Everyone is raving about amino acids these days; however, not everyone is familiar with what these actually are and why they are so important. If you’re one of those people who don’t really know anything about amino acids, look no further because you’re at the right place! Here is everything you need to know about them and why they are crucial for your well-being, so keep on reading and check it out. Enjoy!
First of all, what are amino acids?
Simply put, amino acids are organic compounds that are combined to form proteins. It means that proteins and amino acids are vital for our health and overall well-being. Once your body digests or breaks down protein, amino acids are those that stay. In fact, our bodies use amino acids to make protein and help us grow, break down food, repair body tissue, and perform a bunch of other functions. Did you know that there are three main groups of amino acids? That’s right, and these are the following:
Essential amino acids
Our bodies need 20 types of amino acids to grow and function properly. However, only nine out of these twenty are considered essential. We know them as EAAs, and the interesting thing is that our bodies can’t make them on their own. This is why they must come from foods crucial for our health. If you were wondering, the nine essential amino acids are valine, histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan. The best place to find essential amino acids are animal proteins including eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products. Apart from these, there are several plant-based foods that contain all nine EAAs. These are soy, quinoa, and buckwheat, and it’s important to know that they are complete protein sources.
Non-essential amino acids
Contrary to EAAs, non-essential amino acids can be produced in our bodies – even if we don’t get them from the food. There are eleven non-essential amino acids: tyrosine, proline, serine, glycine, glutamine, glutamic acid, alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, asparagine, and cysteine. As human bodies are able to make them, they aren’t considered to be essential for our health. However, you should still make sure that your diet is rich in these, too. So, try to incorporate soybeans, eggs, chickpeas, lentils, and shellfish into your diet. All kinds of nuts are rich in non-essential amino acids as well – especially almonds, walnuts, and peanuts.
Conditional amino acids
The last type is called conditional amino acids. These usually are non-essential – except when you’re ill or stressed out. In those cases, conditional amino acids become essential so that your body can fight off stress and stay as healthy as possible. Arginine, glutamine, cysteine, tyrosine, ornithine, glycine, serine, and proline are perceived as conditional amino acids. Even though you don’t have to eat your amino acids at every meal, it’s important to have a balanced diet and incorporate them into your meals throughout the day. All you have to do is to plan your meals in advance. That’s the best way to come up with nutritious meals that contain everything your body needs to stay healthy!
What are the benefits of amino acids?
They increase muscle growth
The benefits of amino acids are multiple, and the first one is that they can significantly increase muscle growth. This is particularly true for branched-chain amino acids, also known as BCAAs. When we say ‘branched-chain’, we refer to the chemical structure of these amino acids. Such a structure is found mostly in eggs, meat, and dairy products – protein-rich foods, to be more precise. Besides that, BCAAs are an extremely popular dietary supplement, too. You can find it primarily in powder form, so be sure to give it a try if you want to boost your muscle growth. This will be done because the BCAA called leucine stimulates muscle protein synthesis – the process of making muscle. Of course, you always should combine your BCAAs with other essential amino acids. This is the best way to increase muscle protein synthesis and build muscles with success!
They decrease muscle soreness
Apart from growing muscle, amino acids are also famous for decreasing muscle soreness. Again, this goes mostly for BCAAs, so don’t forget to take your daily dose after a workout. As you probably already know, feeling sore a day or two after an intense workout is quite common. This is particularly true when you switch from one exercise routine to another. Your body needs time to adjust to a new set of exercises, which is why experiencing muscle soreness isn’t strange. It usually develops between 12 and 24 hours after exercise and can last up to 72 hours. Many people say that this happens because of the small tears in your muscles after a workout. Well, since BCAAs can repair muscle and decrease damage, they can help reduce muscle soreness as well. This is a good enough reason for incorporating BCAAs into your diet!
They prevent muscle wasting
Yes, we know that it sounds terrifying, but the truth is that our muscles can waste or break down. This happens when muscle proteins get broken down and rebuilt every time we work out. Since there has to be a balance between breaking down and muscle synthesis, you should definitely rely on amino acids. It’s good to know that muscle wasting happens once protein breakdown is more dominant than protein synthesis. Also, it can be a sign of malnutrition and it often occurs with aging, longer periods of fasting, and chronic infections. So, to keep your muscles plump and healthy, you must incorporate BCAAs and other essential amino acids into your everyday routine. These will certainly stop or slow down the progression of muscle wasting, which is a fantastic benefit you shouldn’t overlook!
They reduce exercise fatigue
Reducing exercise fatigue is another amazing reason to make amino acids a part of your diet. Since these can increase muscle growth, decrease muscle soreness, and prevent muscle wasting, it shouldn’t surprise you at all that amino acids are good for reducing fatigue, too. The majority of people who work out regularly will experience exhaustion and fatigue at some point, and it certainly depends on numerous factors. Firstly, there’s their fitness level and the intensity and duration of their workouts. Besides these, nutrition and other environmental factors play a huge role here as well. So, if you noticed that you get really exhausted after a workout, you should go for a wpi protein that’s a great source of amino acids. It’ll assist your body during a workout and help you recover much faster and pain-free after it. You won’t go wrong if you choose to opt for it!
What foods are rich in amino acids?
When it comes to foods rich in amino acids, the first one worth mentioning is definitely quinoa. It’s many vegans’ absolute favorite, and the best thing about it is that it’s gluten-free. This means that even people sensitive to gluten can enjoy quinoa in their meals. Many experts claim that this is one of the most nutritious grains we can find nowadays. Apart from containing all nine essential amino acids, it’s a great source of fiber, too. In fact, quinoa has a higher amount of lysine than rice and wheat. It’s exactly what makes it a better source of essential amino acids than other grains. Since it contains all nine EAAs, quinoa is a complete protein. So, if you enjoy the crunchy texture and nutty flavor of this grain, add it to your everyday meals and you won’t make a mistake!
Eggs are the next food on our list and the reasons for that are more than good. Similar to quinoa, eggs contain all nine essential amino acids, too. Also, these are a phenomenal source of protein, which makes them one of the most popular breakfast foods all across the globe. So, if you’re in a hurry and you need a nutritious meal to keep you full for several hours before lunch – eggs should certainly be your first option. Apart from amino acids, eggs are also full of antioxidants and other nutrients many people are deficient in – vitamins A, B2, B5, and B12, as well as selenium, calcium, iron, and many more. Even though a lot of people think that eggs are bad for cholesterol, the fact is that they have a minimal effect on cholesterol levels in the blood. This means that you shouldn’t be afraid to eat eggs regularly!
As mentioned above, dairy products are amazing sources of amino acids. Did you know that a 100-gram serving of cottage cheese provides around 25% of your daily value of protein? That’s right, so try not to skip this delicious cheese. Of course, you don’t have to worry at all because this is a low-calorie cheese – only 163 calories in one cup of this product. Also, remember that one cup of cottage cheese contains around 28 grams of protein. This is a piece of information you shouldn’t overlook. Aside from that, it also contains phosphorus, selenium, folate, calcium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin. However, be sure to buy low-sodium or sodium-free cottage cheese if you love to eat it too often. This alternative will be much better for your overall health in the long run!
In case you didn’t know, turkey is rich in tryptophan – an amino acid our bodies use to make vitamin B. This vitamin is also known as niacin, and it’s vital for healthy skin, nerves, and digestion. Besides that, tryptophan can also help produce serotonin – a hormone responsible for your good mood and feelings of relaxation and happiness. Needless to say, turkey is quite high in protein, too. Only 100 grams of cooked turkey breasts contain around 28 grams of protein, which is half of the recommended daily intake for adults. If that doesn’t sound great, we don’t know what does. Since turkey meat is naturally high in protein, it’s a good source of amino acids as well. So, if chicken meat isn’t really your cup of tea, switch to turkey and you’ll do a fantastic job!
You probably already know this, but let us mention it once again. Most types of fish contain essential amino acids, which is why they are more than welcome in your meals. Apart from that, there are other essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin D, iodine, and many more. Did you know that fatty species are considered the healthiest? That’s correct, so make sure to opt for tuna, sardines, salmon, trout, and mackerel that are naturally rich in fat-based nutrients. However, you should probably avoid raw and uncooked fish. No matter how much some people love it, raw fish can host different types of bacteria, parasites, and viruses. These can be potentially harmful to your health, so skip sushi and other similar dishes and you’ll be more than fine!
Last but certainly not least, mushrooms deserve a rightful place on this list simply because they contain a total of 17 amino acids. And yes, they have all of the essential amino acids, too, which makes them an amazing source of protein at the same time. This is very interesting as the majority of other plant-based protein-rich foods often miss one or more EAAs. Besides that, mushrooms have a BCAA composition that can be found in animal-based sources of protein only. So, if you’re a vegan who needs to boost their protein intake for whatever reason, try not to skip mushrooms. Trust us when we say that you’ll love having them in your meals!