Amino Build is essentailly a BCAA supplement fortified with some addition ergogenics such as Betaine and Taurine…[Skip to the Bottom Line]
Leucine is an amino acid that is part of a group of amino acids called the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). If you have ever purchased a BCAA product, you may have noticed that it contains more leucine than the other two BCAAs (isoleucine and valine). The ratio is generally something along the lines of 2:1:1. However, some products bump that ratio up in favor of Leucine to 4:1:1 and sometimes 8:1:1. While Leucine does seem to the be the most important BCAA in terms of activating protein synthesis in muscle cells, a 2008 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that a BCAA supplement stimulated protein synthesis to a greater degree than just leucine alone in 30 males subjects. For that reason, we like to see a 2:1:1 ratio of BCAA’s or at least somewhere around there.
ISOLEUCINE AND VALINE:
As discussed above, Isoleucine and Valine belong to a group of amino acids known as the branched chain amino acids, along with Leucine. BCAA’s are distinct from other amino acids in that they are metabolized directly in the muscle rather than in the liver like most amino acids. BCAA’s play an important role in that they assist in the manufacturing of other amino acids, which ultimately combine to build protein. Amino acids are rapidly depleted during intense exercise, so replacing BCAA’s allows for more protein synthesis to take place.
A 2004 study conducted by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences found that BCAA requirement was significantly increased by exercise and that supplementation had “beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis”. A second study, published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism, found that BCAA supplementation indeed has a protein-sparing effect during recovery (from resistance training).
Considered a beta-amino acid, Taurine plays a variety of roles in the body. It is most concentrated in the brain and liver, but is found in some amount virtually everywhere in the body. What makes Taurine so interesting is that it possesses antioxidant properties.
In a 2011 study, Taurine was shown to significantly decrease oxidative stress in skeletal muscle following exercise.
Prior to that, a 2004 study showed that Taurine may decrease exercise induced DNA damage, as well as “enhance the capacity of exercise due to its cellular protective properties”. It’s unfortunate that Taurine has developed a sort of stigma because of it’s inclusion in energy drinks. While Taurine does not provide “energy” in the way that caffeine does, several studies have shown its effectiveness as an antioxidant with workout-enhancing properties. The mechanism of action here is pretty simple.
It is widely believed that, while exercise fatigue general results from a multitude of factors, oxidative stress contributes considerably. By decreasing oxidative stress as it occurs, Taurine may very well ward of fatigue. That’s not to say that you will last forever in the gym by supplementing with Taurine, but to most athletes, even one more rep is always appreciated.
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid (your body can make it) that is required for a lot of bodily processes, from immune health, to providing an alternative fuel-source for the brain. However, if you’re a regular at the gym (we assume you are if you’re reading this), you have probably heard of glutamine as it relates to working out. You may have also realized that glutamine, despite being one of the most widely used supplements, is also one of the most debated.
It is true that some of the alleged effects of this amino acid are not quite as grounded in science as some supplement companies (or guys at the gym) might have you think, but to say that it’s completely useless is a gross misconception. Because glutamine is an amino acid, some people assume that it may have a muscle sparing effect. However, these claims are far from substantiated, and while we won’t dispute them, we refuse to take supplement claims at face value.
So what is glutamine really good for? Glutamine has shown a lot of promise when it comes to fighting exercise induced immune system suppression. While it is true that our immune systems ultimately benefit from regular exercise, in the short-term, exercise temporarily lowers our body’s immune defenses, thus making us more susceptible to infection during that time-frame. This temporary compromise of the immune system has been proven to correlate with lower levels of glutamine. For this reason, it is suggested that increased uptake of glutamine may help keep the immune system strong post-exercise. In addition, lower glutamine levels have been recorded in over-trained athletes, which suggests that higher levels of glutamine may help to prevent overtraining.
Citrulline is an amino acid that acts as a precursor to arginine, which acts a precursor to nitric oxide. Citrulline has recently gained recognition in the supplement community for its ability to increase plasma (blood) arginine levels better than supplemental l-arginine itself. How is this possible? The problem with supplemental l-arginine is that, it is metabolized in the intestines and liver into other substances such as ornithine and urea. The intestines and liver contain relatively high levels of arginase, the enzyme that is responsible for this conversion. As a result, very little goes on to be involved with the synthesis of nitric oxide. Citrulline, on the other hand, is able to bypass the liver and is metabolized elsewhere, where not as much arginase is present. Thus, more of the arginine is able to convert into nitric oxide. In addition to increasing nitric oxide production, supplemental citrulline has been shown to enhance the use of amino acids during exercise, which makes it a perfect addition to an amino acid based formula. However, it’s worth mentioning that most involving Citrulline have been conducted using doses of about 6 grams or more. The Amino Build blend only contains 500mg (1000mg if two scoops are consumed). There is simply not enough evidence to suggest that this low dose is particularly effective.
L-Alanine is an amino acid, the primary function of which (aside from building proteins) pertain to glucose metabolism and the transport of nitrogen to the liver. In a 2010 double-blind placebo controlled study, published in the FASEB Journal, it was shown that L-alanine supplementation slightly reduced delayed onset muscle soreness. However, there is some controversy as to whether including l-alanine with other amino acids may result in absorption issues due to competition. No studies have been conducted to determine whether this hypothesis is correct, so for now we support the use of L-Alanine with other amino acids.
A 2010 study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that daily supplementation with 1.25 grams of Betaine (A.K.A. Trimethylglycine) positively influenced strength and power. Previously, a 2009 study showed that 15 days of Betaine supplementation in college males improved endurance, as well as performance, during squats. While more Betaine studies are needed to conclude the exact mechanism of action at work here, it does appear that the inclusion of this ingredient for the purposes of improving strength is grounded in science. We expect to see many more supplement companies start adding Betaine to their products in the next few years.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
All in all, Amino Build is actually an effective product. The inclusion of Betaine and Taurine in the formula makes it stand out from other products that solely contain BCAA’s. The amount of L-Citrulline in the formula (500 mg/scoop) is, however, insignificant based on the literature. It possible that those 500 mg provide some marginal benefit in addition to the other ingredients. Ideally, this product should be viewed as a BCAA formula with an extra something (particularly Betaine) thrown in. However, the price of the product may be where certain consumers may decide to buy another BCAA product. At close to a dollar per serving, MuscleTech is certainly charging a premium for those ‘extra ingredients’. As always with MuscleTech products, we appreciate the transparency, which eliminates the need for speculation regarding the dosages of each individual ingredient.
- Troutner, Christina, and Mark Kern. “The effects of L-alanine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and markers of muscle damage.” FASEB JOURNAL. Vol. 24. 9650 ROCKVILLE PIKE, BETHESDA, MD 20814-3998 USA: FEDERATION AMER SOC EXP BIOL, 2010.
- La Bounty, P., et al., The effects of oral BCAAs and leucine supplementation combined with an acute lower-body resistance exercise on mTOR and 4E-BP1 activation in humans: preliminary findings. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 5(Suppl 1):P21, 2008.
- De Lorenzo, A., et al. Effect of acute and chronic branched-chain amino acids on energy metabolism and muscle performance.Diabetes Nutr Metab. 2003 Oct-Dec;16(5-6):291-7.
- Blomstrand E.A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):544S-547S.
- Gomez-Merino, D., et al. Evidence that the branched-chain amino acid L-valine prevents exercise-induced release of 5-HT in rat hippocampus. Int J Sports Med. 2001 Jul;22(5):317-22.
- Paddon-Jones, D., et al. Amino acid ingestion improves muscle protein synthesis in the young and elderly. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Mar;286(3):E321-8.
- Tipton, K. D., et al. Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol. 1999 Apr;276(4 Pt 1):E628-34.
- Hoffman, Jay R., et al. “Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 6.1 (2009): 1-10.
- Lee, Elaine C., et al. “Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7 (2010): 27.