They make up a significant portion of the chemicals our bodies need to function, but most people are still relatively unfamiliar with amino acids and the roles they play in the body. These critical compounds are used for all sorts of purposes, from the creation of certain proteins to the synthesis of other amino acids; some are readily available in the body, while others have to come from an outside source. In short, the topic of amino acids can be complicated, but those looking to learn more would do well to start with some fundamental questions about the nature of amino acids. One example: What is the most basic amino acid? To find out the answer, keep reading as the people at aminoVITAL® explain.
Overview of the Basic Amino Acids
In all, there are 20 different varieties of “proteinogenic” amino acids, meaning those that are fundamental to the creation of proteins in the body. In practice, there are more than that many amino acids in the body, but many of these are produced from those original 20. There is also some debate regarding the possibility of a 21st and 22nd amino acid – selenocysteine and pyrrolysine, respectively – though they have not yet been officially added to the list.
The biggest role amino acids play is as precursors to the vast array of proteins that keep us alive, including the neurotransmitters that allow communication within the brain, the hormones that coordinate our various systems, and the enzymes that facilitate chemical reactions in the body. These amino acids can be divided into three categories: the “essential” amino acids, the “nonessential” amino acids, and the “conditionally essential” amino acids. Despite how these classifications may sound, all 20 amino acids are actually necessary, but some are essential parts of our diets, while others are not (hence the names).
Of the original 20, nine amino acids are classified as essential and must be obtained from outside sources like foods and supplements, and 11 are considered nonessential, meaning we produce them internally; the conditionally essential amino acids typically fall into the “nonessential” category, but in times of stress or illness, the body may not make enough of them – thus the special designation. The nine essential amino acids comprise the following:
- Leucine, a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) needed to trigger the creation of new skeletal muscle
- Isoleucine, a BCAA commonly found in amino acid post-workout supplements that promotes the flow of energy to the muscles during exercise and helps speed up the recovery process.
- Valine, the third and final BCAA, which helps protect the muscles from damage brought on by exercise
- Tryptophan, an amino acid used to create serotonin, an important neurotransmitter linked to mood, appetite, and sleep
- Threonine, a compound used to create substances, such as collagen, that go into the production of skin and connective tissue
- Phenylalanine, which is used to create a number of key neurotransmitters, including dopamine (which generates feelings of pleasure), epinephrine (also called adrenaline), and norepinephrine (a chemical related to stress)
- Histidine, an amino acid used to produce histamine, an essential neurotransmitter, and which is needed to maintain the protective layer around nerve cells (called the myelin sheath)
- Methionine, a compound needed for the absorption of certain minerals, such as zinc and selenium, and which supports detoxification and metabolic functions
- Lysine, a necessary ingredient in the production of many different proteins
If you get enough of these nine compounds, your levels of amino acids should be fine, as long as you’re generally healthy otherwise. Most people get plenty of essential amino acids in their diet without trying, but those battling a serious illness or who engage in strenuous physical activity often need more than the typical amounts.
The amino acids considered conditionally essential are arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine; the other nonessential amino acids are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.
Choosing the Most Basic Amino Acid
Deciding which amino acid is most basic may be an impossible task. All 20 proteinogenic amino acids are necessary for one function or another, so without an adequate amount of each compound, one or more systems in the body are sure to be affected. And because it’s the nature of the human body that virtually all systems are interconnected and interdependent in some way, a deficit of even a single one of these compounds could have a domino effect that ends in one serious health crisis or another.
Perhaps a better way to look at amino acids is to ask which is most essential for a specific purpose. For example, those looking to become more fit and build lean muscle might regard the three BCAAs as most important, since these amino acids are used to increase muscle protein synthesis, improve athletic performance, fight fatigue, and streamline the recovery process after a workout. Depending on what your health, fitness, or dietary goals or issues might be, any amino acid might feature prominently, or all of them might. In short, there is probably no amino acid that could be called the “most basic” overall.
Effective Amino Acid Supplements Available from aminoVITAL®
If health and fitness are priorities for you, consider trying a BCAA supplement from aminoVITAL® before, during, or after your next workout. Our products are lean, with as few as 10 calories in some formulas, and they kick in much faster than whey protein as well, thanks to the fact that they require very little digestion before they can be used. Learn more about amino acid supplements, including how they can help you build lean muscle quickly and effectively, by visiting aminoVITAL® online or calling (888) 264-6673 today.