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Amino Acid Supplements for Energy

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Lack of energy can really put a damper on your workout. While your body can use protein and amino acids as sources of energy, it's not the preferred source. Any amino acid supplement promoted as an energy booster likely contains other ingredients to give you a boost. Consult your doctor before adding any supplement to your routine.

Amino Acids and Energy

When it comes to fueling your workout, carbs are your body's preferred source. Amino acids may be used for energy, but typically less than 5 percent of your energy comes from amino acids, according to the Gatorade Sport Science Institute. However, if you're not consuming enough calories or enough carbs, your body may break down your muscle tissue and use the amino acids for energy.

Although active people need more protein, you should be able to meet your daily needs through food alone without the need to supplement.

About Amino Acid Supplements

Visit any vitamin store and you might find rows of amino acid items to choose from, including single amino acids and amino acid blends. The ones marketed to help improve energy are usually a blend of amino acids that contain other ingredients. The additional ingredients might include minerals such as potassium and calcium, caffeine, green tea extract, green coffee extract, panax ginseng and other nutrients or herbs.

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What Gives You Energy

Caffeine is a known stimulant that helps boost energy for a workout. The amino acid energy supplements do not contain carbohydrates but are a source of caffeine, which is what's giving you the energy. The National Strength and Conditioning Association notes that amino acid supplements taken before a workout may help promote muscle growth and recovery but not energy. In fact, when it comes to amino acid supplements for muscle growth, it doesn't seem to matter whether you take them before or after you exercise.

Watch the Caffeine

If taking an amino acid supplement for energy, read the label to determine the amount of caffeine it contains. An amino acid supplement for energy can have 100 milligrams or more of caffeine per serving. MedlinePlus says most adults can consume about 400 milligrams to 500 milligrams of caffeine a day without any ill effects. Too much caffeine may cause you to feel jittery, affect your sleep or give you headaches. Tracking your intake of caffeine from all sources may help prevent you from overdoing it.

Eating Before and After a Workout

You don't need to take a supplement to get amino acids. Any food that contains protein -- meat, milk, grains, beans, vegetables, seeds and nuts -- has amino acids. For energy and amino acids, try a nonfat Greek yogurt before your workout, or mix your amino acid supplement in a fruit smoothie.

After your workout be sure to eat a carb and protein snack within 30 minutes of finishing up to aid in muscle building and energy repletion. You can mix your amino acid supplement with your sports drink or juice to get your carb and protein. Or simply drink a cup of low-fat chocolate milk.

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