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LEVEL 01: AMINO ACIDS

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Protein is the constituent of every single cell in your body. It is, in fact, the second largest building material of the human body (following water). So, though it is not a superb source of energy like carbohydrates and fats, your body needs a continuous supply of proteins to keep the cells alive. These proteins are composed of amino acids and as each protein is different from another because of its constituent amino acids, more specifically, you need proteins and specific amino acids for the proper functioning of the body. They help in building muscle mass, repairing muscle injury, mobilizing fat

Process by which amino acids are absorbed in body

 

Proteins are broken down into constituent amino acids by breaking the peptide bonds linking the amino acids. Thus, amino acids are the absorbable part of the protein. All amino acids need to be supplied through the diet in order to form proteins that are essential for the optimal growth of new and healthy cells.

What happens if you do not intake enough amino acids?

If you do not take the needed amount of amino acids/proteins to produce the needed amino acids, your body will break down its own protein sources, including healthy muscle and organ tissues to meet its need for amino acids. So, if you want to keep your brain, muscles, bones, joints, all internal organs, even blood and lymph performing their functions you should constantly provide amino acids.

What are essential amino acids (EAAs)?

There are 20 amino acids that are needed for proper body functioning and optimal health. Your body can synthesize some amino acids in sufficient amounts from glucose and other proteins. These are called non-essential and include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, and serine. The remaining amino acids have to be supplied through your diet as your body is not able to make them. These are called “essential amino acids” (EAAs) and include tryptophan, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, and isoleucine.

Supplements containing both essential and non-essential amino acids: FREE FORM MULTI AMINO ACID [60 TAB], Optimum Nutrition (ON) Superior Amino 2222, RSP Nutrition AMINO LEAN, AMINO 1900, AMINO 2700

It is very important to get adequate amounts of these EAAs. You can also fulfill this requirement by supplementing with extra free form amino acids. Any fitness conscious person needs to optimize the level of these essential amino acids. The requirements vary with age of the person and other health conditions. [1] So it is vital to have knowledge of the role played by these essential amino acids and the amount that should be taken.

Supplements containing essential amino acids: Optimum Nutrition (ON) Amino Energy, ANIMAL JUICED AMINO

Why is the nutrient intake of EAAs essential?

A University of Texas study showed that though muscle protein synthesis is stimulated in the recovery period after resistance exercise, the rate of muscle protein breakdown is also increased. This dampens the change in the net balance between synthesis and breakdown. Although net muscle protein balance is generally improved after resistance exercise, it remains negative. Therefore, nutrient intake is necessary to achieve positive net muscle protein balance. [2] The study concluded that non-essential amino acids are not necessary for stimulation of net muscle protein balance and that there is a dose-dependent effect of EAA ingestion on muscle protein synthesis.

According to one study published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, EAAs are primarily responsible for the amino acid–induced stimulation of muscle protein anabolism in the elderly. [3] Aging results in a diminished accretion of muscle proteins after ingestion of a small dose of EAAs. These findings may have practical implications with respect to the amount of protein contained in supplements given to the elderly for enhancing the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. [4]

Here is all information you need to know about these essential amino acids.

Tryptophan

Dietary sources: Most protein-based foods or dietary proteins. It is particularly plentiful in chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, spirulina, and peanuts.

Major functions:

  • Essential for the production of the B vitamin, niacin, which is vital for the brain to manufacture the key neurotransmitter, serotonin
  • Enhances the release of growth hormones and suppresses the appetite
  • Used by the brain to produce serotonin, a necessary neurotransmitter that transfers nerve impulses from one cell to another and is responsible for normal sleep, thereby helps to deal with depression and insomnia and to stabilize moods
  • Helps to control hyperactivity in children
  • Alleviates stress and is good for the heart
  • Aids in weight control by reducing appetite
  • Enhances the release of growth hormone
  • Treats migraine headaches and reduces the effects of nicotine

Dosage: A daily dose of 6,000 mg of L-tryptophan

Overdosing: Not known

Deficiency: Dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and digestion problems. Deficiency of tryptophan, combined with a shortage of magnesium, may be a contributing factor to heart artery spasms.

Lysine

Dietary sources: Cheese, eggs, milk, meat, yeast, potatoes and lima beans.

Major functions:

  • Growth and development
  • Calcium absorption, which results in bone and muscle growth
  • Building new muscle protein
  • Fat mobilization for energy uses
  • Maintaining the nitrogen balance
  • Maintaining lean body mass in periods of extreme stress and fatigue
  • Producing antibodies, hormones, enzymes, collagen, and most of the essential amino acids
  • Repairing damaged tissue
  • Cardiovascular benefits include the maintenance of healthy blood vessels
  • Revitalizing the body to combat fatigue and overtraining
  • Creating an anabolic environment within the body

Dosage: Normal recommendation is 12 mg per kilo of bodyweight

Overdosing: Could result in higher LDL cholesterol, diarrhea, and gallstones.

Deficiency: May lead to enzyme disorders, lack of energy, hair loss (common for protein shortage), weight loss, no appetite and loss of concentration.

Methionine

Dietary sources: Meat, fish, beans, eggs, garlic, lentils, onions, yogurt and seeds.

Major functions:

  • Assists in the breakdown and use of fats, which in turn yields a higher testosterone rate
  • Eliminates excess fat from the bloodstream, resulting in less potential adipose (fat) tissue
  • Digestion and the removal of heavy metals from the stomach and liver
  • Acts as an antioxidant because it readily supplies sulfur, inactivates free radicals and helps with memory recall.
  • Detoxification of liver by production of cysteine and glutathione
  • Energy production and muscle growth by formation of creatine monohydrate within the body

Dosage: 12 mg per kilo of bodyweight.

Overdosing: In rare cases may cause a shortage of B-Vitamins, in which case you are an easy target for arteriosclerosis.

Deficiency: Causes dementia, fatty liver, slow growth, weakness, skin lesions, and edema

Phenylalanine

Dietary sources: All dairy products, almonds, avocados, nuts, and seeds

Major functions:

  • Allows for maximal contraction and relaxation of the muscles
  • DL-form is often supplemented as an endurance enhancer
  • Elevates the mood by stimulating the nervous system
  • Aids memory and together with its derivative, glutamine, is considered a smart-vitamin (though they aren't vitamins)
  • Increase levels of hormones needed for optimum operation of the nervous system
  • Absorption of UV rays in sunlight, which in turn gives a higher rate of Vitamin D, a strong body hormone

Dosage: 14 mg per kilo of bodyweight.

Overdosing: Higher blood pressure, headaches, nausea, heart trouble, and nerve damage

Deficiency: Rare, but if it occurs it leads to weakness, lethargy, liver damage and stunted growth.

Threonine

Dietary sources: Meat, dairy, and eggs

Major functions:

  • Allows better absorption of other nutrients
  • Forms the body's two most important binding substances, collagen, and elastin
  • Maintains proper protein balance
  • Involved in liver functioning, lipotropic functions (when combined with aspartic acid and methionine) and in the maintenance of the immune system by helping in the production of antibodies and promoting growth and activity of the thymus

Dosage: 8 mg per kilo of bodyweight

Overdosing: Not known

Deficiency: Nothing severe. Irritability, being difficult, and less immunity against disease

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) – Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine

All three BCAAs exert a strong synergistic effect. They play an important role in the manufacture, maintenance, and repair of muscle tissue. Using them individually is less effective. It is believed that a 2-1-2 equilibrium in Leucine/Isoleucine/Valine dosing yields the best results.

Supplements: BSN Amino X, BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACID [60 TAB], Isopure Amino 285 Grams, MY PROTEIN AMINO XS IN:FUSED, BCAA STACK 250 G, BCAA PRO 100 CAP, BCAA 2000 120 CAP, BCAA FUEL POWDER 234 G, SAN BCAA-PRO 5000, SAN BCAA-PRO RELOADED, BCAA 3:1:2 /200 CAP, BCAA XS/200 CAP, Optimum Nutrition (ON) BCAA 1000 mg, Optimum Nutrition (ON) Instantized BCAA 5000 mg Powder, MY PROTEIN I-BCAA 250G, MY PROTEIN BCAA 4:1:1 250G TROPICAL, MY PROTEIN BCAA 4:1:1 250G TROPICAL [250G], GS BCAA 247 GM , Allmax BCAA 2:1:1 - 400g

Leucine: The strongest BCAA

Dietary sources: Found in nearly all protein sources, including brown rice, beans, nuts, and whole wheat.

Supplements: Allmax Leucine 400g

According to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, fractional synthetic rate (FSR) increased on increasing the proportion of leucine for the young people. In contrast, in the elderly, FSR did not increase following ingestion of EAA with a lower proportion of leucine but did increase following ingestion of EAA with a higher proportion of leucine. Thus, increasing the proportion of leucine in a mixture of EAA can reverse an attenuated response of muscle protein synthesis in elderly but does not result in further stimulation of muscle protein synthesis in young subjects. [5]

Major functions:

  • Regulation of blood sugar levels
  • Growth and repair of tissues in skin, bones, and skeletal muscle
  • Potentiating Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
  • Helps in healing wounds, regulating energy, and preventing the breakdown of muscle tissue

Dosage: 16 mg per kilo of bodyweight

Overdosing: May increase ammonia rarely

Deficiency: Unknown

Isoleucine

Dietary sources: Chicken, cashews, fish, almonds, eggs, lentils, liver, meat

Major function:

  • Promotes muscle recovery
  • Regulates the blood-sugar levels
  • Stimulates human growth hormone (HGH) release
  • Wound healing
  • Formation of hemoglobin, blood clots, the body's primary defense against infection through open wounds

Dosage: 10-12 mg per kilo of bodyweight.

Overdosing: No serious problems. May increase urination. It becomes serious if you have kidney or liver disease.

Deficiency: Unknown.

Valine

Dietary sources: Dairy, meat, grain, mushrooms, soy, peanuts

Major functions:

  • Repair and growth of muscle tissue,
  • Maintains the nitrogen balance
  • Preserves the use of glucose

Dosage: 16 mg per kilo of bodyweight

Overdosing: Crawling sensation in the skin is common, hallucination, may be hazardous to people with kidney and liver disease

Deficiency: Leads to Maple syrup urine disease (MSUD)

So do not skip these EAAs and avoid overdosing by keeping yourself updated.

Note: All micronutrients are important including vitamins and minerals for the conversion of protein to amino acids and vice-versa.

References

  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286303000305
  2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/5/1065.short
  3. http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/283/4/E648.full.pdf+html
  4. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/2/250.short
  5. http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/291/2/E381.short
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