When it comes to ensuring proper nutrition for optimal health and physical performance, protein easily rates in as one of the key nutrients you absolutely must be taking in.
Fail to get in enough protein and you will not maintain lean muscle mass, you’ll stay feeling weaker longer after your workout session, and many other important bodily processes will also be impacted.
What many people don’t realize however is that protein is made up of tiny amino acids, each of which have their own specific role in your body. If you fail to get in sufficient levels of each type of amino acid, problems can start to occur. There are 22 amino acids total and 8 of them will be considered essential amino acids, meaning you must be taking these in through your diet or supplementation as your body cannot manufacture them on its own.
The 8 Essential Amino Acids
Let’s walk you through what the most important essential amino acids do so that you can stay informed on this important issue.
1) ✅ Histidine
The very first amino acid to discuss is Histidine. This particular amino acid plays a key role in the growth and repair of all body tissues, so is extra important for those who are constantly breaking their body down through intense training sessions.
Histidine is going to also help to maintain the glial nerve cells that form the myelin sheath that covers your nerve cells, helping proper transmissions take place.
It’s also going to assist with the generation of red and white blood cells, making sure you keep your immune system strong and your energy level up.
Many individuals choose to take it for digestion benefits as it can help to improve the process of breakdown of the foods that you eat. Finally, it may also increase your overall enjoyment of sexual activity, producing more powerful orgasms.
You should be taking in a minimum of 1000mg daily, however a better recommendation is 8-10mg per kg of body weight.
You can find this particular amino acid in dairy rich foods, meats, poultry, fish, rice, and wheat.
2) ✅ Lysine
The next amino acid to note is Lysine, which is one of the more important ones that will help to help promote higher rates of growth and development. This amino acid is also going to be very critical for making sure you absorb calcium as you should and therefore may assist with producing stronger bones in the process.
It is also helpful for fat mobilization purposes, so for those who are on a fat loss diet, you don’t want to be missing out on this particular amino acid. It’ll help keep your nitrogen balance in check as well, fending off lean muscle mass loss and fatigue.
Finally, it can help to improve the production of key hormones in your body including testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin.
You should be aiming to take in 12 mg of this amino acid per pound of bodyweight for ideal results.
Find Lysine in cheese, eggs, milk, meat, potatoes, and lima beans.
3) ✅ Phenylalanine
This particular amino acid is a mood booster and can help relieve stress and calm anxiety. It is also going to be good for motivational purposes and can increase your memory capability as well.
It’ll increase the levels of epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, and dopamine in the brain, which are all required for proper nervous system performance.
It’ll also assist with forming vitamin D in the body when you are out in the sun, so can help you reach your requirements in that nutrient as well.
The only thing that you must keep in mind is that too much of this amino acid can be lethal, so you want to make sure you don’t take in enough. Under normal circumstances however, this won’t be a concern for most people.
The recommended dosage is 14 mg per kilogram of bodyweight, which almost everyone will achieve easily through their diet.
Phenylalanine is found in all dairy products, almonds, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
4) ✅ Methionine
This amino acid is one that’s very important for men to be taking in as it is going to help with the breakdown of dietary fats you consume, which then can help you maintain higher testosterone levels in the normal range for optimal muscle building.
It is also going to act as an anti-oxidant in the body and can help with the removal of excess fat from the blood stream. This amino acid is going to be important for producing glutathione as well, which detoxifies your liver.
You should be aiming for 12 mg per kilogram of body weight and it’s often taken through the use of ZMA.
You can get more methionine by increasing your dietary consumption of meat, fish, beans, eggs, garlic, lentils, onions, and seeds.
5) ✅ Leucine
One of the branched chain amino acids, which is especially important for muscle building, Leucine is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels while assisting in the repair and growth of skin, bone, and muscle.
It also can help to prompt a release of HGH, which is a key hormone in adding more lean muscle mass.
You should aim to consume around 16 mg per kilogram of body weight. Many people, especially those who are dieting, will choose to take it in through supplement form in order to meet their recommended dose.
You can find Leucine in beans, nuts, brown rice, and whole wheat.
6) ✅ Isoleucine
Isoleucine, another branched chain amino acid, has many of the same roles that Leucine has, only it is also going to be involved in wound healing as well. This makes it a particular good amino acid for taking in after your intense workout sessions. It is also involved in ensuring the blood clots properly, so is vital for optimal health.
Find it in chicken, cashews, fish, meat, almonds, eggs, and lentils.
7) ✅ Valine
This amino acid, another branched chain amino acid, will also assist with blood sugar regulation and can help prevent your body from using glucose as a fuel source when fats can be utilized instead.
It is also great for helping to preserve lean muscle mass during periods of lower calorie dieting as well.
Find it in dairy, meat, grains, mushrooms, soy, along with peanuts.
8) ✅ Threonine
This essential amino acid must be taken in through the diet and is going to be important for making sure proper nervous system messages are sent. It also assists with the formation of collagen as well as elastin and plays a role in liver function.
You should be aiming to consume 8 mg per kilogram of bodyweight.
You can find Threonine in meat, dairy, and eggs.
Non-Essential Amino Acids
This now covers the main essential amino acids. Now let’s turn our focus to the non-essential amino acids to consider.
1) ✅ Glutamine
Glutamine is an amino acid that is heavily present in the body, contributing up to 60 percent of your total amino acid content. It’s an amino acid that is especially important for maintaining a strong immune system and is often taken in higher dosages in times of serious stress or injury.
It also can help to assist with memory as well as concentration levels and is important for brain function due to the fact that it will help to increase GABA levels, which are required for proper mental performance.
One interesting thing to note about glutamine is that it can help to lower the intensity of cravings you have for sweet tasting foods, so for this reason, may actually be of great assistance to those trying to stick with a lower calorie diet plan.
This amino acid will be more important to be using during intense dieting phases when you’re more likely to be consuming fewer carbohydrates and have the higher risk of losing lean muscle mass.
You should aim for two to five doses per day of 5-7 grams per dose for best results. If you aren’t dieting however, it is typically considered an optional supplement because most people will take in enough through diet alone.
You can find it in almost every high protein food that you eat in your diet.
2) ✅ Arginine
The next amino acid to mention is L-Arginine, which is one that has the ability to help you maintain better nitrogen retention. This is important because nitrogen retention is an indicator of muscle building or muscle mass loss.
It’s also going to help to make sure protein synthesis takes place as it should, so yet another reason you must be consuming it.
It’s also a big immune system-regulator amino acid, so will play a key role in helping you recover from an illness or injury.
Some people also report that it can extend the length of orgasms, so it is often considered as a sexual supplement as well.
This amino acid may also help to promote leaner gains in muscle mass and helps the body utilize fat for fuel better.
You should look to find this amino acid incorporated into other supplement products (as most people won’t take it alone as high dosages can be dangerous).
You can also take it in through dietary means by eating whole wheat, nuts and seeds, rice, chocolate, raisins, and soy.
3) ✅ Carnitine
Carnitine is often grouped in as an amino acid but it’s actually more of a B vitamin than anything else. Unlike other amino acids, this one isn’t used for protein synthesis purposes, but instead it’s utilized to help transport fatty acids from the inside of the fat cell to the mitochondria where they can be burned off.
For this reason, it’s very important for ensuring optimal fat burning will take place. Some also use it as a means to promote heart health as it can reduce the chances of fat build-up in the heart, liver, and muscle cells.
Finally, it can also help with preventing the oxidation of vitamin C and vitamin E.
You should aim to take between 20-200 mg per day depending on how much muscle mass you have. Those who have more muscle mass will need higher dosages, so should lean towards the higher end of the scale.
You can also find it in food sources such as fish, chicken, red meat, and milk.
4) ✅ Cysteine
L-Cysteine is often considered to be an antioxidant because of its sulfur content and rapidly converts into Cystine in the body. This molecule is important for producing collagen and thus maintaining healthy skin and for detoxification purposes.
It also what causes taurine to form in the body, and taurine is then needed to help form glutathione, which helps to protect the brain and organs from the damaging effects of toxic substances in the body.
So for this reason, Cysteine is a very important nutrient to be taking in. Finally, it can also help to protect the stomach lining as well, helping you stay healthy despite using anti-inflammatory medications.
You should aim to take in 200-300 mg of it per day if you choose to supplement and if not, it can be found in poultry, wheat, broccoli, eggs, garlic, as well as onions.
5) ✅ HMB
Finally, Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methyl Butyrate, also known as HMB is created from the BCAA leucine and will play an important role in muscle building. it enhances the rate of which protein is being utilized by the body to help rebuild muscle tissues back up after damage.
It can also help to prevent muscle mass tissue from being used as a fuel source during intense exercise while in a carb depleted state, so for this reason, is often utilized by those who are on very low calorie diet plans.
The only drawback with this one is that it does call for a very high dosage requirement as the body will make up to 1 gram per day naturally, so you’ll need to supplement over and beyond this.
Those who do decide to use it will want to take in 4.5 to 6 grams per day if you’re training and 2.5 to 3 grams per day if you aren’t.
You won’t find it readily available from dietary sources with only trace amounts being found in catfish, grapefruit, and alfalfa sprouts.
So there you have a complete guide to the amino acids that you should be considering using on a day to day basis. Keep in mind that no supplement is going to be replacement for not eating a proper diet, so focus on getting wholesome sources of high-quality protein first and foremost and then adding your supplements after that.
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