What Are Essential Amino Acids?

What exactly are Essential Amino Acids? Essential amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins and are compounds that play constructional roles in the body. While they are best known for their function in muscle development and repair, our bodies use them for many other roles. This blog post explains what essential amino acids are, what role they play in our bodies, and how our diet affects them.

Why Are Amino Acids Important?

BOOST EXERCISE PERFORMANCE

PREVENT MUSCLE LOSS

PROMOTE WEIGHT LOSS

Amino acids are organic compounds made of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. For growth purposes, our bodies need 20 different amino acids to maintain good health and normal functioning, nine of which are considered essential. These amino acids play an important role in various processes, including energy production, immune function, tissue growth, as well as nutrient absorption. Certain amino acids are also involved in athletic performance, weight loss, and may help prevent muscle loss. Studies have shown that they also positively affect mood and sleep cycles.

What do Different Types of Amino Acids do for Your Body?

Here's a Deeper Dive

The nine essential amino acids perform a number of important roles in your body.

  1. Phenylalanine – The antecedent for various neurotransmitters.
  2. Valine – Valine’s main role is to cause the growth and regeneration of muscles. It can also increase the endurance ability due to the energy burst that it causes.
  3. Threonine – This amino acid is can be found in the structural proteins such as elastin and collagen. It also helps in fat metabolism and improves the immune function of the body.
  4. Tryptophan – This one may be familiar as it is linked to the feeling of drowsiness. However, it has major functions in the body such as helping to regulate our appetite, sleep, and mood.
  5. Methionine – Methionine plays an integral role in our metabolism. It facilitates detoxification in the body, causes the growth of tissues, and facilitates the absorption of minerals such as selenium and zinc.
  6. Leucine – Leucine is responsible for the synthesis of proteins in the body and the repairing of muscles. It also facilitates the regulation of blood sugar levels, the healing of wounds, and the production of hormones.
  7. Isoleucine – This amino acid encourages the metabolism of the muscles and is highly concentrated in the muscle tissue.
  8. Lysine – Lysine facilitates processes in the synthesis of proteins, hormone production, and enzyme production. It is involved in the absorption of calcium, production of energy, production of collagen, and immune function.
  9. Histidine – This amino acid is necessary for the production of histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that is critical for immune response, sexual function, digestion, and sleep cycle.

Foods High in
Amino Acids

A Few Examples

Since your body cannot produce essential amino acids, they must be provided through your diet. Luckily, most of the food that we eat is abundant in essential amino acids and meets our daily needs. The list below includes the recommended daily requirements.

  • Phenylalanine (33 mg) is in dairy, meat, poultry, soy, fish, beans, and nuts
  • Valine (24 mg) is in soy, cheese, peanuts, mushrooms, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Cottage cheese and wheat germ contain high quantities of threonine (20 mg)
  • Methionine (19 mg) is in eggs, grains, nuts, and seeds
  • Dairy, soy, beans, and legumes are sources of leucine (42 mg)
  • Isoleucine (14 mg) is plentiful in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, lentils, nuts, and seeds
  • Lysine (38 mg) is in meat, eggs, soy, black beans, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds
  • Meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, and whole grains contain large amounts of histidine (14 mg)

Animal proteins contain all of the essential amino acids, which is why they are considered to be “complete proteins”. Examples include beef, pork, turkey, chicken, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, and seafood. If you’re following a plant-based diet, you can ensure proper intake of all essential amino acids as long as you eat a variety of plant proteins each day. Plant-based food such as buckwheat, soy, and quinoa are also complete protein sources that contain all nine essential amino acids.

 

What Are Amino Acids Made Of?

As we have previously mentioned, amino acids are made out of four essential elements: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon. Every molecule in amino acid has a carbon atom at its center, to which amino and carboxyl groups are attached. In addition, there are two other bonds of the carbon atom, and these two are remaining bonds are related to hydrogen atom as well as the R group.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Nine out of twenty essential amino acids have to be digested through your diet. They’re essential for various metabolic processes including nutrient absorption, tissue repair, and protein synthesis. Certain amino acids are also capable of preventing muscle loss and can improve sleep, mood, athletic performance, and can promote weight loss. Fortunately, these vital compounds are found in many animal and plant-based foods, helping you meet your daily needs through a HEALTHY AND BALANCE DIET.

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