Most people have heard the term “amino acid” sometime in their lives, probably in some long-forgotten biology classroom during high school or college. However, for the general population, there’s little need to retain information about these critical compounds – or at least, there didn’t use to be. Today, amino acids are rapidly becoming the preferred supplement for athletes all over the world, from the most casual weekend warrior to the most ardent bodybuilder. Even professional athletes have begun using amino acid supplements over traditional protein-based products, largely because these chemical compounds tend to provide leaner, more efficient support during and after periods of intense exertion. Still, it can sometimes be helpful to go back to basics and look at just what amino acids are and what they can do for you. For example, what are the nine so-called “essential” amino acids, and how might they help with exercise? To find out, keep reading as the people at aminoVITAL® explain.
What Are Amino Acids?
Those who remember biology class may recall that amino acids are often referred to as the building blocks of protein. That’s true; amino acids go into making the many different kinds of hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters that keep our bodies running smoothly, and they’re necessary for the production of new muscle cells as well. All told, there are 20 different “proteinogenic” amino acids – the term for those basic compounds needed by the body.
Of those 20 important compounds, there are 11 that our bodies can produce on their own, at least under normal circumstances; the other nine constitute the “essential” amino acids, those that must be obtained through food or supplements. Most people get plenty of the amino acids they need from their diets or through natural internal processes, but those who work out regularly or who are struggling with a major illness may need more than a typical amount of certain amino acids.
The 9 Essential Amino Acids
The nine essential amino acids our bodies need to obtain from outside sources carry out a variety of functions within our bodies, all of which are important for a happy, healthy life. Learn more about each of these nine crucial compounds below.
Among the nine essential amino acids, there are three that feature a unique shape and have an outsized role in supporting athletic performance; these are the branched-chain amino acids, also called the BCAAs, of which leucine is a chief example. This amino acid is used to signal the body to start creating new muscle tissue – an incredibly important part of building strength and muscle mass and a role that has made leucine a favorite subject for researchers.
Another of the BCAAs, valine is responsible for protecting the muscles from excessive damage brought on by exercise and helping with the production of energy – two reasons it’s featured in amino acid fitness supplements from aminoVITAL®. It serves a variety of other functions as well, though, such as regulating the immune system and promoting healthy cognitive functions.
The third and final BCAA is isoleucine; despite the similar names, this amino acid differs from leucine in that its focus is on promoting endurance over strength. Isoleucine helps facilitate the flow of glucose (the body’s preferred form of energy) into the muscles during exercise, and it helps those cells use that energy as well. This amino acid also streamlines the post-workout recovery process.
You may have heard of tryptophan; it’s an amino acid sometimes associated with making people feel sleeping after a big Thanksgiving meal, though it has other roles as well. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that governs mood, sleep, motivation, and appetite.
A jack-of-all-trades, phenylalanine is used to create a range of proteins and other amino acids, and it’s a necessary ingredient in the synthesis of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that helps humans experience pleasure – as well as epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine.
This amino acid plays a role in many bodily functions, from the creation of hormones and enzymes to the absorption of calcium. It’s also used to produce energy, create compounds like collagen, and regulate the functions of the immune system.
As a component in collagen and elastin, threonine helps to keep our skin and connective tissues in good working order. This amino acid is also used by the body to help metabolize fat and promote a healthy immune system.
You may not have heard of it, but histidine plays an especially big role in keeping us free of harmful bacteria and other contaminants. This compound is used to create histamine, a neurotransmitter that helps white blood cells reach foreign bodies, and it’s an important part of maintaining the outer covering of nerve cells (the myelin sheath).
Like the rest of the essential amino acids, methionine is a valuable part of a healthy diet. This amino acid helps regulate the metabolism and aids in detoxification, plus it’s needed for the growth of new tissues and the absorption of minerals like selenium and zinc.
Amino Acid Supplements for Muscle Health and Performance
While there is little doubt that all nine of the essential amino acids are, well, essential, some are more useful than others when it comes to promoting athletic performance. Amino acid supplements from aminoVITAL® focus on providing the three BCAAs along with glutamine and arginine – two other important amino acids – to boost gains, improve performance, fight fatigue, and hasten recovery times. Learn more about how aminoVITAL® supplements can help your workout routine with pre-workout supplements and post-workout mixes by visiting us online or calling (888) 264-6673 today.