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Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Protein

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, supporting muscle recovery and providing energy. Here’s what to know to create a protein-building amino acid product to meet today's consumers’ workout needs.


Popular uses for amino acids include:

  • Muscle recovery/protein synthesis
  • Energy 
  • Fueling workouts during a fast 

Opportunities in Protein-Building Amino Acid Products

Awareness of amino acids is high among more active consumers. In the US, four in five adults who exercise at least three hours per week are aware of amino acids or branched-chain amino acids—a number that’s been growing over the past four years.1

While 31% use them regularly or sometimes, the figure is much higher for sports performance consumers, at 61%.2 This points to specific opportunities in promoting the benefits of amino acid products to both active lifestyle and healthy lifestyle consumers, especially since two in five non-users say they’re interested in pre- and intra-workout products and half are interested in post-workout products.3

See the US Sports Nutrition Outlook for 2023.

What Are Amino Acids?

So what exactly are amino acids, and why are they so popular? Amino acids are organic compounds that contain an amino group, a carboxyl group, and a side chain that’s unique to each amino acid. When multiple amino acids are linked together by peptide bonds, they form a protein (which is why you might have heard that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins).

In the body, proteins are constantly being broken down and reassembled to meet the body’s needs. Amino acids are essential to synthesize new proteins, as well as other compounds such as hormones and neurotransmitters. The key role of amino acids in protein building has important implications in the sports nutrition world.

Top Uses for Amino Acids

The most important uses for amino acid products are probably muscle recovery and energy. The post-workout period is a critical time when the body must repair any muscle damage that occurred during exercise. Sufficient amino acid levels in the body are needed to support this process. Amino acids also act as a source of energy that can be burned by the body for fuel.

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Glanbia Nutritionals’ Webinar: Navigating the Growth Potential of Energy & Performance

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Common Amino Acids and Their Roles in the Body

Essential amino acids (EAAs) are the nine amino acids that can’t be produced by the body and must be obtained from dietary sources. The essential amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, valine, histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan. All of these aid in muscle protein synthesis in the recovery period after resistance exercise.

woman drinking water after working out

Among the EAAs, three are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The branched molecular structure of these amino acids provides particular benefits for workouts. For example, BCAAs are metabolized primarily in skeletal muscle, unlike other amino acids which must first pass through the liver before reaching the muscles.  BCAAs are associated with preventing muscle protein breakdown during vigorous exercise, as well as reducing fatigue.

One of these BCAAs, leucine (also called L-leucine), is receiving a lot of attention for its role as a potent potentiator of muscle protein synthesis. This means that leucine has an additional role beyond supporting protein synthesis. It’s also responsible for activating the process of protein synthesis. This recent finding is why performance consumers are starting to think of leucine as the most important protein-building amino acid.

Emerging Uses of Amino Acids

The rise of intermittent fasting as a weight management strategy has opened the door to another use for amino acids—fueling fasted workouts. A fasting beverage, for example, could offer EAAs, BCAAs, and electrolytes in a no- or low-calorie formula to provide intermittent fasters with workout support nutrients even while fasting. 

About one in three US adults who exercise at least three hours per week have tried intermittent fasting.4 This spans sports performance consumers (43%), active lifestyle consumers (30%), and healthy lifestyle consumers (34%).5

Strengthen Your Products with AminoBlast® Ingredients

Amino acids are a winning ingredient in sports nutrition products. They provide real benefits that consumers are looking for by supporting protein synthesis during the muscle recovery process. We know amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, but they also act as an energy source to help fuel workouts, which is creating new usage occasions such as pre-workout energy for intermittent fasters.

Fortunately, as consumers’ interest in healthy and active lifestyles has been increasing, so has their awareness of amino acids—providing brands with an exciting opportunity to help health-minded consumers reach their goals. Glanbia Nutritionals’ protein-building amino acid portfolio uses innovative AminoBlast Technology to make it simple to include amino acids in ready-to-drink beverages, ready-to-mix powders, bars, and gels.

woman stretching in class

AminoBlast amino acids are designed for improved clarity over traditional amino acids and easy dispersibility in water—even cold water. No clumping, floating, or sedimentation make AminoBlast BCAAs and EAAs ideal for ready-to-mix powders, as well as ready-to-drink beverages. 

Contact us for more consumer insights into this growing market and to discuss the benefits of using AminoBlast ingredients to create a protein-building amino acid product for your consumers.


1-5. Glanbia Nutritionals, Performance Nutrition U&A Study: US, July 2022. N = 501.

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