What are Amino Acids?
FOR what are amino acids used for?
These are the basic building blocks of protein synthesis and are necessary for the production of enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters.
Besides their role in the composition of proteins, amino acids have many biologically important functions and are involved in the intermediary metabolism between carbohydrates and lipids.
Many of them are used in sports related to muscle building and the production of glucose for energy purposes.
Our body manages to synthesize only certain amino acids from precursors and anyway their production requires many metabolic steps.
By convention, amino acids are divided into two categories: essential and non-essential. the essential amino acids they cannot be synthesized by mammalian enzymes, while gli non-essential amino acids they can be synthesized by almost any organism.
Most amino acids are metabolized in the liver. Three amino acids that form the group of branched chain amino acids o BCAAs (valine, leucine, isoleucine) are metabolized directly in muscle cells.
For this reason, they are widely used as supplements by those who engage in intense physical activity to promote muscle growth and recovery from fatigue.
Below we present the amino acids:
1. What are essential amino acids?
Essential amino acids are part of a group of organic molecules that the body is unable to produce naturally.
They are obtained through nutrition or supplementation and are essential for protein formation.
- Amino acid structure
Basically the chemical structure of an amino acid it is made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen bonds.
All amino acids except proline have a primary amino group (NH2) and a carboxylic acid group (COOH).
They are distinguished from each other mainly by appendages to the central carbon atom.
Some hydrophobic amino acids they are found in the globular molecule of the protein or in the lipid part of the membrane. Some (phenylalanine, tryptophan and tyrosine) are also aromatic amino acids because they contain an aromatic ring.
Although the human body has many variations of proteins in its composition, these are made up of 20 amino acids, of which 8 are essential (9 in some cases) and 12 non-essential.
Essential amino acids: tryptophan, valine, phenylalanine, threonine, lysine, isoleucine, leucine and methionine.
Non-essential amino acids: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamic acidcysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, tyrosine and histidine.
The formation of proteins occurs with amino acids joined by bonds called “peptide bonds”. The twenty amino acids combine in different ways, and it is these combinations of amino acids in proteins which determine the different functions of amino acids.
2. Role of amino acids in your body
Each of the essential amino acids has specific and vital functions for the proper functioning of the body. They are necessary for the construction of tissues, muscles, certain hormones and enzymes.
They are acquired through diet or supplementation.
Compared to the proteins themselves, which must be digested to make the amino acids available, the latter, taken alone, do not undergo additional metabolism but are more easily absorbed by the body than proteins.
The main activities of the essential amino acids (including histidine) in the body.
It is a branched amino acid. It stimulates protein synthesis and muscle repair and is a major fuel for anabolic reactions.
It also helps regulate blood sugar, stimulates wound healing and produces growth hormones.
It is also a branched chain amino acid, responsible for the synthesis of glutamine and alanine, as well as acting in the development and repair of muscles.
It is also important for immune function, hemoglobin production and energy regulation.
It is the third branched chain amino acid that helps in the synthesis of other amino acids, tissue repair and maintenance of nitrogen balance.
This amino acid improves the production of hormones and neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline, substances that activate the central and peripheral nervous system.
It is important for maintaining the balance of mental and psychological activities and for improving cognitive abilities. It plays a vital role in the structure and function of proteins and enzymes and in the production of other amino acids.
Regulates nitric oxide production. It is a structural component of collagen and has antiviral action. It is also involved in the absorption of calcium.
It is an important source of sulfur and other compounds necessary for metabolism and cellular components. Methionine converts into cystine, an amino acid important in the synthesis of glutathione (a natural antioxidant).
It is also necessary for tissue growth and the absorption of zinc and selenium, minerals vital to health.
This substance promotes the release of serotonin (a hormone that regulates important functions such as mood, body temperature and heart rate) and melatonin (a hormone related to sleep).
It is responsible for the production of mucin, a protein necessary to maintain intestinal integrity and function.
It is important for immune function and responsible for the synthesis of glycine.
Histidine should be considered a semi-essential amino acid as it is required for childhood growth functions.
It is used to make histamine, a neurotransmitter vital for immune response, digestion, sexual function, and sleep-wake cycles.
It is essential for maintaining the myelin sheath, a protective barrier that surrounds nerve cells.
3. Benefits of essential amino acid supplementation
Essential amino acids are central to many complex life processes. Although they are recognized for their role in the development and repair of muscles, the body depends on them much more.
A deficiency can negatively impact the entire body, including the nervous, reproductive, immune, and digestive systems.
Their main functions include:
- help improve mood
- reduce symptoms of depression
- promote sleep
- increase performance in the gym
- prevent loss of muscle mass
- help with weight loss
4. Food sources of amino acids
Sources of essential amino acids are found in foods high in animal and plant protein, as well as in supplements.
- Animal protein
Lean meats, dairy products and eggs are rich sources of amino acids, with important nutritional and biological values for the functioning of the organism.
They also present, in their composition, all the essential amino acids.
- Plant-based proteins
Several plant foods, such as chickpeas and soy, also have good concentrations of essential amino acids.
Some plant proteins that don’t have all the essential amino acids can be combined with different sources, such as rice and beans. The first ingredient has a low concentration of lysine, while the second contains little methionine.
Once assimilated, they form a complete source of amino acids.
- Essential Amino Acid Supplements
In addition to protein-rich foods, dietary supplements are also a good choice for taking amino acids.
There are formulations that contain BCAAs with all the essential amino acids.
There are eight essential amino acids that you must get from your diet: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. To these can be added histidine in special cases of need linked above all to childhood growth.
They are vital for functions such as protein synthesis, tissue repair and nutrient absorption.
The importance of essential amino acids can be seen in their wide range of action and in the many functions they perform in the body (amino acids and proteins are closely related to each other).
For this reason, in addition to protein-rich foods, dietary supplements are viable alternatives when recommended by nutrition and health professionals.