Amino Acids- The Building Blocks of Protein
There is so much talk about protein in the marketplace these days. What used to be primarily a focus on protein shakes, protein diet drinks and muscle-building protein supplements as now shifted to skin care. The protein shake supplements have been replaced with new conversations and research regarding collagen, peptides, hydrolyzed proteins, serums, and countless new products. For protein to be truly effective in sustaining and building strength, endurance, and anti-aging into our regiments it has to be considered both external and internal. No longer can you drink a protein shake and feel like you’ve done something powerful. Amino acids make up proteins. Whether they are essential or non-essential, all are necessary for total health. Unlike old information, meat is just not your only source, today we are focusing more on the role of plant-based proteins, peptides, and foods. Plants are powerful too, and not just meat, whether it is for anti-aging, wellness, and overall physical strength including weight lifting and competitive training. Learning more about amino acids will make you a better athlete, more youthful older individual, and overall healthier person.
How many amino acids are there; 20
How many amino acids are essential; 9
Very importantly, what do these 9 essential amino acids do for our health & body– they are critical for balance, absorbing nutrients, repairing tissue, and building muscle strength. These 9 cannot be produced by your body, similar in some ways to how Organic Sulfur operates; these cannot be produced by your body and must be obtained from foods. Single focus on an amino acid can be taken when a person has developed an illness, otherwise, they need to be consumed as a whole. Amino acids are referred to as the building blocks of protein. Each amino acid in the complex plays a critical role in your health. So what do amino acids provide?
- needed directly for the vital processes for synthesis of neurotransmitters and hormones
- improve mood
- increase athletic performance, stamina, and endurance
- even though 9 are essential you must consume all 20 for health and balance
- highest sources of the 9 essential amino acids are animal proteins; meat, poultry, eggs
- builds muscle- both animal and plant based proteins
- regulates the immune system function
- in cases of overcoming illness, the body cannot regain health without specific nonessential amino acids, such as when fighting cancer
- certain nonessential amino acids are directly responsible for producing nitric acid also known as NO. This promotes muscle strength, cardiovascular health and energy
- muscle and tissue repair
- supports a healthy nervous system
- essential to digestive function
Complete protein sources include:
Other proteins are incomplete and have to be combined to benefit from a complete protein source. When a protein source, such as beans or nuts, lack one or more of the essential amino acids they are considered incomplete. If you are choosing to avoid animal products in your diet, you need to combine beans, nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables in order to get adequate complete protein. Even when combining plant sources to form a complete protein, animal sources still carry certain benefits you cannot achieve with only plants.
Functions of the 9 Essential Amino Acids
- Histidine; this amino acid is needed to produce histamine which is a neurotransmitter responsible for sexual function, digestive process, proper sleep cycles, and immune health. One of the most important things histidine is does is to maintain the myelin sheath which is the protective barrier that surrounds your nerve cells.
- Isoleucine; most heavily concentrated in muscle tissue. It is responsible for muscle metabolism, immune function, energy production, and blood hemoglobin production. It is the of the 3 branched-chain amino acids which directly affect the condition of your muscles.
- Leucine; another branched-chain amino acid. This amino is critical to wound healing, production of growth hormone (which is part of maintaining HGH), muscle repair, balances blood sugar, and protein synthesis
Lysine; important to the absorption of calcium and synthesis of protein. It is needed for producing energy, and the production of enzymes and hormones. Lysine directly benefits the immune system and is critical to the production of elastin and collagen in the skin, soft tissues and skin, all playing a role in youthful appearance. Lysine is required for preventing certain viruses that have been dormant from becoming active, such as the herpes virus and all of its cousins.
- Methionine; if you are not absorbing zinc or selenium which is necessary for tissue growth, you may be deficient in this amino acid. Absorption of minerals is important to your health and directly affects the ability for the body to detoxify and maintain a healthy metabolism.
- Phenylalanine; this amino acid is needed for its integral role in protein structure and function, production of enzymes, and its relationship with other amino acids. It is a precursor for many neurotransmitters that regulate depression and pain including dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and tyrosine. People with kidney problems may have problems with this amino acid and should not take it individually without medical recommendation.
- Threonine; helps to form structural proteins for collagen and elastin in the skin and connective tissue. Threonine is especially important to immune function and the metabolism of fat.
- Tryptophan; calms, promotes a healthy sleep cycle, may cause drowsiness- such as after a Thanksgiving meal since it is especially high in turkey. It is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin which is a regulator for depression and mood, sleep, and appetite control.
- Valine; one of the three branched-chain amino acids. What this means is that is branches off the chain to one side of the molecule structure to help stimulate muscle growth, muscle regeneration, and the production of energy.
How to Get Complete Protein in a Plant Based Diet
Because plants contain partial blends of the essential amino acids, in order to get these with a plant-based diet, you need to combine a grain with a bean. By doing this you can still achieve the benefits of animal proteins. Eating both animal and plant based protein is especially beneficial to your health.
What are the Health Effects of Supplementing Amino Acids
If you are deficient in the neurotransmitter serotonin, having trouble with depression and insomnia, then you may be low in tryptophan. This is a deficiency that tends to grow as we get older. Such as older men and women over the age of 60 that are having trouble sleeping may find that if they take 1 gram (1000mg) per day of tryptophan that shortly they start to sleep better and feel happier. By getting more or better rest you will have more energy and a better mood every day.
We all strive to retain lean muscle mass and overall muscle strength. This is particularly noticeable as we age. Losing both muscle size and lean muscle is a natural part of aging that is negative. By taking an amino acid supplement, you can correct this problem and delay the onset of aging by retaining more muscle strength. Taking 15 grams of mixed amino acids every day, studies have found that compared to placebos that individuals increased their muscle strength, lean muscle mass, and overall vitality. For those who have experienced long bouts of illness, hospital stays which can be very sedentary, or athletes in training, amino acids can be extremely beneficial to health.
The 3 branched-chain amino acids, especially Leucine, have had tremendous positive effects for people recover from weakened physical health and for athletes who want to reduce soreness after exercise, and recover faster after strenuous training. Amino acids help to preserve muscle as well, so even if you are not an athlete or don’t work out enough, the amino acid blends are for you. Studies found that when supplementing 14 grams per day of the branched-chain amino acids daily for eight weeks resulted in significant body fat reduction in a comparison with those who instead took whey protein or various sports drinks. So not only can they reduce soreness after working out but they can help people to lose body fat.
With these findings, it is easy to conclude that as men and women age, and especially for the elderly, supplementing amino acids, branch-chain amino acids, along with creatine daily could result in better muscle mass, more strength, less body fat, and more benefits from exercise, helping them to remain viable for much longer than without it.
Supplementing the Essential Amino Acids–
This is the ratio recommended for balance;
The recommended daily allowances per 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of body weight for the nine essential amino acids; Example if you weigh 150 pounds, you can supplement the following to fulfill the requirement.
Histidine: 14 mg (x30 days = 420 mg or approx. .42 of a gram)
Isoleucine: 19 mg (x30 days = 570 mg or .57 of a gram)
Leucine: 42 mg (x30 days = 1,260 mg or 1.26 grams)
Lysine: 38 mg (x30 days = 1,140 mg. or 1.14 grams)
Methionine (+ the non-essential amino acid cysteine): 19 mg (x30 days = 570 mg or .57 of a gram)
Phenylalanine (+ the non-essential amino acid tyrosine): 33 mg (x 30 days = 990 mg or .990 of a gram)
Threonine: 20 mg (x30 days = 600 mg. or .60 of a gram)
Tryptophan: 5 mg (x30 days = 180 mg. or .18 of a gram)
Valine: 24 mg (x30 days = 720 mg. or .72 of a gram)
Total 214 mg blend per 2.2 lbs of body weight. So, take your weight and divide it by 2.2. This figure is then multiplied by 214 mg of the blend and it equals your ideal daily dosage. Example; if you weigh 150 pounds, you would figure your individual ideal dosage like this; 150 divided by 2.2 = 68.18. Take 68.18 x 214 mg. = 14,590.52 mg. which is 14.591 grams daily. This is just over about 1/2 oz. per day. 28.4 grams = 1 oz.
Let’s say that for example you want to also include added tryptophan for insomnia or for mood, especially for women in menopause and that dosage recommended is 1000 mg. Using the same weight at 150 pounds, using the tryptophan portion of the above, you would take 5 mg. x 68.18 (body weight) = 340.9 mg. 1000 mg. – 340.9 or 341 = 659 mg. You will need approximately 659 mg. extra per day to try and see if you can get the same results and benefits for insomnia or happiness.
Problems With Too Much Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
If you are taking BCAA as a supplement in addition to what you naturally get in your diet with certain foods, it is important to keep things within a balance and not exceed the recommended amounts. Taking BCAA supplements is generally considered as safe and without side effects for most people. Studies have reported that a total BCAA intake between 15–35 grams per day seems to be safe for average people. If however, when consumed in large amounts or excessive amounts, BCAA can exhibit negative side effects. These can include nausea, headaches, fatigue, loss of coordination, and an increased insulin resistance. Metabolic Syndrome is an increase in type 2 diabetes, if you abuse the dosages recommended for BCAAs, you can run the risk of developing diabetes because it can affect blood sugar levels. BCAAs are recommended to AVOID during times before or after surgery for a period of time until your system is back to normal.
Taking BCAAs every day for best results, split your daily dose into two smaller doses instead of all at once. Such as when taking it for exercise take it before and then after activity. Taking it in two general divided doses spread out appears to get better results to build muscle. BCAAs are a supplemental program and not the only thing you need for working out. Adding this to your regiment is considered most effective and not a “be-all-end-all”. The best time to take BCAA powder is before exercise (as/or alongside) in combination with your pre workout supplement. It’s key to take BCAAs with your protein immediately after working out, but you can also take BCAA supplements during exercise to fuel your muscles and preserve glycogen stores. It is best to take BCAAs in coordination with your exercise program.