• Anatomy Of Fitness

What are AMINO ACIDS?

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

Amino acids are called the building blocks of life. They are the molecules that combine to form protein. Amino acids support many critical functions in the human body and are crucial for muscle hypertrophy. In addition, our body can use amino acids as an energy source. Therefore, consuming amino acids as part of our daily diet is essential for survival. In addition, some of us consume amino acids as a supplement in powder, tablet, or liquid forms. This article tells us all we need to know about amino acids. So, let us understand what amino acids are, their functions, how do we know if we are deficient in amino acids and who requires amino acid supplements.

What are AMINO ACIDS?

Amino acids are organic compounds that join to form proteins. Each protein is of combinations of up to 20 different amino acids. When we consume protein, it breaks down into amino acids.

The classification of amino acids is as follows:

  1. Essential amino acids.

  2. Non-essential amino acids.

  3. Conditionally essential amino acids.

#1 Essential Amino Acids:

Essential amino acids are the type of amino acids that the body cannot synthesize on its own and relies entirely on the food it gets. Therefore, consuming these types of amino acids is essential for survival. The best food sources of essential amino acids are poultry, meat, and eggs. There are 9 types of essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, valine, histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and threonine.

#2 Non-Essential Amino Acids:

As the name suggests, non-essential amino acids are optional as our body can synthesize non-essential amino acids, and we need not rely on the food we consume. There are 4 types of non-essential amino acids: aspartic acid, glutamic acid, alanine, and asparagine.

#3 Conditionally Essential Amino Acids:

Some non-essential amino acids can become essential amino acids under conditions like illness, stress, injuries, exercise etc. Hence, we need to evaluate the consumption of non-essential amino acids through food sources or supplements on a case basis. There are 7 types of conditionally essential amino acids: arginine, proline, glutamine, serine, cysteine, glycine, and tyrosine.

Essential, non-essential and conditionally essential amino acids chart.
Essential, non-essential and conditionally essential amino acids.

What are Branched-Chain Amino Acids or BCAA?

Branched-chain amino acids are the essential amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine which have the highest propensity to support muscle gain. BCAAs promote anabolism and reduce muscle loss. BCAAs are abundantly present in meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, and pumpkin seeds. Consuming 15 to 35 grams of BCAAs per day from food or supplements is safe to increase performance.

What are the FUNCTIONS of AMINO ACIDS?

Essential Amino Acids:

  • Helping the physiological functioning of the nervous system, immune system and pancreas.

  • Supporting the formation of red blood cells, white blood cells, antibodies and maintaining mood.

  • Synthesizing protein and supporting muscle growth.

  • Transporting oxygen, regulating hormone secretions, enzymes, and sleep.

Non-Essential Amino Acids:

  • Supporting functions of the immune system.

  • Removing toxins from the body.

  • Acting as an antioxidant and helping control a free radical attack.

  • Developing and maintaining brain tissue and acting as a neurotransmitter.

  • Supporting the cell growth process.

  • Repair and maintenance of hair, nail, and skin.

Symptoms of AMINO ACID DEFICIENCY:

  • Slow to a prolonged recovery from illness or injury.

  • Memory loss.

  • Weakness, tiredness, or fatigue without a logical reason.

  • Atrophy or muscle loss.

  • Fatty liver.

  • Insomnia/ oversleeping.

  • Depression.

  • Frequent problems of the skin, nails, eyes, or hair.

  • Difficulty in focusing or concentrating.

Who requires AMINO ACID SUPPLEMENTS?

We may or may not require amino acid supplements depending on our amino acid requirement. We require essential amino acids for our survival, and if we cannot obtain the recommended dosage from food alone, supplements are required. Conditionally essential amino acids may be required depending on stress, recovery from disease or injury, lifestyle, exercise etc. Non-essential amino acid supplements are not required as our body can create them.

Research has shown that when active individuals take essential and conditionally essential amino acid supplements, it benefits in the following ways:

  • Faster and better recovery.

  • Accelerated muscle growth or hypertrophy.

  • Decreased fatigue and muscle soreness.

Key takeaways:

  1. Amino acids are the building blocks of life that support several crucial functions in our body.

  2. Amino acids are classified as essential, non-essential and conditionally essential.

  3. Our body cannot manufacture essential amino acids, and we entirely rely on food for their intake. Therefore, we have to take essential amino acid supplements if our food lacks the recommended intake for our lifestyle.

  4. Our body can manufacture non-essential amino acids. Therefore, we do not require supplementing our diet with these.

  5. Conditionally essential amino acids are the non-essential amino acids required in more significant quantities (and the body may not be capable of creating so much) under exceptional circumstances like recovering from disease or injury, stress, exercise etc.) But, again, we can get these from food or supplements.

We hope the article helped us understand what amino acids are, their functions, how do we know if we are deficient in amino acids and who requires amino acid supplements.

#fitness #nutrition #supplements #BCAA #performance #aminoacids #branchedchainaminoacids #diet

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