels of excitatory neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. Conversely, tryptophan is a sleep promoting amino responsible for increasing serotinin levels in the brain and lowering stimulatory processes. The ratio of tyrosin to tryptophin in casein is the highest of any protein, almost 5 to 1.
The real knock against casein is that natural casein sources tend to contain moderate to high levels of the milk sugar lactose. Although this isnít necessarily a terrible thing, many people are lactose intolerante or suffer from digestive irregularities if they eat products containing too much lactose. Again, casein is not a bad choice for protein but is not nearly as good for women as is soy.
Milk Source Protein: The Cousins Whey and Casein Meet.
A milk protein source is really just a mixture whey and casein, the natural proteins occurring in milk. Logically, it stands to reason that this is a very good protein source incorporating the positive points of both whey and casein but still lacking the tremendously positive health benefits of soy protein.
Egg Protein: The Old King Takes it’s Rightful Place in the Frying Pan.
For decades egg was judged to be the single most superior source of protein. Let me explain why. During the time it reigned supreme, there was very little human research being done on individual protein sources. Most of the protein source work being completed was accomplished on the more cooperative test subject, Mr. Lab Rat. So, as the conclusions piled up pointing to egg as being king, most people ignored the fact that the work was being compiled in rodents rather than humans. In retrospect it is actually quite funny. For years, the “Gold Standard” by which protein was judged was a little equation known as the Protein Efficiency Ratio or PER for short. The PER was based totally on rodent research! Thatís right rodents. Think about that. Even a completely clueless dolt could have figured that a mammal whose body is completely and heavily covered in a specific type of flexible protein; that is keratin, more commonly known as hair, might very well have dramatically different protein processing needs than a two legged hundred and twenty plus pound mammal who only has sparse amounts of hair located on their bodies. But did that stop people from proclaiming the PER as tops? You bet it didnít. Nutritional marketeers/mousecateers went overboard proclaiming the egg to be king of all proteins based on the PER ratio. Donít get me wrong, I am not trying to invite the wrath of the world chicken farmers against me. I love eggs. Real eggs taste great and have a very nice amino acid mix. Of all the whole food proteins available, I think eggs are the best. If I had to add one whole food protein source daily into my diet I would choose egg whites before milk, cottage cheese or even the dieters favorite pet, the chicken breast. I just know they are better coming from a shell than from a can. For use as a powdered protein supplement, compared to other sources such as soy, casein or whey, eggs isolates taste terrible, are absurdly expensive and donít offer the functional body shaping value that the other products possess.
Milk and Egg Proteins: An Old Reliable Alternative.
Milk and Egg proteins are nothing more than mixes of caseinate and egg. They have been around for years and are an alternative if you like the sound of the name or you have an extra opened container on your shelf. Really though, they offer less value for your body than soy products or casein and whey mixtures.
A third and final important characteristic of protein is how it is delivered to the body. There are amino tablets, amino capsules, protein powders and liquid protein.
Amino tablets and capsules are the dinosaurs of the protein age. Normally, they harder to digest, use far inferior protein as a source and are tremendously expensive when compared to a powder. With the quality, taste, mixability and price of the better powders there is no reason serious fitness minded people would choose amino tablets or capsules. The final option, liquid proteins, have never caught on due to their relatively poor taste and slightly higher cost per gram.
Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein, RNA and DNA. They are required by every cell in the body. In fact, you might be interested to know that the dry weight composition of the average cell in the body is over 75% protein. Aside from being a obvious key part of each cell, aminos also carry oxygen from the lungs to muscle tissues and form the base for numerous other substances in the body including hormones, enzymes and anti-bodies.
If you are up to date on your biology you will probably remember that there are ìessentialî aminos and ìnon-essentialî aminos. The eight ìessentialî aminos are the aminos that must be supplied by the diet. These include leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan and phenylalanine. If these eight aminos are supplied in sufficient quantity by the diet then all other ìnon-essentialî aminos can be manufactured by the body for a perfect, healthful balance. That is what the biology books tell you. Personally, thinking about athletes and thinking like an athlete, I find this amino dicotomy to be overly simple and pretty much useless. For example, exercise physiology and clinical nutritional studies performed on gym trained athletes demonstrate without a doubt the highly beneficial effects supplementing the ìnon-essentialî amino acids glycine, glutamine, taurine, alanine and arginine have on muscle and performance. Since, in athletes, these aminos are obviously not being produced by the body in sufficient quantities to support gym training, performance and muscle gain, in my mind, I would have to classify them as ìessential.î
Modern scientific research shows that, on average, gym trained athletes need three times more of the critical aminos as do their sedentary non-athletic counterparts. The following is a discussion of the role that various aminos play in the life of the gym trained athlete.
Eventually all aminos end up being broken down in what is called the ìprotein turnoverî which is the continuing cycling of the body and includes both anabolic and catabolic processes.
Each of the amino acids come in two forms, D and L. According to how they appear microscopically they are either D (right handed) or L (left handed). They are identical yet mirror opposite to each other. Protein is made up of all L. However, there appears to be some therapeutic value to some of the D molecules such as DL-Phenylalanine for pain.
L-Alanine: Alanine is an important source of energy for the muscles, the brain and the central nervous system. It also helps in the metabolism of sugars and organic acids and strengthens the immune system by producing antibodies. There is evidence that Alanine also serves as a cell volumizer.
Alanine supplements are rare, however, their is evidence supporting the important role Alanine may play for improving gym performance.
L-Arginine: Arginine is an muscle critical amino acid that is absolutely indispensable for optimal muscle growth and tissue repair. It is highly important for muscle metabolism as it acts as a vehicle for the transport, storage and excretion of nitrogen. Supplemented Arginine has also been shown to be instrumental for the body to increase the natural release of growth hormones such as Human Growth Hormone. These hormones help to increase muscle mass while decreasing the amount of body fat. Arginine also plays a very important role in wound healing as it provides a base for collagen, the main supportive, fibrous protein found in bones, cartilage and other connective tissue. Further, Arginine has been shown to stimulate the immune system responses to bacteria, viruses and tumor cells, to combat mental and physical fatigue, to help regenerate the liver and scavange ammonia which is poisonous to living cells. Finally, Arginine has been found to increase sperm count. Arginine will also transform to the amino acid L-Ornithine.
L-Aspartic Acid: Aspartic Acid isn’t very high on the list of amino acids which help the muscle to perform better. It does have many other useful effects in the body, however. Most importantly, it is central to the formation of both RNA and DNA which are the proteins responsible for carrying genetic information. Recently, it has also been shown to be important in helping the circulatory system rid itself of highly toxic ammonia. Further, it helps in producing antibodies and immuno-globulins which are keys ingredients in a healthy immune system. Finally, aspartic acid also helps to protect the liver and the salts of aspartic acid increase stamina and endurance.
If you eat a healthy diet or take any of the various protein supplements, there is no research out there indicating that supplementing aspartic acid individually will help your performance.
L-Carnitine: Carnitine is a very popular amino that is used for ìfat burning.î Research demonstrates that it has a dramatic effect on fat metabolism and the reduction of blood fats such as triglycerides. It helps to transfer fatty acids across the muscle membranes to be burned by the mitochondria for energy. Additionally, Carnitine can preserve muscle glycogen and reduce fatigue.
Carnitine is used by many people who are interested in reducing body fat. Unfortunately, most people using Creatine will never see the results they hope for as it appears that for Carnitine to work you must supplement at least 4 grams daily. This dose requirement tends to get very expensive as most Carnitine supplements are typically only 500 milligram capsules. My advice would be to save your money.
L-Cysteine: Cysteine is a sulfur containing amino that detoxifies many harmful chemicals including those from cigarette smoke, pollution and alcohol as well as copper and heavy toxic metals. Cysteine can prevent hangovers and promotes healing and the immune system. Since Cysteine is a central amino in the protein keratin, it has been found to increase hair growth by as much as 100%, to increase the diameter of hair shafts and to harden the nails. Cysteine is a powerful anti-oxidant that has been shown to help protect the cells against X-Ray and nuclear radiation. One note of caution; Cysteine can affect insulin effectiveness so diabetics need to exercise caution when using this amino.
There is no question that Cysteine helps improve the look of the hair and the hardness of nails. Most people take between 500 mgs. and 1,000 grams of Cysteine daily. This is an amino that works very well in supplement form.
L-Cystine: Cystine functions as an antioxidant and is a powerful aid to the body in protecting itself from free radical damage and the harmful effects of pollution. It may also slow down the aging process, neutralize toxins and help in the synthesis of proteins. Cystine stimulates white blood cell activity which helps the immune system to resist disease. It is especially useful in the treatment of respiratory disorders such as bronchitis as well as promoting recovery from burns and surgical operations. Finally, Cystine is essential for the formation of skin and hairs.
There are some Cystine supplements out there but they have mostly given way to it’s more powerful amino cousin Cysteine. If you have a choice, definately reach for the Cysteine.
L-Glutamic Acid: This amino is absolutely critical to the proper functioning of the brain. In fact, it actually acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter as well as transporting potassium across the blood brain
barrier. Glutamic acid also is the key to forming other amino acids including the muscle specific amino L-Glutamine. Recent research demonstrates that it helps speed the healing of ulcers, gives a boost following fatigue and helps to control the craving for alcohol. Finally, Glutamic acid helps to metabolize sugars and fats and may be helpful in increasing blood sugar for those suffering from hypoglycemia.
Glutamic acid is rarely found in supplement form although certain protein sources such as wheat gluten are very high in this amino. Most athletes choose to directly supplement Glutamine rather than its precursor Glutamic acid.
L-Glutamine: Glutamine is an amino acid found in the blood and in skeletal muscle. In fact, over 60% of the amino acids found in muscle are actually Glutamine. Glutamine plays a variety of important roles in the body. It acts as an important brain fuel, can protect the tissue against alcohol poisoning, is used in the treatment of schizophrenia and senility, supports the immune system, scavanges cell debilitating ammonia, improves insulin metabolism and inhibits fat storage. Most important for gym trained athletes or bodybuilders, Glutamine promotes the synthesis of glucose and helps preserve muscle mass in times of stress. Unfortunately, prolonged exercise results in a drop in both circulating and skeletal muscle levels of glutamine. This increases catabolism or muscle wasting. Obviously then, it is important to supplement glutamine during times of intense training.
At molecular level, glutamine prevents the loss of a specific protein called myosin heavy chain (MHC) which determines skeletal musclesí contractile properties.
L-Glycine: Glycine is the simplest of the aminos and plays a primary role in a wide variety of critical muscle metabolic processes. Additionally, Glycine is of special value in helping the body make and utilize Creatine, break down glycogen to free energy and perform as a cell volumizer. Gylcine also serves as a nitrogen pool for the synthesis of non-essential amino acids, can help build up the immune system, improve the bodyís ability to manufacture hormones and decrease stomach hyperacidity. Additionally, Glycine can help eliminate body odor and bad breath.
Glycine is one of the most important amino acids any athlete can supplement. This is especially true in that most of the common protein sources are actually rather thin when it comes to Glycine content. We recommend a minimum of 5 extra grams of Glycine daily.
L-Histidine: Histidine is an amino that is very important in the production of red and white blood cells. It is often used as a treatment in anemia, stomach ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis and allergic diseases. Histidine deficiencies result in poor hearing.
Athletes need not supplement Histidine unless they have special needs arising from diseases or allergy conditions.
L-Isoleucine: Isoleucine is one of the branched chained aminos that is primarily metabolized in muscle tissue. Donít ask me to bore you with the details of why they are called branched chains. It has to do with their interlocking methyl group configurationÖand I am sure you could care less. Isoleucine is also essential to the formation of hemoglobin as well as other essential biochemical components in the body and should always be used in proportion with the two other branched chain aminos L-Leucine and L-Valine.
Many athletes find it useful to supplement Isoleucine through the use of branched chain amino products.
Personally I am not a huge believer in the need for supplementation of the branched chain aminos if you eat a protein rich diet. But if you are superstitious, go ahead, it wonít hurt your performance.
L-Leucine: Leucine is one of the branched chained aminos that is primarily metabolized in muscle tissue. Isoleucine also promotes healing of the skin and mending broken bones as well as lowering elevated blood sugar. Leucine has been shown to improve alertness and to provide the muscle with energy and should always be used in proportion with the two other branched chain aminos L-Leucine and L-Valine.
Many athletes find it useful to supplement Leucine through the use of branched chain amino products. Again, personally, I find it non-useful. I should mention that Leucine releases a metabolite called HMB or beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate. HMB has shown many interesting muscle building and fat burning properties. Fortunately, HMB is available as a specific product and athletes do not need to rely on the turn-over from mega doses of Leucine. We will cover the positive effects of HMB in a later chapter.
L-Lysine: Lysine performs a number of very important roles in the body. It is best known as inhibiting the growth of viruses and is used in the treatment of herpes simplex virus. Lysine is also fundamental in creating the non-protein amino L-Carnitine which improves fat metabolism, increases energy and improves stress tolerance. Lysine also aids in the absorbtion of calcium and promotes bone growth by helping to form the fiberous protein collagen. Lysine deficiencies result in tiredness, an inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, a lack of growth, hair loss, anemia and reproductive problems.
It is not necessary for athletes to supplement the amino acid Lysine.
L-Methionine: Methionine is a sulfur containing amino that prevents the premature loss of hair, fungus of the nails and a variety of skin disorders. Methionine interacts with other components of the bodyís chemistry to detoxify harmful chemicals (such as ammonia) in the liver, the bladder and the kidneys. It is also a natural chelating agent that eliminates heavy metals from circulation. Finally, it acts as a lipotropic agent that prevents the liver from storing excess fat and reduces cholesterol by stimulating the production of lecithin.
Some marketers claim that since it is one of the three aminos that make up Creatine, taking mega amounts of Methionine will help to enhance the effect of Creatine. There has never been any scientific evidence to back this up and frankly I think it is stupid. If any athlete wanted to make a case for taking extra Methionine I would expect that the fact that it significantly helps the body in absorbing the mineral Selenium would be more interesting. Selenium has been shown to help carry oxygen, reduce fatigue and assist weight gain in ìhard gainers.î In general though, it is my feeling that most athletes will not find an appreciable difference in either their performance or their health after supplementing Methionine.
L-Ornithine: The presence of Ornithine helps the body to release hormones which assist in increasing muscle mass while decreasing body fat. Ornithine also helps to scavange cell toxic ammonia, builds up the immune system and assists the liver in maintaining itís health. Ornithine, stacked with Arginine, were extremely popular supplements in the 1980ís. Athletes believed that these aminos would increase Human Growth Hormone and therefore muscle mass. Unfortunately, there has never been any replicated research demonstrating that this is the case. There is an interesting cousin to Ornithine which is a compound called OKG or Ornithine Ketoglutarate. This compound is discussed in a later section.
Ornithine is an amino acid that is widely supplemented by athletes everywhere. Unfortunately, most people are simply wasting their money as they are not supplementing a high enough daily dose to force the hormone changes to occur. Actually, this is good as the research also indicates that there may be many unwanted side effects from mega doses of Ornithine. My advice is to pass on the individual Ornithine supplements.
L-Phenylalanine: Phenylalanine is an interesting amino that is used in the food industry as a sugar substitute. You may recognize it by itís trade name, aspartame. It may also serve the allied purpose of behaving as an appetite supressant. This suppressant action occurs in two ways; first by stimulating noradrenalin and dopamine and second by releasing the satiation chemical cholecystokinin (CCK). Research into Phenylalanine has also proven it a key to the production of neurotransmitters such as norepinepherine and has been shown to help to elevate mood, sexual libido, alertness, ambition and to enhance memory. Finally, Phenylalanine has been found to play a significant role in dopamine transmission and hence is used in the treatment of certain types of depression.
Although Phenylalanine is an interesting amino, it is not expected that supplementing it will improve athletic performance in any appreciable way. Further, many people who supplement Phenylalanine develop rather severe headaches and need to discontinue their supplement regime. Also, people taking MAO inhibitors should be careful of their Phenylalanine intake, as the combination of the two causes dangerous spikes in blood pressure. Finally, you should also be aware that a very tiny part of the population suffers from a disease called phenylketonuria (PKU). People suffering from PKU lack an enzyme in their liver which metabolizes Phenylalanine. Although extremely rare, it is a very serious disease and anyone suffering from it must completely avoid Phenylalanine.
DL-Phenylalanine: DL-Phenylalanine is a combination of synthetic (D) and natural (L) Phenylalanine which serve to produce brain endorphins. It is a very effective pain reliever, often better than opiate derivatives such as morphine and has the additional benefits of being non-toxic and non-addictive. Further, it acts as a strong anti-depressant and has a reverse tolerance effect, in other words, it has a better effect as time goes on.
L-Proline: Proline is a necessary amino for the proper functioning of the joints and tendons as well as the heart muscle. It is a glucogenic amino that stimulates the storage of glucose in the liver and the muscles to be used later for energy. Proline is also a major consituent of collagen which is the main protein in bone, cartilage and connective tissue.
Proline is a major part of many joint rehabilitation supplement complexes. Based on the research, there is no real reason to supplement the amino Proline.
L-Serine: Serine enables the muscle and liver to store glucose. It also strengthens the immune system by helping to supply it with antibodies. Finally, it supports the nervous system by synthesizing the fatty acid shealths around nerve fibers.
There is no evidence that points to Serine supplements improving muscle function or athletic ability.
L-Taurine: Taurine is second most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue (Glutamine is first). It is a potent cell volumizer that also mimics Insulin, improving glucose and general amino metabolism. Additionally, Taurine stabilizes the excitability of membranes which in turn help to control epilepsy. Finally, Taurine helps to diminish the negative effects of free radicals and generally helps to slow the aging process.
Taurine supplements are increasingly being used by gym trained athletes to improve their muscle pump and the general look of the muscle. Since Taurine is depleted by intense exercise and stress, I recommend all athletes to take a minimum of 1-3 grams of Taurine immediately after exercise.
L-Threonine: Threonine is an important constituent of collagen, elastin and enamel protein. It also helps to prevent the build-up of fat in the liver and improves the functioning of the digestive and intestional tracts.
I can’t imagine why anyone would be interested in supplementing this amino acid. I can remember, however, many top bodybuilders in the very early 80ís using Threonine with the purpose of ìthinningî out the look of their skin. Personally, I have never been able to find any scientific evidence backing up this belief. Not to mention the fact that tissue paper thin looking skin isnít normally a rational goal for most athletes.
L-Tryptophan: Tryptophan is a natural relaxant that helps to alleviate insomnia, reduce anxiety and improve mood. It is probably the most sought after supplement for people suffering from sleep disorders as it leads to increased slow wave sleep. It has also been shown to be highly effective in the treatment of migraine headaches and other forms of chronic pain. Further, Tryptophan helps reduce the risk of heart spasms and works with Lysine in reducing cholesterol levels. Trypthophan was one of the most popular aminos in the 70ís and 80ís until 1988 when the United States FDA banned it. This occurred as a result of one Japanese company Showa Denko exporting a tainted batch of Tryptophan into the US. The Showa Denko amino was manufactured with a new, untested process that skipped an important filtering step. The result was a number of deaths attributed to a rare blood disease which resulted from the use of this product. Tryptophan continues to be banned in many nations despite the overwhelming evidence that it is a safe sleep inducing product. As far as supplementing it for athletic gains, before it was banned, there were no consistent performance improvements seen in athletes supplementing Tryptophan. So why bother. Not to mention the fact that there are high amounts of Tryptophan in all protein rich foods, especially cottage cheese, milk, meat, fish, turkey, bananas, dates and peanuts.
L-Tyrosine: Tyrosine is a highly important amino for athletes as it stimulates the release of growth hormone which can cause muscle growth and body fat reduction. It also plays an important role in the function of the adrenal, pituitary and thyroid glands and help to generate both red and white blood cells. Tyrosine has also been proven to be a potent mood elevating substance and is used in the treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia. Additionally, Tyrosine produces norephedrine, an appetite inhibitor and dopamine. Finally, Tyrosine produces melanin, a pigment in skin and hair.
Tyrosine may play numerous important roles for athletes of all types. It might also be of value to people who are trying to maintain a deeper tan for longer periods of time.
L-Valine: Valine is one of the branched chained aminos primarily metabolized in muscle tissue. Valine is a glycogenic amino that promtes mental vigor, muscle coordination and emotional calm. It should always be used in proportion with the two other branched chain aminos L-Leucine and L-Isoleucine.
Many athletes find it useful to supplement Valine through the use of Branched Chain Amino products.
Hopefully, after reading this, you know quite a bit more about protein and are in a better position to evaluate which specific product is best for you. There is only one other extremely important point that needs to be mentioned about protein supplements. In all cases, protein supplements should always be mixed with carbohydrates. The combination of protein and carbohydrates have been proven time and time again to help the body and muscle far more when ingested together than does protein alone. The ideal ratio is 25 grams of protein for each 15 grams of carbohydrates. Ideally, you should look for protein products that approximate this very important fuel nutrient ratio. The source of carbohydrates is not as important. Personally, I favor a mixture of the very tasty natural fruit sugar fructose and high osmolity dextrose.