Essential amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins and are compounds that play constructional roles in our body. Essential amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins and are compounds that play constructional roles in our body. Eating a variety of foods that contain protein each day is the best way you can ensure getting adequate amounts of essential amino acids. Know the possible food sources and obtain all the essential amino acids to maintain good health and normal functioning of your body.
You’ve probably heard about amino acids as an important component in your nutrition powders and drink mixes. But have you ever thought about what amino acids are and why do you need them?
From playing a major part in protein development within your body to encouraging healthy tissue in your muscles, bones, skin and hair, amino acids are powerful and fundamental. We’re breaking down the ins and outs of these essential proteins to help you give your body what it needs to live vitally.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form the building blocks of proteins, which make up 75% of your body. They play central roles both as building blocks of proteins and as intermediates in your body’s metabolism. Amino acids directly affect a multitude of elements, including your muscles, organs, digestion, blood, and brain activity.
Inside each cell of your body, there are multiple protein building factories that read the genetic code from your DNA and stitch together different amino acids to manufacture proteins according to the need. These proteins can determine the color of your hair, the nature of your skin or even how your body will respond to a particular disease or disorder.
You cannot do without these indispensable compounds. Amino acid deficiency can result in decreased immunity, digestive problems, depression, fertility issues, lower mental alertness, slowed growth in children, and many other health issues.
Types Of Amino Acids
There are 20 proteinogenic amino acids present in your body that make up all the proteins that your body needs. Of these 20, your body can synthesize some by itself, while others must be supplied via dietary sources. Based on this fact, amino acids can be broadly categorized into 3 groups:
Essential Amino Acids
The human body cannot produce 9 amino acids and they should be obtained from food sources. These are known as the essential amino acids. The deficiency of even one of them can have a significant impact on your health.
Essential amino acids help to build and repair your muscle tissues. Also, it forms precursor molecules for the formation of neurotransmitters in your brain.
The best sources of essential amino acids are meat, eggs, soybeans and soy products, milk, cheese, yogurt and animal based-protein powders such as whey or casein.
Non-Essential Amino acids
These amino acids are naturally produced by your body through different biosynthetic pathways, even if they are not obtained from your diet. Most of them are produced from your body’s glucose. These amino acids help in removal of toxins and promote your brain function.
Conditionally Essential Amino Acids
Under normal conditions these amino acids are non-essential and can be produced by the body.
However, the body may not be able to synthesize these amino acids during special conditions like certain disease or stress. This is when it becomes essential for you to add these amino acids into your diet in the form of supplements.
Let’s look at some examples of the three types of amino acids:
Essential Amino Acids
Non-essential Amino Acids
Conditionally Essential Amino Acids
Properties Of Amino Acids
Amino acids are colorless, crystalline solids that are water soluble and sensitive to high temperatures. Since they have both positive and negative charges, amino acids act as zwitterions in solution. This means amino acids may affect the pH of the solution they are added to. Additionally, the specific side chain of a particular amino acid also affects its unique chemical nature.
Composition Of Amino Acids
Amino acids are made of essential elements such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Every molecule in amino acid has a carbon atom at its center, to which amino and carboxyl groups are attached.
Amino acids contain amine (–NH2) and carboxyl (–COOH) functional groups, along with a side chain (R group) specific to each amino acid. The general structure of amino acids is shown in the image below.
Why Are Amino Acids Important?
The role of amino acids for the maintenance of the structure and function of your body cannot be overstated. When you eat protein, it’s broken down into amino acids, which are then used to help your body with various processes such as building muscle and regulating immune function.
They are practically involved in almost every system throughout your body. Let us see a few examples:
- Development and repair of tissues – muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, hair, nail.
- Regulate enzymes that help to digest the food you eat so that the essential nutrients can be absorbed by your body.
- Stimulating hormones that control a wide range of biological activities inside your body.
- Producing Neurotransmitters- important coordinators of the nervous system.
- Enhances immune response- the defense mechanism of your body that fights infection.
- Precursors to several important biomolecules such as creatinine.
Amino acids are also used as pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements. For example, L-dopa (also known as dihydroxyphenylalanine) is used in treatment of Parkinson’s symptoms like tremors, stiffness, and slowness of movement, glutamine, and histidine for peptic ulcers. Tryptophan can help improve your sleep patterns. Certain essential amino acids can prevent muscle loss and help recovery after serious illnesses.
How Your Body Absorbs Amino Acids from Foods?
Your body can obtain the required amino acids either from your food or from nutritional supplements (preferably taken with a medical prescription). When you eat food that contains protein, your digestive system breaks down the protein into amino acids. Your body then combines the amino acids in various ways to carry out bodily functions.
Protein from dietary sources is usually in the form of polypeptides. These are long chains of many amino acids which are first broken down into shorter chain peptides and finally into individual amino acids. Pepsin, trypsin and chymotrypsin are the most important enzymes involved in protein digestion.
Proteolytic enzyme, (also known as protease, proteinase, or peptidase) break the long chainlike molecules of proteins into shorter fragments (peptides) and eventually into their components, amino acids.
The amino acids are absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine and circulated throughout your body.
How To Obtain Amino Acids?
You can get enough amino acids every day, either through an oral supplement, an IV infusion, or through the food you eat. However, you can opt for an infusion too. Amino acids are delivered directly into your bloodstream for a 100% absorption rate
Benefits Of Amino Acids For Your Hair And Skin
The external part of your hair, known as the hair shaft, is chiefly composed of a protein called Keratin. Keratin is made up of 18 amino acids, of which 25% is Cysteine. Amino acids therefore play a key role in the growth and maintenance of your healthy and lustrous hair.
External factors such as chemical pollutants or UV damage due to sunlight can strip off your hair’s natural proteins and amino acids. Amino acids like arginine can be replenished by topical application of amino acid containing formulations for hair. Arginine can stimulate hair growth by creating a stronger passageway to get blood to the root.
Try and include amino acids such as cysteine and lysine in your diet to enhance your hair growth and prevent hair loss.
Choose hair care products like shampoos or serums with added amino acids, to prevent accelerated hair-damage and hair-loss. Most of Rev(IV)al Hydration’s customized hair care products contain amino acids. They nourish your scalp and impart strength to your hair follicles.
Examples of some hair-friendly amino acids are listed in the table below:
|Amino Acid||Benefit||Food Source|
|Cysteine||Regrowth and strengthening of hair||Lentils, oatmeal, eggs, chicken|
|Lysine||Strengthening hair root, adding shine and volume to hair||Codfish, Soybeans, Tuna|
|Methionine||An antioxidant slows the greying of hair, as well as prevents hair loss.||Kidney beans, nuts, quinoa|
|Tyrosine||Produces melanin which protects hair from UV damage||Sweet potatoes, tofu, pumpkin seeds|
|Glutamine||Sulphur for hair growth||Spinach, cabbage, oily fish|
|Proline||Collagen for lustrous hair||Citrus fruits, mushrooms|
Just like your hair, your skin also has a naturally high content of proteins and amino acids. The amino acids present in your skin is responsible for its tightness, hydration and protection from oxidative stress. Deficiency of certain amino acids can lead to dryness, increased inflammation or appearance of lines and wrinkles on your skin.
Few examples of amino acids and their role in skin are highlighted below:
|Amino Acid||Benefit||Food Source|
|Threonine||Important constituent of collagen and elastin, necessary for healthy and supple skin||Chicken, soy, cheese|
|Lysine||Collagen constituent, maintains skin firmness||Fenugreek, tofu, spirulina|
|Arginine||Repairing damaged skin||Nuts, seeds, meat|
|Histidine||Antioxidant, antiinflammatory||Whole grain, nuts,seeds, poultry|
|Lucine||Reduces wrinkles and fine lines||Dairy, soy, legumes|
How Much Amino Acids Does Your Body Need?
The natural way to obtain amino acids is by consuming a protein-rich diet containing varied protein sources like meat, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds. 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight is the recommended dietary allowance of proteins for a normal, healthy individual. It can vary with age, gender or special health conditions. Focus on getting the essential amino acids through your diet as they cannot be produced by your body.
Amino acids’ deficiency may be manifested in the form of health conditions, damaged skin, or thinning hair. In that case, you can consult a doctor before taking amino acids supplements.
Side Effects of Amino Acids
Amino acids are mostly considered safe both when taken orally as supplements as well as for topical applications in your hair or skin care products. However, feel free to consult a certified medical professional before making any decision.
Essential amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins and are compounds that play constructional roles in our body. Eating a variety of foods that contain protein each day is the best way you can ensure getting adequate amounts of essential amino acids. Know the possible food sources and obtain all the essential amino acids to maintain good health and normal functioning of your body.