What Do Amino Acids Do?

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Did you know that your body needs a total of 20 different types of amino acids in order to function and grow the way it should? Do you know what amino acids do for your body? In a nutshell, amino acids are organic compounds that are made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Their makeup also includes a chain group. Today we are going to talk about amino acids, what they do, and why they are important for your health.

Essential Amino Acids

While there are a total of 20 amino acids, there are nine that the body is not able to produce, and we must get them from dietary sources. These amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. The best dietary sources of these essential acids are animal proteins, such as poultry, eggs, and meat.

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids

There are some non-essential amino acids that our bodies need when we are ill or under a lot of stress. These are called conditionally essential amino acids, and they are necessary to help the body fight a variety of diseases, medical conditions, etc. For instance, arginine which necessary for cancer patients, is an essential amino acid the body is unable to produce, and it must come from dietary sources.

The 9 Essential Amino Acids and what They Do for Your Body

Here is a quick rundown of the nine essential amino acids and what they do for your body:

Histidine

This amino acid is needed to produce histamine, which is important for a variety of body functions, including immune response, sleep and wake cycles, digestion, and sexual functions. It is also necessary for protecting and maintaining the myelin sheath, which is a protective barrier for nerve cells.

Isoleucine

This is necessary for muscle metabolism and is found mainly in muscle tissue. This amino acid is also important for the production of hemoglobin, as well as being necessary for immune system function and regulating energy in the body. It is a three branched chain amino acid, which simply means it has a chain that branches off to the side of the molecular structure.

Leucine

This is another three branched-chain amino acid, and it is vital for muscle repair and protein synthesis. It is also helpful in keeping blood sugar levels regulated, encouraging wound healing, and creating growth hormones.

Lysine

Protein synthesis, hormone production, and enzyme production rely on lysine. It is also necessary for calcium absorption, immune function, the production of elastin and collagen, and producing energy.

Methionine

This essential amino acid is needed for detoxifying the body and metabolism. IT also plays an important role in the growth of new tissue, and helps the body to absorb zinc and selenium, both of which are important minerals our bodies need.

Phenylalanine

This is a necessary precursor for tyrosine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine, all of which are neurotransmitters. It is also necessary for the function and structure of enzymes and proteins, as well as for producing other amino acids the body needs.

Threonine

This is a main part of structural proteins, including collagen and elastin, both of which are necessary for healthy connective tissue and skin. The body also needs it for fat metabolism, as well as immune function.

Tryptophan

Known as the “turkey enzyme,” tryptophan is important for maintaining nitrogen balance, and is a precursor to neurotransmitter serotonin which helps to regulate your mood, sleep patterns, and appetite.

Valine

This the other three branched-chain amino acid. This amino acid helps to promote muscle regeneration and growth, and it is necessary for the production of energy.

Why You Should Supplement Your Diet with Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids can be found in many dietary sources, but it is also a good idea to take supplements containing amino acids, because they are in much higher concentrated doses, so your body really gets what it needs. Here are just a few of the reasons why it is a good idea to start taking supplements containing essential amino acids:

Better Sleep and Mood

Tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin, which is necessary for proper sleep, as well as for regulating behaviors and moods. Low serotonin levels are known to cause sleep disorders and depression, and tryptophan can help to boost the mood and reduce some symptoms of depression and help you to sleep better.

Better Exercise Performance

Your body needs the three branched-chain essential amino acids to help improve athletic performance, help with muscle recovery following exercise, and preventing fatigue in the body. Studies show these amino acids help to alleviate muscle soreness after exercising. They can also improve strength in those who do not work out.

Prevention of Muscle Loss

Long-term illnesses and bed rest can lead to muscle loss, particularly in seniors. Essential amino acids can help to prevent the breakdown of muscles and help promote lean body mass, in both athletes and the elderly.

Promotion of Weight Loss

There have been studies on both humans and animals that show branch chain essential amino acids may be helpful for weight loss. For instance, one study showed that supplementing with 14 grams of branched-chain amino acids daily helped to lower the body fat percentage better than a sports drink or whey protein.

Improved Cognitive Abilities

We already know that tryptophan helps with the production of serotonin in the body, which is a neurotransmitter that works on making us feel better, mentally and emotionally. If you find yourself feeling dull or foggy in the afternoon hours, it may be that your body doesn’t have enough tryptophan, which can play a role in mental relaxation.

Faster Healing

Every part of the body needs proteins. They help with growth and development of muscle, tissue, hair, nails, and cells. If your body isn’t getting enough protein, healing can take a lot longer than it should. Amino acids are necessary for protein production. If you are injured, have an illness, or have had surgery, amino acid supplements can help you to heal faster.

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