What You Should Know About Amino Acids
What are amino acids, how can we get them, and what do they do? Amino acids are the foundation of life; all plants and animals need them to be alive.
Keep reading to learn more about amino acids.
Amino acids are the base of all proteins, and there are 20 different amino acids our bodies need to stay healthy.
Without amino acids, your body would not be able to carry out basic functions. They are essential for the chemical processes that occur every day without you even realizing.
Amino Acid Structure
The chemical structure of this molecule is the reason they are called acid.
They consist of a carboxyl group of molecules bound to an amino group.
A carboxyl group comprises carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms, and an amino group is two hydrogens atoms with one nitrogen.
The chain of atoms attached to the central carbon atom is the one that differentiates each of the 20 amino acids.
Essential Amino Acids Vs. Non-Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids are split into three groups. These are essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, and conditional amino acids.
There are nine essential amino acids, four non-essential amino acids, and eight conditional amino acids.
You may be wondering what the difference between these three groups is.
Essential Amino Acids
The main differentiating factor is that your body can't produce essential amino acids by itself. We need to get these from our diet or by taking a supplement.
The nine essential amino acids are:
When you eat a food containing protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids. It then uses these amino acids in different combinations to carry out essential functions.
Non-essential Amino Acids
Your body produces non-essential amino acids efficiently by itself. You produce non-essential amino acids every day.
Your diet or the supplements you consume don't affect the production of non-essential amino acids.
The four non-essential amino acids are:
- Aspartic acid
- Glutamic acid
Conditional Amino Acids
Your body also produces conditional amino acids, these are only produced when your body requires them. For example, if you need to beat a sickness, your body will produce the essential amino acids to fight it.
The conditional amino acids are:
As well as helping you deal with illness, conditional amino acids are also important for maintaining healthy stress levels.
What Do Amino Acids Do?
The body can use amino acids as a source of energy. However, there are many other vital functions of amino acids in the body.
Let's look at some of them in detail:
Amino acids protein is the building block of muscle. For healthy muscle growth, you require essential amino acids from protein. Amino acids are also integral for keeping the connective tissues between your muscles and bones healthy too.
If you don't have enough amino acids, it can cause your muscles to become weak or start to degrade.
Your skin, hair, and nails are made up of amino acids. Without an adequate amount of amino acids, your hair and nails may become dull and break easily.
Threonine is essential for your body to produce collagen. Why is collagen important? Because it keeps your skin elastic and can help prevent anti-aging.
Amino acids are important for muscle recovery. This means they can contribute to you feeling less pain.
For example, having enough essential amino acids in your diet can help you push harder when you exercise as you become more resistant to the muscle pain exercise causes. This, in turn, can help improve your performance and speed up your recovery rate.
Healing and Repair
Much like improving recovery after sports, amino acids are important for healing wounds. Methionine is important for wound repair. It's also a vital amino acid for detoxification.
Did you know that Methionine can help break down fatty deposits in the liver?
Nutrient Transportation and Digestion
Amino acids also play a role in the breakdown of your food. They are crucial for your body's ability to digest and absorb the nutrients in your food.
The gut uses glutamate and aspartate as fuel to break down your food.
Giving You Energy
Most of the essential amino acids become energy for the body. The proteins are synthesized then released to fuel your activity.
Athletes need a lot more energy for their workouts than the average person. For that reason, they often eat a high protein diet. This ensures their body has all the essential amino acids.
A robust immune system is crucial to maintain good health. Maintaining a good balance of amino acids is essential for this. Isoleucine is the amino acid responsible for maintaining a strong immune system.
Histidine is also essential for the immune system. It stimulates the body's response to inflammation.
Amino acids are also important for your brain health. You require them to produce neurotransmitters.
Phenylalanine is important for your neurotransmitters. It also helps to regulate your hormones, thyroid, and adrenal gland.
As amino acids are used to produce your hormones, they can also regulate your mood. For the correct functioning of your hormonal system, you need amino acids.
How To Get Amino Acids
One of the easiest ways to get enough essential amino acids is to ensure you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Many foods contain all nine essential acids, most protein from animals contains all the essential amino acids. It shouldn't be too difficult for you to get your daily intake.
A lot of plant-based foods also contain amino acids. For example:
It's one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat. Low in calories, high in fiber, it also contains all nine essential amino acids. If you want to get your amino acids from a plant-based source, try adding quinoa to your diet.
Did you know that mushrooms are one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet?
As well as being high in fiber, B-vitamins and bioactive compounds, they are a great protein source that has all the essential amino acids. They are a fantastic superfood, so if you haven't already added mushrooms to your diet, make sure you do.
Beans and Pulses
Also extremely healthy, we should eat a serving of beans or pulses every day. They are full of antioxidants and fiber. On top of that, their high protein content makes them an excellent source of amino acids.
Try chickpeas, lentils, black beans, edamame, peas, and kidney beans to get a nutrient hit in your diet.
Animal-based foods such as cottage cheese, turkey, fish, and eggs are all high in protein. They also all contain all nine essential amino acids.
If you eat a well-balanced, nourishing diet, you should be able to get enough amino acids to stay healthy.
Want some inspiration for healthy meals? Check out our recipes here.
Some people can't get enough amino acids from their diet. Athletes, in particular, may want to supplement them to ensure they can reach their athletic potential.
Older people may also benefit from taking an amino acid supplement. As we age, our ability to absorb nutrients from our diets decreases.
If you want to supplement amino acids, you could use a protein powder or take a tablet. It's an easy way to ensure you get all nine essential amino acids daily.
What Happens If You Are Deficient in Amino Acids?
It is very rare that you would become deficient in essential amino acids.
Deficiency usually only occurs amongst malnourished people. A deficiency shows up as hair loss, loss of muscle, feeling weak, brittle nails, hair and skin issues.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Amino acids are the building blocks of our bodies. Without them, we wouldn't be here!
Now you more about what do amino acids do in the body and how integral they are for just about every process in our body. Amino acids are responsible for it all, from mood-boosting to muscle growth, energy, stress relief, bone health, and healthy skin!
To ensure you get enough amino acids, eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes plenty of protein and powerful plant foods.
To improve athletic performance and recovery time, you may also choose to take an amino acid supplement. Each supplement contains a different profile of essential acids, so has different benefits.
Take a look at our range of amino acid supplements here.
Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune diseases, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.
Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.
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