Amino acids and other one-component additives

We continue the series of articles on sports nutrition and supplements. In the previous parts, we talked about energy gels and bars, as well as vitamins and minerals and herbal preparations.

The number of nutritional supplements and different types of sports nutrition has long exceeded all reasonable limits. Even experienced runners are not always aware of the side effects and effectiveness of the medication. In this series of articles, we’ll try to help beginners navigate the world of sports nutrition and supplements, and show the rest of us what, how, and when it works (spoiler: not everything works ).

BCAAs (L-leucine, L-isoleucine, L-valine, L-carnitine tartrate, L-alanine, L-carnosine)

The physiological norm of protein intake for a healthy person with an average level of activity is 0.8-1 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. With active fillers, this rate is increased to 1.5-2 grams.

One of the additional sources of protein in sports nutrition, especially BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) the amino acids leucine, valine, and isoleucine.

These amino acids reduce psychological and physical fatigue during sports and improve mental functions afterward (maybe even work will be easier).

Additionally, BCAA supplementation may improve athletic performance during activities in hot climates or in competition, when the central component of fatigue plays an important role.

BCAAs are found in most protein-rich foods: chicken and turkey, beef, eggs, tuna, and salmon.

But BCAAs also have drawbacks – a constant intake reduces the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine in the brain and impairs the absorption of the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine. Dopamine deficiency, in turn, impairs athletic performance.

This drop in performance can be avoided by taking tyrosine with BCAAs, but the problem of low serotonin will persist. Serotonin is responsible for the feeling of joy, cheerfulness, activity, and social and sexual life. Its pronounced deficiency is a sign of clinical depression. With prolonged use of BCAAs (more than 6 months), the positive in life can be significantly reduced.

Arginine (L-arginine base)

According to the promises of sports nutrition manufacturers, arginine improves blood circulation and sports performance through increased nitric oxide production. A side effect is an improvement in erection, it’s like with Viagra, but not that much, it doesn’t interfere with running.

Arginine also helps build muscle mass by increasing somatotropin (growth hormone) production.

Scientists confirm (one, two, three) the ability of arginine to improve sports performance with long-term intake – at least a week. But with a single dose before the competition, the effect was not seen. Additionally, the ability of arginine to accelerate mass gain in bodybuilders has not been confirmed.

In healthy people, the need for arginine is met by its synthesis in the body.

Other sources of arginine are seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), nuts, peanuts, Parmesan cheese, fish, chicken, turkey and legumes. They may be needed when there is an increased need for arginine or during times of severe stress and illness, when amino acid synthesis is difficult.

From a safety point of view, arginine does not cause serious consequences, provided that the dosages are respected and the presence of healthy kidneys. According to this study, the upper limit of a safe dose of arginine is 30 grams per day, with the manufacturer’s recommended dose being 2.5 to 3.5 grams per day.

Additionally, the primary side effect of arginine – increased insulin sensitivity – can be prevented by combining amino acid intake with regular exercise. What are we really doing here.


Glutamine is an amino acid involved in the formation of the immune response, the transmission of nerve impulses from neurons to muscles and the synthesis of other amino acids.

Glutamine is found in most foods (especially meat, seafood, fish and legumes), and our body can synthesize it, i.e. there is no need to take supplements of glutamine to compensate for its deficiency.

But it is generally accepted that its additional dose improves recovery after exercise and prevents loss of muscle mass.

Judging by the research results, glutamine really does work. It reduces fatigue (without improving speed), speeds up recovery (although the study was conducted on a group of firefighters, but why don’t you run in a hot climate?). In another study, a combination of leucine and glutamine accelerated recovery after eccentric exercise.

For healthy people, glutamine is quite safe – taking it at a dose of 0.1 g / kg 4 times a day (several times higher than that recommended by the manufacturer) for two weeks did not harm to health.

But with kidney diseases, especially diabetic nephropathy, you need to be more careful or completely refuse to take glutamine – it can damage kidney tissue.

Also note that a high intake of any protein is contraindicated for people with kidney disease and that its high and constant consumption increases the risk of liver and pancreatic cancer (one, two, three).

Creatine (creatine monohydrate)

It is not an amino acid. It is synthesized in the body from three amino acids (glycine, arginine and methionine). Its main role is to participate in energy metabolism: it transfers energy in the cell from its place of storage (in the form of ATP molecules) to where it is needed for work, for example in muscle myofibrils.

For everyday life, sufficient amounts of creatine are synthesized in the body.

According to the instructions for creatine preparations, its additional intake helps to gain mass faster and recover after training.

The research results are conflicting, but generally encouraging:

  • two weeks of creatine supplementation increased muscle strength, but it also increased the amount of muscle damage markers in the blood (probably because greater strength allowed us to exercise more actively and with heavier weights)
  • the combination of creatine with electrolytes improves cycling sprint time (one, two)
  • supplementing creatine with compound training increases muscle strength and in this study reduced markers of muscle damage (probably did not increase load while taking the supplement)
  • improves performance during anaerobic exercise
  • improves the ability of muscles to maintain energy balance during intense (but not moderate) aerobic exercise.
  • there is also evidence that creatine supplementation may speed recovery from overuse-related tendon injuries.

In summary, taking a sports nutrition supplement with creatine will help improve performance in any of the sports (in which one – different studies have different results), most likely help you recover from heavy loads and even, possibly, to speed up recovery after injuries. .

Considering the relative safety of creatine (if you don’t have any allergies, predisposition to kidney disease, or diagnosed kidney disease), the supplement shows some promise.


Not to be confused with creatine!

Carnitine is also not an amino acid. This substance is similar in structure to B vitamins, but is not essential – it is synthesized in the body.

Supposedly improves oxygen uptake by cells and nutrient delivery to tissues by improving microcirculation.

According to research results, a single intake of 3-4 grams of L-carnitine an hour before a workout delays the onset of fatigue, and at a dose of 3 grams, it also increases the production of nitric oxide (the one which dilates blood vessels and is found in beet juice) and has antioxidant activity.

In another, more recent study, it was taken 3 hours before an active cycling workout with no effect – likely because there wasn’t enough carnitine being delivered to the muscles.

Research on long-term carnitine supplementation seems more encouraging: it improves muscle blood flow and reduces post-workout muscle damage, helps maintain and build muscle mass, and inhibits muscle breakdown in older adults (details here). and here).

Long-term carnitine supplementation (24 weeks in the study) can add up to 11% to exercise performance.

However, carnitine has no effect on high-intensity interval work. Additionally, its positive results may be dose-dependent – 1.5g/day has shown better results than 3 and 4.5g/day. It is recommended to choose the dose individually.

The safety of long-term use by healthy people, combined with the ability to improve training results and preserve muscle mass (if you need it, of course) make carnitine a fairly effective supplement.


Chemically, inosine is a nucleotide involved in the synthesis of ATP, the main source of energy for cells and in the transport of oxygen.

Sports nutrition manufacturers promise that inosine supplementation will help improve speed and strength due to increased ATP production.

Alas, not all studies (first, second and third) confirm these promises. In addition, there are few studies on inosine, and all of them date back to the 90s, apparently, there are so few prospects that the study of the substance was simply abandoned.

The only relatively recent study found that inosine supplementation could reduce depressive symptoms in mice.

But inosine has side effects – like all nucleotides, taken constantly in large doses, it can cause gout and the formation of kidney stones.

Adjust diet and supplements according to your activity, take breaks in intake, alternate between different types of medications and consult specialists.