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Your Health Could Benefit By Adding Amino Acids to Your Diet

By Dr. Molly Casey

Amino Acids

Diet and nutrition can be hard things to follow in this day and age. There is so much information out there available at the click of our fingertips. Supplements, and whether they can help or enhance your health, are the source of many questions. One such supplement is amino acids. Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are often called the building blocks of protein. Science-wise, they are organic compounds that contain amino and carboxyl functional group with a side amino chain. The key elements are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.

Amino acids are vital for certain processes within the body, such as building proteins and the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. Proteins are an elemental part of bones, muscles, ligaments, and organs. They are essential. Hormones and neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help with very complex processes and nerve cell communication.

Because amino acids are building blocks for proteins and a required piece of the puzzle for synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters, their importance is clear.

Essential - There are amino acids that are considered essential because the body does not make them and they must be ingested through the diet. The nine essential amino acids are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine. There are three essential amino acids that are referred to as branched chain and they are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Non-essential - The body can make these amino acids and they are arginine, glutamine, tyrosine, cysteine, glycine, proline, serine, ornithine, alanine, asparagine, and aspartate.

Conditionally essential - The body can make these amino acids; however, in certain circumstances they may be depleted by stress and illness, so ingesting them through diet may be beneficial to assist the body. These are arginine, glutamine, tyrosine, cysteine, glycine, proline, serine, and ornithine.

What Are the Benefits of Amino Acids?

What can happen when you start paying attention to and making sure you are getting a good solid base of amino acids? Plenty of good things, for sure.

  • Improved mood and sleep - Tryptophan is an essential amino acid required to make serotonin. Serotonin regulates mood, sleep, and certain behaviors. Low serotonin is linked to depressed moods and sleep problems. It’s wise to assure getting enough of the essential amino acids that help make serotonin.
  • Boost energy and fitness - Amino acids, specifically the three branched-chain, are noted to help decrease fatigue, improve athletic performance, aid in quicker recovery after workouts, and stimulate fat loss.
  • Preserve muscle mass - Muscle loss or atrophy is common with improper dieting and long-term bed rest and inactivity. Amino acid supplementation has shown to decrease the rate at which this occurs in bed rest patients.

Amino acids are an important part of your diet and overall health. Next week we’ll explore the foods where you can find these, along with ideas for supplementation.

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