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Many amateur athletes are familiar with the term protein but not so familiar with amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. This means that proteins are broken down into amino acids in the digestive tract.
There are three different types of amino acids: essential, semi-essential and non-essential. The body needs essential amino acids, but is not able to synthesize these. Essential amino acids are leucine, lysine, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Arginine and histidine are two semi-essential amino acids; the body needs them but is only able to synthesize them in small quantities or under specific circumstances.
Many athletes count on the performance-increasing effect of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) and use them for optimizing their training goals. The amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine are branched amino acids. They also belong to the group of essential amino acids because the body cannot synthesize them; they have to be taken in via food. They are easily digested and thus rapidly available in the blood. BCAAs prevent muscle loss. Approximately 35% of the muscle’s protein consists of these three amino acids. The consumption of BCAAs via food or dietary supplements enables the body to grow new muscle and protect the existing muscles from wastage.
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