About avoiding supplements - The Amino Acids.

Running is sweat, fatigue, sacrifice. The systematic nature of training has always fascinated me: being just you, your body and your mind looking for the next limit it’s a kind of magic. But between what you can actually do and what you potentially do there’s a “Thin red line”, nowadays very easy to overcome: the line dividing the world of supplements by everyday’s world. I won’t write about doping and I’m not a Physiologist, a Doctor or a Nutritionist; I simply like to study those subjects that can be useful for the understanding of our body’s kinematics and dynamics (maybe it’s a professional bias, since I’m a Race Engineer; see my posts about Conconi-test and Hypoxic chambers).
Taking into account the RDA* indications of BCAA** provided by FAO***, what you can find in specific literature is that a runner (or any other athlete) doesn’t really need an amino acid supplement to increase his performance: “Research on healthy subjects does not provide convincing evidence for an ergogenic effect of regular intake of amino acid supplements on hormone secretion, training responsiveness, or exercise performance. In studies with appropriate design and statistical analysis, oral supplements of arginine, lysine, ornithine, tyrosine, and other amino acids, either singly or in combination, produced no effect on […] all-out running performance at V̇2max.”[1].
Using the values reported at the end of the article, one can easily build a spreadsheet to calculate the real need of BCAA. The basic athlete’s data are listed in Table 1.

Table1 – Athlete’s data.

In Table 2, for the above-mentioned athlete’s data, you can find an example of the RDA and equivalent BCAA contents in various kind of food: it’s easy to deduce how the equivalent BCAA found in normal quantities of food can be sufficient to satisfy an athlete’s need.

Table2 – Example of RDA and equivalent BCAA contents in various kind of food.

The main assumptions that regulate the calculations carried on in the two tables are the following:
“The indispensable amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, phenylalanine and histidine. The requirements estimates in the 1985 FAO/WHO/UNU […] report were taken directly from the 1973 FAO/WHO report. […] since 1985 concerns have been expressed about the derived values, and all now agree that they were certainly too low. […] Finally, it must be recognized that these new values have not been validated in any entirely satisfactory way, i.e. in long-term studies at the requirement intakes with measurement of body weight, body composition and well-being. […] However, while these studies provide useful information on the adequacy of one intake level, they do not enable a requirement intake to be defined.
[…] total branched-chain amino acid requirements ranging from 110 mg/kg per day to 134 mg/kg per day depending on outcome used and taking into account an initial 10% overestimate. […] the three branched-chain amino acids […] 39 mg/kg per day for the leucine requirement, […] 26 mg/kg per day for valine and 20 mg/kg per day for isoleucine.
[…] Whereas some uncertainty remains over the adult indispensable amino acid requirements, the best current estimates are: […]
  • Mean nitrogen requirement of 105 mg nitrogen/kg per day (0.66 g protein/kg per day).
  • Assuming a mean total protein requirement of 0.66 g/kg per day, intakes of about 0.18 g/kg per day […] of indispensable […] amino acids, […] should be sufficient to maintain body nitrogen homeostasis in healthy adults.

[…] There is no information on the variability of requirements for individual amino acids. Therefore, approximate values were calculated on the assumption that the inter-individual coefficient of variation of the requirements for amino acids is the same as that for total protein, i.e. 12%. On this basis, the safe levels of intake for the indispensable amino acids are 24% higher than the values for average requirement shown […]”[2]

Tired? Bored? Or interested? Whatever…keep on training, people! And if it's not enough, try this amazing motivational videos

* Recommended Dietary Allowance.
** Branched-Chain Amino Acids.
*** Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


W. D. Mc Ardle, F. I. Katch and V. L. Katch, “Exercise Phisiology - Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance,” in Exercise Phisiology - Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007, p. 572.
“Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition : report of a joint FAO/WHO/UNU expert consultation,” in Joint FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation on Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition - Geneva, Switzerland, 2002.

Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run! 

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