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Amino Acids Explained: Definition, Types, and Food Sources

You’ve probably heard of amino acids, but do you know what they do? Do you know the difference between essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, and conditional amino acids? Do you know the difference between phenylalanine and ornithine?

Today, we’ll go over all of that and much more.

Amino Acids Explained

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Any and all protein that you eat is simply a variety of amino acids connected together. When humans consume protein, their digestive systems break that protein source down into its various amino acids. They then use another process to build new protein molecules out of those free-floating amino acids.

This process is called protein synthesis.

From there, these amino acid structures are sent throughout the body to help maintain your muscles, improve your mind, and strengthen your immune system so you can stay healthy. These new proteins play a role in a variety of other bodily functions as well.

These amino acids are broken down into three categories.

  • Essential amino acids
  • Non-essential amino acids
  • Conditional amino acids

Here’s some more information about these three categories of amino acids.

What Are The Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids are considered essential because your body cannot produce them on its own. You must consume these essential amino acids in large enough quantities for your body to function properly.

These are the nine essential amino acids.

Histidine – Histidine is an essential amino acid used to treat and reduce the symptoms of a variety of conditions. Histidine plays a role in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, ulcers, and kidney disease. It can also help improve anemia.

Isoleucine – Isoleucine is regarded as the endurance amino acid. It helps the body turn calories into energy more efficiently. It also helps maintain energy levels throughout the day. It can help improve energy levels because isoleucine is stored in the muscles and is broken down to create energy.

It helps regulate blood sugar boosts energy and helps heal the body. Isoleucine plays an important role in repairing damaged muscle.

Leucine – Leucine helps increase energy levels as well. It also plays an essential role in protein production. With leucine, you’ll develop strong, bigger muscles than you could without it. Leucine can reduce muscle degradation and improves your workouts.

Lysine – Lysine helps fight certain viruses. For example, lysine helps prevent cold sores and other forms of the herpes simplex virus. It’s also been shown to improve athletic performance. Some early research indicates the lysine can help you reduce stress as well.

Methionine – Methionine helps aid liver health and helps fight viral infections. It’s an antioxidant and can help fight back against damaging free radicals. It also helps damaged tissue as it heals.

Phenylalanine – There are three types of phenylalanine. There’s D-phenylalanine, L-phenylalanine, and DL-phenylalanine. L-phenylalanine is the version that’s considered an essential amino acid. Phenylalanine helps treat various skin diseases. It also helps improves\ focus, reduces pain, and helps with weight loss.

Threonine – Threonine is an essential amino acid used for treating a variety of different nervous system disorders including multiple sclerosis and ALS. Threonine is converted into glycine in the body. Glycine helps your brain reduce muscle contractions known as spasms. These spasms would happen constantly if it wasn’t for the threonine-turned-glycine in your body.

Tryptophan – There are two types of tryptophan. There are L-tryptophan and D-tryptophan. L-tryptophan has been found to help those with mental health issues. It can also improve athletic performance. Tryptophan is used to create 5-HTP, serotonin, melatonin, and vitamin B6.

Valine – Valine also prevents muscle breakdown. It maintains the nervous system and brain function. Valine helps with coordination and improves focus. It can also help your body recover faster after a workout, allowing to start exercising sooner.

What Are The Non-essential Amino Acids

Non-essential amino acids are called non-essential because your body can produce some of them on your own. There’s still plenty of research out there showing that supplementing that production is useful, especially if you’re physically active.

Here are the four non-essential amino acids.

Alanine – Alanine helps the body handle sugar and acid metabolism. It helps improve the immune system as well. Alanine can help improve energy levels and improve the nervous system.

Asparagine – Asparagine plays an important role in the biosynthesis of glycoproteins. It’s also important in protein synthesis. Asparagine helps transport nitrogen throughout the body and decreases fatigue.

Aspartic acid – Aspartic acid is sometimes called asparaginic acid. Aspartic acid plays an important role in hormone production and release. It also helps maintain normal nervous system function.

Glutamic acid – Glutamic acid, also called glutamate, occurs naturally in its L-glutamic acid form. Glutamic acid plays an important role in cellular metabolism. Glutamic acid is stored in the cells and is one of the most abundant sources of excitatory neurotransmitters in the body. When glutamic acid is activated, it helps increase focus, alertness, and energy.

What Are The Conditional Amino Acids

Conditional amino acids are amino acids that are non-essential except during times of sickness or injury. When conditions are right, and the body is operating in a less than optimal fashion, these non-essential amino acids become essential.

Here are the eight conditional amino acids.

Arginine – Arginine is important for heart health. It’s also used for healing and recovery, helping to remove waste from the kidneys, maintaining a healthy immune system, regulating hormone production, and maintains artery health.

Cysteine – Cysteine plays a role in protein synthesis, metabolic functions, and detoxification of the body.

Glutamine – Glutamine is a popular amino acid that athletes and bodybuilders supplement with. It’s an important part of a healthy immune system and helps reduce the symptoms of diseases like Crohn’s disease, colitis, and ulcers.

Tyrosine – Tyrosine is made from another amino acid called phenylalanine. It’s involved primarily to help improve memory, learning, alertness, and focus.

Glycine – We’ve already talked about glycine. This is the amino acid which helps prevent spasms. It’s made from the essential amino acid, threonine.

Ornithine – Ornithine aids athletic performance. It also helps speed up recovery and can help reduce glutamine poisoning. It can also help improve the body’s ammonia levels.

Proline – Proline is found mostly in your skin’s collagen. Collagen is the skin’s supportive protein. It’s what prevents your skin from wrinkling and getting damaged. Proline helps improve tendon, bone, and connective tissue health in the body.

Serine – Serine is another amino acid that’s synthesized by the body from either glycine or threonine. Serine is important because it plays a role in one’s metabolism. It’s also involved with immune system efficiency and muscle growth.

What Foods Contain Amino Acids

Amino acids can be found in any source of protein. Beef, chicken, fish, protein powder, all have protein. Dairy products also contain plenty of protein and amino acids. So do soy and whole grains.

There’s a variety of healthy foods that you can eat to get proteins and the amino acids your body needs.

1st Phorm Can Provide You With Proteins And Amino Acids That Your Body Needs

If you’re looking to supplement your protein intake or you’re looking to increase a specific amino acid, try one of 1st Phorm’s supplements. We have everything your body could need from protein shakes to BCAAs to specific amino acid supplements.

Whatever you’re looking to improve, 1st Phorm can help.