Amino Acids: Essential, Chart, Branched Chain, Supplements, List, What are Amino Acids, Facts and More

What are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins. Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life. Amino acids contain both an amino group and a carboxyl group. According to Tillery, et al., the human body can synthesize all of the amino acids necessary to build proteins except for the nine called the "essential amino acids", indicated by asterisks in the amino acid illustrations. An adequate diet must contain these essential amino acids. Typically, they are supplied by meat and dairy products, but if those are not consumed, some care must be applied to ensuring an adequate supply. They can be supplied by a combination of cereal grains (wheat, corn, rice, etc.) and legumes (beans, peanuts, etc.). Tillery points out that a number of popular ethnic foods involve such a combination, so that in a single dish, one might hope to get the ten essential amino acids. Mexican corn and beans, Japanese rice and soybeans, and Cajun red beans and rice are examples of such fortuitous combinations.

When proteins are digested or broken down, amino acids are left. The human body needs a number of amino acids to:

  • Break down food

  • Grow

  • Repair body tissue

  • Perform many other body functions

Amino acids are classified into three groups:

  • Essential amino acids

  • Nonessential amino acids

  • Conditional amino acids

Essential amino acids

  • Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body. As a result, they must come from food.

  • The nine essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Nonessential amino acids

  • "Nonessential" means that our bodies produce an amino acid, even if we don't get it from the food we eat.

  • They include: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.

Conditional amino acids

  • Conditional amino acids are usually not essential, except in times of illness and stress.

  • They include: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.

You do not need to eat essential and nonessential amino acids at every meal, but getting a balance of them over the whole day is important.

Amino Acid Chart

BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS

Overview Information

Branched-chain amino acids are essential nutrients that the body obtains from proteins found in food, especially meat, dairy products, and legumes. They include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. “Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of these amino acids. People use branched-chain amino acids for medicine.

Branched-chain amino acids are used to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease), brain conditions due to liver disease (chronic hepatic encephalopathy, latent hepatic encephalopathy), a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia, a genetic disease called McArdle's disease, a disease called spinocerebellar degeneration, and poor appetite in elderly kidney failure patients and cancer patients. Branched-chain amino acids are also used to help slow muscle wasting in people who are confined to bed.

Some people use branched-chain amino acids to prevent fatigue and improve concentration.

Athletes use branched-chain amino acids to improve exercise performance and reduce protein and muscle breakdown during intense exercise.

Healthcare providers give branched-chain amino acids intravenously (by IV) for sudden brain swelling due to liver disease (acute hepatic encephalopathy) and also when the body has been under extreme stress, for example after serious injury or widespread infection.

How does it work?

Branched-chain amino acids stimulate the building of protein in muscle and possibly reduce muscle breakdown. Branched-chain amino acids seem to prevent faulty message transmission in the brain cells of people with advanced liver disease, mania, tardive dyskinesia, and anorexia.

Foods with amino acids are the building blocks of protein. That means they are responsible for strength, repair and rebuilding inside your body. Your tissues, your cells, your enzymes and your brain all get their nourishment and protection from amino acids.

Foods Rich In Amino Acids For Every Meal

Foods with amino acids are the building blocks of protein. That means they are responsible for strength, repair and rebuilding inside your body. Your tissues, your cells, your enzymes and your brain all get their nourishment and protection from amino acids.

Why You Need Amino Acids Daily

Amino acids make up 75% of the human body, and are vital to every part of human function. One of the most talked about properties of amino acids is how it can assist in muscle building. Amino acids are boasted as the key ingredients in many body-building supplements, though the degree of success they achieve in that form is debatable. Careful attention to amino acids isn’t just for people who want to build muscle. Different studies have linked amino acid balances with fighting everything from depression to Fibromyalgia.

You Can’t Store Amino Acids

The problem with amino acids is that they deteriorate. The body will store extra starch and protein as fat, to use later. Amino acids are not stored, but they can be replaced. There are upwards of twenty different kinds of amino acids that form proteins. Some of these the body makes. The ones it cannot make, called the essential amino acids, it must get from constant consumption of food.

The Best Foods

Studies have shown that the best way to get all the essential amino acids not made by the humans is to eat animal protein. Meat, eggs, and dairy are the most common sources of these important building blocks.

It can be difficult for strict vegetarians and vegans to get all their essential amino acids. Most vegetarian protein foods, such as beans and seeds, contain only portions of the essentials. A noted exception to this is soy, which contains complete protein. Add these different protein sources together to form a complementary (full) protein and receive the benefit of the accompanying amino acids. If you are vegetarian, make sure your diet is varied enough in its protein sources to bring in the needed amino acids, or consider taking a supplement.

Supplements

If you are concerned about getting your requisite amount of amino acids in your daily diet, you might want to consider supplements. When choosing amino acid supplements, you have a choice of complete amino acid supplements, or individual ones. “Individual” means you can chose supplements to increase a single amino acid to your diet. People often do this in an attempt to build muscle, or because of they believe that particular acids will medicate a particular condition. Examples of this include taking a supplement such as lysine for cold sores and herpes, or arginine for enhancing the immune system.

As with any health promise, the effectiveness of these supplements should be thoroughly researched before you put them in your body. If you do take supplements, consider sticking to “L” form acids. The ‘L’ refers to the structure of the acid, indicating that the acid is a human form and easier on your system. Other tips to remember include knowing that that amino acid supplements are absorbed better on an empty stomach, and that vitamins B6 and C are also necessary for proper absorption. Make sure they are either in, or taken with, the supplement.

It is necessary to replenish your body’s essential amino acids daily. Though supplements are an option, the best way to replenish amino acids is to eat the foods that contain them. Meat, eggs, dairy and soy eaten in healthy moderation will provide all the amino acids your body needs.

Possible Deficiencies

The vast majority of Americans eats more than enough protein and also more than enough of each essential amino acid for normal purposes. Dieters, some strict vegetarians, and anyone consuming an inadequate number of calories may not be consuming adequate amounts of amino acids. In these cases, the body will break down the protein in muscle tissue and use those amino acids to meet the needs of more important organs or will simply not build more muscle mass despite increasing exercise.

Amino acids

Why do the majority of people who go to the gym to build muscle know so little of amino acids and protein, and their importance in achieving our goal of muscle building? Amino acids; everyone has heard of them, protein powders list them. So what is the importance of them? Do we really need them?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and also muscle tissue. And they also play a major part in physiological processes relating to our energy, recovery, mood, brain function, muscle and strength gains, and also in our quest for fat loss.

There are 23 amino acids and 9 of these are classed as essential or indispensable amino acids (IAA) that must be obtained from our nutritional intake. The others are termed dispensable amino acids (DAA) or non-essential due to the body being able to synthesise them from other amino acids.

When we eat a meal we don't pay much attention to the content and balance of amino acids but the content of the meal determines the body and health building value of the protein food or supplement. In addition the importance of the amino acids content of our meal is important to support maximum growth we also have to take another factor into account which is to what extent these amino acids are actually delivered to the tissues when they are needed which takes us to the issues of digestion, absorption and also the bioavailability.

What is Bioavailability?

Eating our protein foods such as lean meats and non-fat dairy products, or having our protein drinks are the most common ways that we get our amino acids, we also can obtain amino acids from vegetables, and legumes also have levels of most amino acids. We can also use protein drinks and amino acid supplements as a convenient means to supplement our dietary needs.

The reason we use these supplements is the bioavailability of the amino acids. Bioavailability is a measure of the efficiency of delivery and how much of what is ingested is used for its intended use by the body. There are factors which determine the amino acid bioavailability. One is how much fat is contained in the protein source and the length of time it takes for the amino acids to be available for use by the body.

Cooking also can affect the amino acids; some are more or less sensitive to heat and cooking may cause decomposition of some amino acids. The physical nature of the particular food is also a factor, whether it is solid, liquid, powder, or even tablet, and to what extent it is chemically pre-digested as some amino acid supplements are, fillers and binders also can have an affect on the digestion of the amino acid. The condition of our digestive system can also have an affect on amino acid digestion, genetics, age, health, specific diseases and illnesses all have an affect on our digestion.

Amino acids and exercise

Exercise, hormones and nutrients will all cause muscle growth. As will supplementation of free form amino acids high in the branch chain amino acids (BCAA's) Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. The best time for us to get our amino acids is immediately after our training when the muscle is especially receptive to nutrients and also blood flow to the exercised muscles which still remains high. The solution to optimising our recovery and growth after training is a meal composed of protein with both simple and some complex carbohydrates. This is the time when ideally we require a fast digesting protein such as whey protein.

Amino Acid Supplementation

The popularity of amino acid supplements has increased dramatically. Packaged workout and recovery drinks that contain hydrolysed (pre-digested) proteins and often some free-form amino acids can be found in most gyms. Also tubs of powdered or capsulated amino acids are being used by an increasing number of weight trainers. The good thing about these supplements is that they don't require digestion like food does. The term free-form means that they are free of chemical bonds to other molecules and as such move quickly through the stomach, into the small intestines where they are very rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. When absorbed, amino acids are processed by the liver. The liver can only process so many at one time, so by taking a dose of 3-4g of amino acids these will be rapidly absorbed and would exceed the liver's capacity which would result in the amino acids being directed to the tissues that would require them such as muscle that is recovering from your training.

Amino acids and Energy

A lot of misconceptions exist about the muscle contraction and the use of energy substrates during heavy high intensity weight training. When performing your training using repetitive power workouts a substantial portion of your energy comes from non-carbohydrate sources. When your muscles contract they use stores of adenosine triphosphate (ATP, a substance vital to the energy processes of all our living cells) for the first few seconds. The compound used to immediately replenish these stores is creatine phosphate (CP). This is how the supplement creatine, became so popular to bodybuilders and strength trained athletes. Creatine is made from three amino acids: arginine, methionine and glycine. To keep our CP and ATP levels high, these amino acids must be kept elevated in our blood stream. The amino acids in creatine supplements can be supplied by foods in our diet but the process of elevating these amino acids takes a great deal of time in digestion, and also would be accompanied by fats and carbohydrates which may or may not be desired. So the use of free form amino acids, either alone or in combination with creatine supplements can provide direct source of energy for power and strength.

Amino acids & Fat loss

In fat loss two major processes must occur (1) the mobilisation and circulation of stored fats in the body must be increased; and (2) Fats must be transported and converted to energy at the mitochondria (the powerhouse site of cells). Several nutrients can assist in the conversion of fat to energy including the amino acid methionine, which in sufficient amounts can help improve the transport and metabolism of fat. When attempting to keep our total calories down during dieting, amino acid supplements including BCAA's and glutamine can also help to keep our food volume down but still provide support directly to the muscles, liver and our immune systems which are critical to optimising our body composition.

Amino acids & Muscle catabolism

Our body has the ability to breakdown our muscle tissue for use as an energy source during heavy exercise. This is part of a bodily process called gluconeogenesis which means producing or generating glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. The part of this reaction that is known as the glucose – alanine cycle, in which the BCAA's are stripped from the muscle tissue and parts of them being converted to the amino acid alanine, which is then transported to the liver and converted into glucose. If we consume supplemental BCAA's the body does not have to breakdown our muscle tissue to gain extra energy. Studies have concluded that the use of BCAA's (up to 4g) during and after training can result in a significant reduction of muscle breakdown during training. Catabolism of muscle can cause shrinkage of our muscles and muscle soreness and may also lead us to injury.

Amino acids and the anabolic effect

Resistance training generally stimulates both protein synthesis and protein degradation in exercised muscle fibres. Muscle hypertrophy (growth) occurs when an increase in protein synthesis results in the body's normal state of protein synthesis and degradation. The normal hormonal environment (e.g, insulin and growth hormone levels) in the period following resistance training stimulates the muscle fibres anabolic processes while blunting muscle protein degradation. Dietary modifications that increase amino acid transport into muscles raise energy availability or increase anabolic hormones should augment the training effects by increasing the rate of muscle anabolism and/or decreasing muscle catabolism. Either effect should create a positive body protein balance for improved muscular growth and strength.

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