People go vegan or start a plant-based diet for different reasons. Good ethics and care for the environment are big ones. Whatever the reason you’re embracing this lifestyle, it can be advantageous for your health. Some of the many health benefits include lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Conversely, a vegan diet requires being very careful as it can be hard to get enough vitamins and minerals in animal products. Amino acids are a specific concern. What are amino acids? Why do we need them? And, is supplementing a good idea?
Why Do Vegans Need Amino Acids?
Protein is essential for a healthy diet and lifestyle for everyone, including vegans. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, meaning we must eat foods rich in these compounds so they can be converted into protein. We also need them for other vital processes such as building hormones and neurotransmitters.
Ensuring you eat enough amino acids for protein synthesis can be tricky, especially for vegans. How do vegans get all essential amino acids? Although you can get all of your protein from plant-based foods, the chances of doing it without planning are slim. That’s why you need to know which plants contain amino acids and how many of them are in one serving. Also, you must learn where to find vegan essential aminos supplements so you can fill nutritional amino acid gaps.
What Are Amino Acids?
There are three categories of amino acids based on several factors.
- Conditionally essential
Humans need 20 different amino acids that work in synergy to create different types of protein. Our body can produce only 11 of them, all nonessential, leaving the rest of them to be consumed through our diet. These nine essential amino acids are:
They’re called essential because they’re the core of many vital body processes like muscle development and repair.
Three out of the nine essential amino acids are particularly important. Namely, leucine, isoleucine and valine are branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs.
The Amazing BCCAs
BCAAs got their name due to their chemical structure. They’re the only amino acids with a chain that branches off to one side. How are they different from the rest of the amino acids? Unlike others that broke in the liver, BCAAs are primarily broken down in the middle. This is why they play a significant role in energy while exercising. They represent 35-40% of the essential amino acids in our body, a good part of it in muscles.
If you’re a vegan must obtain BCCAs from plant-based foods like chickpeas, lentils, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, brown rice and pumpkin seeds. If you can’t make it solely through your meal plan, you should consult a dietitian about taking a vegan BCAA supplement. Supplementing will especially help you if you have a fitness goal, both for weight loss and weight gain.
5 Proven Benefits of BCAAs
- Decrease Muscle Soreness
Everyone who exercises regularly experiences sore muscles from time to time. This type of soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it usually happens when you try out a new exercise routine. It can last up to 72 hours after a workout. Although the causes why it happens aren’t clear, researchers believe that tiny tears in the muscles cause it. How can BCAAs supplement help?
Research suggests that BCAA decreases muscle damage in 2 ways: it helps reduce protein breakdown during exercise, and it decreases creatine kinase levels. Supplementing with BCCAs can speed up recovery time, especially when done before exercise.
- Increase Muscle Growth
Besides muscle repair, another popular use of BCAA supplements is for muscle gain. Leucine is the main acid responsible for this as it activates a specific pathway in the human body that encourages protein synthesis or making muscles. That’s why it’s crucial to purchase a BCAA formula that contains a ratio of 2:1:1 leucine, valine and isoleucine, especially if you’re going for gains.
A study has shown an increase of 22% in muscle protein in people who consumed 5.6 grams of BCAAs than those who consumed a placebo. Yet, it was still 50% less than that in people who consumed the same amount of BCAAs as a part of a whey shake protein. The reason is simple: the body requires all of the essential amino acids to build muscles effectively.
Since whey isn’t an option for you, you should pick up something from the supplement range that contain vegan essential aminos to achieve your gains.
- Prevent Muscle Breakdown
The amount of protein in muscles is determined by the balance between protein breakdown and synthesis. When protein breakdown exceeds protein synthesis, muscle breakdown occurs. Muscle breakdown is a sign of malnutrition that accompanies chronic infections, cancer and natural aging.
It’s shown that using BCAA supplements inhibits muscle wasting. Therefore, it’s vital to replace BCAAs and other essential amino acids when such periods of life occur to slow muscle waste.
- Reduce Exercise Fatigue
Everyone gets tired or exhausted from exercise at some point. This can happen for various reasons, from exercise intensity and duration to environmental conditions and your fitness level. Just as BCAAs can help reduce muscle soreness, they can also help reduce exercise-induced fatigue. However, it’s unlikely to improve performance.
- Improves Health of People with Liver Disease
All benefits we’ve mentioned above are associated with exercise. Yet, this is one thing that is solely a health benefit from supplementing with BCAAs. Research has shown that it may help people with liver disease.
According to 16 studies, including more than 800 people, BCAAs improve health in people with cirrhosis, a chronic disease in which the liver doesn’t function properly. Thus, it prevents liver cancer and other liver complications.
The Bottom Line
Essential amino acids, including BCAAs, are crucial for many body processes. Since our body doesn’t produce them, we must get them from our diet. As a vegan, you need to have a balanced diet that includes high-protein foods to get the amino acids your body needs. If that’s not an obtainable goal for you, it’s nice to supplement with pure vegan amino acid supplements. Supplementing can give you peace of mind as you don’t have to worry about reaching your diet and fitness goals.