Amino acids are molecules used by all living organisms to produce proteins. Proteins are found in every cell of the body. They serve as molecular tools. Depending on their structure, proteins fulfill different tasks. For example, they enable cell movement, transport certain substances or facilitate chemical reactions.
In biochemistry, more than 400 amino acids are known to have a biological function. To function properly, the human body needs about 20 different amino acids. Nine of them, are called essential amino acids. These must be taken in through the diet. Essential amino acids are found in a variety of foods, such as some meat, eggs or dairy products.
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are organic compounds consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O) and nitrogen (N). Unlike amino acids, fats and carbohydrates do not contain nitrogen (N). Therefore, amino acids are the only source of nitrogen essential to the body.
There are 23 protein-producing (proteinogenic) amino acids. They serve many purposes, but especially in the formation of proteins and body tissues, such as muscles, skin, hair, or blood vessels. However, amino acids also play a role in almost all metabolic processes. They also influence important functions such as the transport of nutrients, neurotransmitters and build enzymes and hormones. If there is a deficiency or imbalance of amino acids, the body cannot function optimally.
Amino acids affect virtually all metabolic processes. They play a role in immune system work, bodybuilding, hair growth, male sexual function, blood vessel regulation, healthy joints, weight loss, providing energy and restful sleep.
What are the different types of amino acids?
Amino acids are divided into three different types:
Essential amino acids
Conditionally essential amino acids
Non-essential amino acids
Non-essential and conditionally essential amino acids are produced by the body independently of food intake. In contrast, essential amino acids are absorbed from food. A protein-rich diet or dietary supplementation is therefore important to ensure that our body contains sufficient amino acids. The nine essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce include:
Leucine helps the body produce proteins and growth hormones. The amino acid also helps build muscle tissue, heal wounds and regulate blood sugar levels.
Isoleucine is needed for muscle metabolism and is involved in the body’s immune function. It helps form hemoglobin and regulate energy.
Lysine is involved in the production of hormones and energy and in immune function.
Methionine supports tissue growth and metabolism. It provides detoxification of the body and aids in the absorption of important minerals such as zinc and selenium.
Phenylalanine is needed for the production of dopamine, epinephrine and other neurotransmitters for the brain.
Threonine is important in the production of collagen and elastin, giving the skin an elastic structure. Threonine plays an important role in fat metabolism and the immune system.
Tryptophan helps maintain nitrogen balance in the body and is important in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates mood and sleep.
Valine is responsible for muscle growth and tissue regeneration and is involved in energy production.
The human body produces the remaining eleven of the required amino acids itself. These are called non-essential amino acids. They include:
Some of the non-essential amino acids are classified as conditionally essential. That is, they are essential only in the event of disease or stress. This includes the amino acids: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline and serine.
What foods contain amino acids?
Essential amino acids are found in many foods. The best sources of amino acids are found in animal proteins such as beef, poultry and eggs. Animal proteins are most easily absorbed and used by our bodies.
Foods that contain all nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins. These foods include beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy, quinoa, and buckwheat.
Foods that contain some but not all essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins. These foods include nuts , seeds, beans and some grains. People on vegetarian or vegan diets need to use several types of incomplete proteins to ensure that they consume all nine essential amino acids.
Health benefits of amino acids
Amino acids have a positive effect on wellness, so it’s important to get enough of them in your daily diet. Essential amino acids are found in many foods such as beef, eggs, nuts, fish and beans. Some people rely on amino acid supplements to ensure adequate intake. However, other people may be deficient. People whose bodies are deficient in these vital nutrients will not feel well. An adequate supply of essential amino acids provides the following benefits.
Proper amino acid levels are important for muscle development and strength. Amino acids help regulate the balance between atrophy and growth.
Amino acids along with a high protein diet increases muscle growth in athletes. They also help to shorten the recovery period.
Joints and cartilage
Amino acids provide essential sulfur to the cartilage of your joints.
Blood sugar level
Amino acids are beneficial for blood sugar levels.
Strong immune system
Amino acids are important building blocks of the immune system. They form white blood cells and support the body’s own defenses.
Restful sleep and good mood
Sleep and mental sharpness are influenced by amino acids such as glutamine and tryptophan. Supplementing with these amino acids is one way to support sleep naturally.
Healthy blood vessels and blood pressure
Amino acids play a role in dilating blood vessels and can improve their flexibility, helping to regulate blood pressure.
Better hair volume
Hair is largely composed of cysteine and methionine. A combination of these amino acids with vitamins can stimulate hair growth. Beautiful hair needs the right nutrients.
Improving male sexual function
The fine blood vessels of the penis are particularly susceptible to circulatory problems. Amino acids can help with this.
Should amino acids be taken as a dietary supplement?
As a rule, all the essential amino acids needed by the human body can be found in a healthy, balanced diet. Some people take amino acid supplements to sleep better, improve their mood, and enhance athletic performance.
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