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Amino Acids for Athletes

Updated on February 27, 2015

Individuals who train seriously to compete in virtually any sport should be careful to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Of course, this is important for anyone, but it is particularly so for people who need to recover from intense practice and workout sessions on a regular basis. In addition, several nutrients, known as amino acids, are particularly important for athletes. These are a few of the most important amino acids athletes should ensure they include in their diet.

Sufficient amino acid levels can help athletes reach their full potential.
Sufficient amino acid levels can help athletes reach their full potential. | Source

Glutamine

Glutamine is a type of amino acid that plays several different roles within the human body. For example, it provides your system with energy; insufficient glutamine levels will prevent you from exercising for as long or as intensely as you need to be able to train, due to fatigue. Your body also uses glutamine to help turn protein from your diet into new muscles -- or new muscle tissue to repair tired or injured muscles.

Many different foods can provide you with healthy sources of glutamine, including lean meats, dairy product and dark green, leafy vegetables. Your doctor can advice you on whether supplemental creatine might also be necessary. 500 to 1,500 mg of glutamine per day is about right for most people, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Cottage cheese is a popular source of dietary glutamine among athletes.
Cottage cheese is a popular source of dietary glutamine among athletes. | Source

What do you think is the most important type of amino acid for an athlete?

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Creatine

Creatine also contributes to healing your body after particularly difficult training sessions; it allows your muscles to perform at a higher level. It is created naturally by your liver by combining three different amino acids. Fish and meats, especially game meats, are natural sources of creatine.

Creatine is used by your body to create ATP, which is a substance that allows you to meet very intense, sudden demands on your muscles. Exploding off a starting line or blocking a defensive lineman, for example, are both functions that require ATP. Creatine can allow you to complete these types of functions more powerfully and decisively.

Venison is one of the richest dietary sources of creatine.
Venison is one of the richest dietary sources of creatine. | Source

BCAAs

Creatine and glutamine are only two of the amino acids your body needs in order to properly heal and repair your muscles. It also needs BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, which it uses in combination with these other types of amino acids. Your body cannot generate these amino acids on its own -- it can only get them from the food you eat. Some people find it difficult to get enough BCAAs to meet the demands of rigorous daily athletic training from their meals alone, and therefore take a multivitamin or similar supplement that includes them. Ensuring that you consume BCAAs on a daily basis can help you train more efficiently and recover more quickly. Most high-protein foods are rich in BCAAs, especially eggs, chicken and fish.

Eggs are packed with many different beneficial nutrients for athletes, including BCAAs.
Eggs are packed with many different beneficial nutrients for athletes, including BCAAs. | Source

What foods or supplements do you rely on for amino acids?

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