Amino acids are the organic compounds that come together to form proteins, the building blocks of life. Knowing that, it should be no surprise that your body needs a daily intake of amino acids. That’s because your body doesn’t store any surplus amino acids that you have consumed, per organicfacts.net. It’s sort of like buying minutes for your phone on a monthly basis – use them or lose them, or at least that’s the way it used to be. You get the idea.
Essential Amino Acids
There are two kinds of amino acids – essential and non-essential. The former are those compounds that your body can’t produce on its own, of which there are nine: tryptophan, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, histidine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
The latter three on that list happen to be what are known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), which are instrumental for muscle growth, fat burning, and improved performance, per organicfacts.net. That’s right – this is the good stuff for athletes, specifically bodybuilders, although those benefits are available for anyone who consumes them properly.
Non-essential Amino Acids
Now that you know what essential amino acids are, can you possibly guess how non-essential such acids are different? That’s right; they are produced by your body, mostly in the liver, although they, like the essential type, can also be sourced from various foods. The non-essential amino acids include glutamic acid, alanine, glutamine, arginine, asparagine, glycine, tyrosine, aspartic acid, cysteine, proline, and serine.
Note, too, that most if not all amino acids can be ingested via nutritional supplements, such as those sold by Wonder Labs. Either way, through food sources or supplementation, amino acids can benefit everyone, regardless their level of involvement – if any – in sporting or athletic endeavors. If, for example, boosting your athletic performance has no interest for you, take refuge in knowing that proper ingestion of amino acids can improve your mood, help with weight loss, and even improve your sleep. That latter benefit is because of the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed for manufacturing serotonin, per healthline.com, which in turn is a chemical that serves a role as your body’s neurotransmitter, which relates to a relaxed state of mind and therefore a sleep aid.
Amino Acids’ Benefits
We’ve already briefly touched on some of the benefits of amino acids, but wait! There’s more. Following is an expanded list of some of amino acids’ better-known benefits. Before diving into any of these for yourself, please be sure to consult with your personal physician to make sure you know what you are getting into.
- Stave off fatigue. The expenditure of energy during the day relative to physical activity involves the accompanying reduction of stored glycogen. Ramping up the ingestion of BCAAs and other amino acids can help your body use its stored glycogen in a more effective manner and at a reduced rate.
- Spur abdominal fat loss. Per livestrong.com, a published study found that post-menopausal women supplemented for three months with a soy amino acid supplement experienced a slowed growth of abdominal fat.
- Bolster muscle growth. This is where the three aforementioned BCAAs come into play, stimulating protein synthesis after a tough workout. This provides muscles with a healthy injection of new resources targeting muscle growth, per organicfacts.net. Likewise, these BCAAs can help thwart muscle damage caused by intense workouts, such as the breakdown of muscle fibers during this exercise.
- Enhance exercise performance. Not only can amino acids help in areas such as muscle mass while guarding against muscle breakdown, they also can have a positive effect on performance endurance. This was borne out by a study published in 2009 that showed oxygen-usage efficiency was enhanced when a BCAA supplement was used compared to a placebo, per livestrong.com. Also, as cited at healthline.com, a review of eight studies confirmed that BCAAs supplementation following exhaustive exercise was better than rest alone in stimulating muscle recovery and soreness reduction.
- Reduce symptoms of depression. Not only does the tryptophan-induced production of serotonin help regulate mood and improve sleep, it can alleviate issues related to depression, per healthline.com.
- Improve healing. Protein is not only key to the development of muscle, tissue, cells, hair, and nails, it is needed for repair and recovery for your body. Amino acid supplementation in the aftermath of a rigorous workout, illness, injury, or surgery can quicken protein synthesis, thus pushing along the rate of healing in your body.
- Prevent inflammation. BCAAs – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – can assist in diminishing muscle and joint inflammation as well as help defeat inflammation associated with diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and liver ailments.
Food Sources for Amino Acids
Among the groups of foods that contain all of the essential amino acids – also known as complete-protein sources – are meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Some plant-based foods fall into that “complete protein” category as well, such as soy, quinoa, and buckwheat.