Amino acids are everywhere. They're in the foods we eat, the liquids we drink and are being added to everything from cereal to skin cream. Bodybuilders love them and so do moms. So what do they do? You probably know you need them, but why?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, making them essential to our daily diet and overall health. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are three types of amino acids:
Essential Amino Acids:
Not produced naturally by the body, we must ingest these amino acids in the foods we consume. The nine amino acids considered essential are histidine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Nonessential Amino Acids:
Our body naturally makes these amino acids, so we don't have to necessarily supplement them. The nonessential amino acids include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid.
Conditional Amino Acids:
These amino acids don't have to be consumed regularly, unless for a specific purpose. They can be used as fitness supplements, for stress or during illness. The conditional amino acids include serine, arginine, proline, cysteine, ornithine, glutamine, glycine and tyrosine.
Now we know what they are, so not onto what amino acids do. Here are 10 ways your body uses amino acids every single day that make them pretty great:
1. Build Protein -- Protein is found in the tissues, organs and glands of the body and helps to produce and repair cells. When you break down a protein, you are left with a chain of amino acids. Amino acids are essential for protein synthesis.
2. Lean Muscles -- As the building blocks of protein, amino acids help the body grow and build strong, lean muscles. You need them for growth most as a child and into the adolescent years. Pregnant women should also consume plenty of amino acids for proper growth and development of the fetus.
3. Waste Removal -- Waste products like ammonia collect in the body over time from its natural processes -- some are produced from exercising. Amino acids facilitate urea metabolism to help the body excrete these waste products.
4. DNA Synthesis -- When cells in the body reproduce, they pass along their unique DNA. Just as they do with proteins, amino acids play a role in helping the cells to replicate this DNA successfully.
5. Tissue Repair -- The tissues in the body -- muscles, skin, connective tissues, etc. -- need amino acids for repair when injured or damaged. They're especially beneficial after exercise or difficult training, when the muscles can tear. Taking amino acids like arginine after exercise can help the muscles recover and heal properly and more quickly.
6. Arterial Health -- Amino acids, like arginine, help the arteries of the body retain elasticity, which prevents them from stretching out and allowing fluid to collect. They also help support the expansion and contraction of the arteries with each heartbeat.
7. Food Breakdown -- In order to digest foods properly and get the valuable nutrients the body needs out of them, foods need to be broken down properly. Amino acids help the body do just that, for optimal nutrition.
8. Immune Response -- Amino acids support a healthy immune system to protect the body. Histidine, in particular, helps the body to synthesize histamine, helping the body become more resistant to allergens.
9. Relaxation -- Tryptophan and theanine help the body to calm down so you can unwind and relax. They can be beneficial for anyone suffering from anxiety or sleeping issues and can be found in natural sleep aids.
10. Bone Loss -- Certain amino acids, like lysine, help the body better absorb calcium, which helps to prevent bone loss which can lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Anyone who eats a restricted diet, or doesn't consume animal products (vegans and vegetarians) can be at risk for amino acid deficiency. Supplements are readily available as drinks, powders, tablets and capsules for convenience.
Are you getting enough amino acids to take advantage of these benefits? Now you know why you should be. Check back next week for 10 reasons to love another one of eVitamins' favorite supplements.
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