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What Are Amino Acids And What Do They Do?

 

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You’ve probably heard of amino acids before. Depending on how well educated you are in the area, it could seem like a whole lot of nonsense. The finer details of nutrition are important and can sometimes seem more complicated than they need to be.

Amino acids are critical for the healthy function and performance of your body. . They support the production of enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, muscle, hair, skin, nails and all other tissue of the body.

Here at Switch Nutrition, we wanted to lay it all out for you and explain things in a way that isn’t too sciency and hard to understand.

In today’s short blog you’ll learn what amino acids are and the amazing stuff they do. Keep reading to learn more!
What are they?
So, what exactly are amino acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks for protein . Protein consists of long chains of amino acids, and different proteins have different combinations. This results in a diverse amount of shapes and proteins that have a variety of functions in the body.

Think of amino acids as different ingredients in soups. With numerous combinations, soups will have a specific and unique taste. Just like how different amino acids will combine to create distinctive proteins with their own function and structure.

There are three different groups of amino acids:

  • Essential amino acids - your body cannot make these 9 amino acids, we rely heavily on getting them through our diet or supplementation.
  • Conditional amino acids - which are usually only essential in times of sickness or stress, otherwise your body will produce adequate amounts (as long as it gets all the essential ones).
  • Non-essential amino acids - our body naturally produces these amino acids, we don’t have to get any of them through our diet or supplements unless we are looking for certain benefits beyond what our body is capable of making.

Aiming to get a balance of essential and conditional amino acids throughout your day is important. However, don’t feel pressured to have them with every meal. In total, your body needs about 20 different types of amino acids to operate properly.

All 20 amino acids combine in different ways to form proteins that perform different functions in your body. Of the 20, there are 9 essential amino acids. The amino acids that you should be aiming to get every day from your diet include:
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine
Some foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids include chicken, fish, dairy, red meat, eggs, hemp seeds, quinoa and buckwheat. You can also get some of these amino acids in foods like grains, seeds, beans and nuts.
What do they do?
Amino acids branch together to create different proteins. These different proteins can help the body :
  • Build muscle
  • Break down food
  • Grow body tissue
  • Repair body tissue
  • Boost your immune system
  • Maintain a normal digestive function
  • Maintain healthy skin, nails and hair
  • Make brain chemicals and hormones
As you can see they play a vital role in all bodily functions.

For example, one of the essential amino acids, tryptophan is actually necessary for the production of the brain chemical serotonin . It’s said serotonin helps regulate our behaviors, sleep patterns and mood.

In fact, in a review done which included 11 studies, researchers found that supplementing Tryptophan may actually increase positive mood and decrease anxiety . Another study concluded that not getting enough essential amino acids could cause lower muscle mass in older adults .

Conclusion - Amino Acids
Amino acids literally build the proteins that help our body function properly every minute of every day. Without them, not only would we not thrive we wouldn't even survive. It’s important that you do your best to get amino acids in your diet through the different protein foods and supplements you consume.

We hope we cleared up any confusion you may have had about amino acids and the role they play in the healthy function of your body.

Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before changing your supplement, training, or nutritional strategy. Formulated Supplementary Sports Foods must not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone consuming prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by a qualified healthcare provider.

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