Can Amino Acids Replace Protein Shakes?

Your body needs fuel to function, especially for intense exercise. If it doesn’t get the right nutrients, it won’t perform properly, leaving you fatigued and frustrated.


Amino acids are formed from proteins. They’re the fuel our body needs to power us to our health goals. Amino acids target incredibly precise and varied areas of your metabolism.

Protein powders boost your total protein intake and supply calories, promoting muscle building and filling in gaps in your diet.

But, which is better for training? Do we need protein or amino acids?

What’s the Difference Between Protein and Amino Acids?

Proteins are important nutrients that the body uses for building muscle tissue together with other body tissues like skin and hair. We get our protein fix mainly through eating meat, fish and poultry as well as plant sources such as soy, legumes and nuts. The protein we eat gets broken down into amino acids.

Amino acids, on the other hand, are the building blocks of protein. In other words, proteins are composed of numerous single amino acids joined together.

In total, there are 22 amino acids. Nine are essential, as they carry out a whole host of functions in the body like the production of hormones and co-enzymes in addition to repair and immune responses.

Protein vs Amino Acid Supplements

Both of these nutrients are two of the biggest sports supplements on the market. Let’s take a look at the types of protein and amino acid supplements available today:

Protein Powders

  • Single protein supplements. These types of supplements consist of just one protein type. For example, casein, whey protein, beef, soy or pea. Single protein supplements can also include other ingredients such as carbs, vitamins and minerals.
  • Blended protein supplements. Protein supplements of the blended variety contain two or more types of proteins. These protein supplements deliver a more continued digestion and release of amino acids to the muscles. You’ll find blended protein powders in numerous forms such as mass gainers.

Amino Acid Supplements

  • Single amino acid supplements. These comprise of specific single amino acids, like leucine, lysine or methionine. Generally, they’re used for specific conditions but can be used to promote muscle development.
  • Blended amino acid supplements. Containing more than one amino acid, these supplements are available in numerous forms like branched amino acid (BCAA) formulas, intra workouts or essential amino acid (EAA) supplements. You can get amino acid supplements in tablet or powder form.woman exercising doing plank exercise for six pack

Protein vs Amino Acids for Muscle Development: Which is Better?

Both are pretty similar in terms of building muscle growth, as protein is broken down into amino acids anyway (or at least di- and tri- peptides), so it can be used by the body.

You can’t get single amino acids solely from the foods you eat. You have to eat protein-rich foods which contain varying levels of each of the amino acids.

Both will be beneficial for muscle growth. However, amino acid supplements are often a little costlier because of processing needs. Not only this, your body must be supplied with all the vital amino acids, so it can develop muscle properly.

Can Amino Acids Replace Protein Shakes?

You can choose a blended amino acid supplement or protein powder to build muscle. But can amino acids replace protein shakes?

In some ways, protein powder has the upper hand. Often, single amino acid supplements are absorbed more gradually than whole proteins. This is because they tend to compete with the absorption of simple sugars.

On the flip side, whole proteins digest di- and tri- peptides which are better absorbed without breaking down further to single amino acids.

Protein, therefore, is probably a better choice for those who exercise for lengthy periods, thanks to its faster absorption. Although it may not matter so much for training novices.

So, What’s Better: Amino Acids or Protein?

If you’re a hard-core athlete, bodybuilder, train intensely or have issues with recovery, you’re better off supplementing with both. What you choose also depends a lot on your nutrition and diet. Consider how much protein you’re getting and when you’re consuming protein.

On the other hand, if you’re only allowed one option, protein is possibly the best choice. This is because it’s more economical, offering the full scope of amino acids you’ll need to develop muscle. Even better, the body absorbs it quicker than single or blended amino acid supplements. We recommend picking a decent protein powder first then adding in an amino acid supplement after a solid 6-12 months of exercising.

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