While 22 amino acids work in unison to build hundreds of proteins, one amino acid has become a rising star. Mounting evidence suggests that tyrosine is a big key to muscle growth, and its nonbodybuilding and health benefits are almost miraculous.
Known chemically as 4-hydroxphenylalanine, tyrosine, like many amino acids, is used by cells to make proteins. It is classified as a nonessential amino acid, meaning that the body can manufacture it. In fact, tyrosine is synthesized in the body from the amino acid phenylalanine, an essential amino acid—meaning that it must be supplied by your diet.
Tyrosine is a precursor of the power-packed adrenal hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, which regulate the body’s metabolism. Better known as adrenaline, the two hormones ignite natural rushes of energy and power—a.k.a. the fight-or-flight response, which the body uses to prepare itself for a stressful situation or a physical altercation.
In addition, tyrosine is intimately involved with the production of the thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which keep your metabolism revved up to function optimally. Thyroid hormones are closely involved with almost all of the body’s physiological processes, up to and including how well it burns fat.
Tyrosine is also responsible for the production of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, low levels of which are linked to increased depression and a general lack of get-up-and-go. Simply put, tyrosine acts as a mood elevator that keeps you focused. It is involved with regulating brain energetics and helping you remain focused and ready for your next workout, not to mention kicking your sex drive into high gear.
Because of its role in producing catecholamines—epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine—tyrosine has a direct effect on the sympathetic and central nervous systems and controls how signals are transmitted between nerves and muscles on growth hormone stimulation, on pain relief and on how effectively your thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands function, as well as your brain.
Scientific evidence shows that tyrosine steps up the production of catecholamines when muscle fatigue begins to set in. As a direct result of tyrosine’s ability to increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels, you will generate more energy, have more intense workouts, use more oxygen to burn fat and store less fat.
It also appears to control cortisol. As you know, when the hormone cortisol remains elevated, it causes fat storage and muscle wasting. Studies indicate that doses of 100 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight of tyrosine taken before strenuous exercise can help minimize the production of cortisol. Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and a professor of nutritional biochemistry at the University of Utah, states that in many double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, subjects receiving six to seven grams of tyrosine achieved significant reduction in cortisol by regulating stress responses in extreme situations, like four to five hours of cold and low oxygen.
As you know, growth hormone release that occurs when you exercise and at bedtime has very powerful anabolic capabilities. Growth hormone has been linked to increased sex drive, development of lean muscle tissue, improved immune function, increased muscle tone and strength, loss of bodyfat, improved memory and focus and new levels of energy. Growth hormone is your fountain of youth. In fact, so powerful is growth hormone at reenergizing brain and body systems that many antiaging researchers, such as Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, refer to it as having the Lazarus effect—it suddenly restores organ systems to youthful activity levels.
Robert Erdmann, Ph.D., the author of The Amino Revolution, states that “tyrosine can assist the body in naturally producing growth hormone in amounts over and above those needed to simply keep the body healthy.” To keep your growth hormone active and elevated, Dr. Erdmann suggests taking tyrosine before and after each workout, along with vitamins B3, B6 and C to help increase its absorption.
An added benefit of tyrosine’s growth-hormone-stimulating properties is its ability to increase protein synthesis, which means that it helps your muscles use more of the protein you eat, thus enhancing your growth potential.
Researchers suggest two to four milligrams daily, taken at least one hour prior to working out. That will ensure that your blood pool of tyrosine will be increased in time to delay muscle fatigue.