What Are the 20 Amino Acids?
Despite the essential nature of these compounds, many people are relatively unfamiliar with the 20 different amino acids that our bodies need to remain healthy. These amino acids serve a wide range of functions and are necessary for the production of proteins – big, complex molecules that make up the hormones, enzymes, antibodies, and neurotransmitters that help our bodily systems communicate. Those with an interest in exercise, nutrition, or fitness may know that proteins are also used for building muscle mass; as the building blocks of protein, amino acids offer many of these same benefits but often in a leaner, more efficient form. Before we get into amino acids as a post-, intra-, and pre-workout fitness supplement, however, let’s start with the basics. What are the 20 amino acids, and what do they do for us? To find out, keep reading as the team at aminoVITAL® sheds some light on the matter.
The 20 Amino Acids
As complicated as the role of an individual amino acid can be, the various combinations and interactions that occur among these compounds make describing amino acids a convoluted endeavor. To start with, all 20 amino acids fall into one of these groups: “essential” amino acids, “conditionally essential” amino acids, and “nonessential” amino acids.
The determining factor when sorting an amino acid into one of these classifications is whether the body can produce it on its own; if it can, then the amino acid is considered nonessential, at least from a dietary perspective. Essential amino acids are those that must be ingested through foods or supplements, while the conditionally essential compounds are those that the body can make but not always in great enough quantities.
Here, we’ll stick to the basics and describe the function of each amino acid in strictly individual terms; learn more below.
Essential Amino Acids
If the only way to get a certain amino acid is as part of your diet, then it belongs to this group.
- Tryptophan is the amino acid necessary to create serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that governs sleep, mood, appetite, and fatigue. Tryptophan also helps balance the levels of nitrogen in the body.
- Phenylalanine is a key ingredient in the production of some important neurotransmitters, including dopamine (which helps humans experience pleasure), norepinephrine (which is involved in the body’s fight-or-flight response), and epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline. It can also be used to create tyrosine, another amino acid.
- Isoleucine is one of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are found in many post-workout fitness supplements. This amino acid promotes the movement of glucose (the body’s main form of energy) into the muscles, which helps a person stay energized during exercise, and affects the immune system, hemoglobin production, and the post-workout recovery process.
- Valine is another of the BCAAs. Not only does it help protect muscles from damage during exercise, but it also aids in regulating the immune and central nervous systems.
- Leucine is probably the most well-known of the three BCAAs. This amino acid is responsible for starting up the process of muscle synthesis, which leads to greater amounts of skeletal muscle and, therefore, greater strength – part of why it’s a key element in BCAA supplements from aminoVITAL®.
- Methionine is involved in the body’s metabolic and detoxification processes and is important for the absorption of the minerals selenium and zinc.
- Threonine helps your body process fat and produce structural proteins like elastin and collagen, two crucial components in skin and connective tissue.
- Lysine has a big role in the creation of proteins, especially hormones and enzymes, and aids in the absorption of calcium as well.
- Histidine is the key component in histamine, a neurotransmitter that aids our bodies’ immune systems and helps regulate digestion, sexual functions, and sleep cycles. Histidine also works to maintain the protective layer, called a myelin sheath, that surrounds each nerve cell.
Nonessential Amino Acids
Now, let’s take a quick look at the 11 amino acids our bodies produce internally.
- Alanine helps provide energy to some key systems in the body, including the muscles and central nervous system. It also helps the body process sugars.
- Serine has a major part in the production of certain proteins and amino acids and helps with cell growth and development; it is considered conditionally essential.
- Glutamine helps promote a healthy digestive system, especially in the intestines, and can reduce soreness and speed recovery after exercise. It is a conditionally essential amino acid.
- Arginine helps with exercise by improving blood flow throughout the body and aids in ridding the body of ammonia. It is also a conditionally essential compound.
- Asparagine is part of the production process for enzymes, muscle cells, and proteins; like arginine, it also helps get rid of ammonia that has built up in a person’s system.
- Aspartic acid is used to produce a number of hormones and other amino acids, and it promotes a healthy central nervous system as well.
- Tyrosine is another conditionally essential amino acid. It is used in the body to create several important substances, including dopamine, adrenaline, melanin, and the hormones found in the thyroid; it is also conditionally essential.
- Cysteine is essential for the production of collagen and is found in proteins used to create a person’s hair, skin, and nails. Cysteine is a conditionally essential amino acid.
- Proline is a conditionally essential amino acid that is key to the proper functioning of the muscles of the heart as well as the tissues of the joints and tendons.
- Glycine is another conditionally essential compound, and it’s used to create some important substances, including collagen, creatine, and an antioxidant called glutathione.
- Glutamic acid is turned into a compound called glutamate by the body, which is critical for communication between nerve cells in the brain.
Try an Amino Acid Fitness Supplement Today
The amino acid fitness supplements from aminoVITAL® are made from the highest quality amino acids – specifically leucine, isoleucine, valine, glutamine, and arginine – along with essential vitamins and minerals necessary to support athletic performance. Learn more about these lean, efficient supplements today by visiting aminoVITAL® online or calling (888) 264-6673.