Amino acids play many critical roles in your body, but they are best known for being what many health experts refer to as “the building blocks of proteins.” Additionally, amino acids, packaged by Wonder Labs in supplemental form as amino acid complex, play a key role in the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. Their use for potentially enhancing mood or boosting performance among athletes likewise make them very versatile.
How Do Amino Acids Work?
First of all, let’s get one thing straight for the sake of clarity: amino acids, separately, don’t build proteins on their own. They are compounds that combine with one another to produce proteins. They do so with help from the digestive system, which breaks down proteins consumed by people at mealtime or snack time into amino acids, which are then combined and utilized by the body in different ways to perform bodily functions.
Per medicalnewstoday,com, amino acids can help build muscles, initiate chemical reactions in your body, carry nutrients to where they are needed, prevent illness, and perform other functions as well. Each of the 20 amino acids – yes, there are 20; that is not a misprint – serves a different purpose in the body. If you have a deficiency of any amino acids, you can be looking at issues ranging from diminished immunity, digestive problems, and depression to fertility-related problems, reduced alertness, and hindered growth in children. The list goes on.
What Are the Types of Amino Acids?
Like we said earlier, there are 20 types of amino acids in your body – many of which you have to put there yourself, as we’re about to explain – and they are divided into two categories: essential and non-essential.
Essential amino acids are those that the body can’t produce on its own – they can only be sourced from the food or supplements that you consume, which is why a healthy, balanced diet is so important to your body’s functionality.
Non-essential amino acids are those produced by the body itself, with your liver being your body’s key organ in that regard. Non-essentials can also be found in some food sources and supplements.
Per organicfacts.net, included among the essential amino acids are tryptophan, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, histidine, lysine, isoleucine, leucine, and valine. The last three on that list – isoleucine, leucine, and valine – are commonly referred to as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which target muscle growth, fat burning, and enhanced performance. Among the best food sources of essential amino acids are animal proteins such as meat, eggs, and poultry, per healthline.com.
The non-essential amino acids are glutamic acid, alanine, glutamine, arginine, asparagine, glycine, tyrosine, aspartic acid, cysteine, proline, and serine. Nine of the former, 11 of the latter; that adds up to the 20.
Health Benefits of Amino Acids
Before adding any amino acid or amino acids to your regimen, in addition to what you are already consuming via food intake, be sure to discuss your interest with your physician. You want to be sure you know what you are doing. Following are some of the key benefits that might be provided by amino acids:
- Improve mood and sleep. The amino acid tryptophan plays a starring role here as it’s a key compound in the production of serotonin, which regulates mood, sleep, and behaviors, per healthline.com. A nearly three-week study of 60 older women showed that just one gram of tryptophan a day boosted the subjects’ overall energy and happiness, moreso than a placebo.
- Enhance athletic/exercise performance. This is where the three branched-chain amino acid supplements – isoleucine, leucine, and valine – take center stage. They are popular among athletes and exercisers for their tested ability to alleviate fatigue, bolster athletic performance, and promote muscle recovery following exercise. Non-athletes can benefit as well; taking four grams of leucine daily for 12 weeks has been shown in research to increase strength performance in untrained men.
- Induce weight loss. Several studies cited at healthline.com indicated that supplementation with BCAAs, especially, can diminish body fat percentage and weight better than whey protein or sports drinks.
- Stimulate muscle growth (and reduce muscle loss). Studies have shown that amino acid supplements can help muscle growth even in areas of the body that aren’t being worked out, per organicfacts.net.
- Stave off inflammation. This appears to be another benefit best left to BCAAs, as their use can apparently thwart the inflammation linked to arthritis, diabetes, and liver conditions, among other diseases or maladies. By reducing inflammation on muscles and joints, these amino acids can allow for longer, more productive workout sessions, per organicfacts.net.
- Reduce fatigue. Research has demonstrated that augmenting your use of BCAAs and other amino acids will assist your body in storing energizing glycogen more efficiently and burn it at a slower rate, giving you more endurance during the day.
- Speed healing. Per organicfacts.net, because amino acid supplements can kick protein synthesis into high gear, and because proteins are essential for the body’s repair and recovery (as needed), it stands to reason that ramping up amino acid supplements makes sense in the wake of an injury. Reminder: discuss this first with your doctor.