What are Amino Acids and Why They Are Important

Of the nutrients that your body needs to be healthy, amino acids are among the most important. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which your body needs to function properly. Some amino acids are produced by the body naturally, called nonessential amino acids, while others are gotten from the foods that you eat, called essential acids. Amino acids are commonly found in the animal kingdom, although they are also found in smaller amounts in plants. You will get most of your daily needs of amino acids from eating red meat such as beef and pork.

It is vitally important that you get the appropriate amino acids in your diet or through a supplement, as well as any that are not produced naturally by your body due to illness or medical conditions. If you do not eat a diet high in animal proteins, or if you are concerned with certain bodily processes such as muscle recovery, an amino acid supplement could be recommended.

Amino Acids Function

Amino acids play a large role in the function of the human body. They give cells their structure, and without them the cells would break down. They also function as a transport of other key nutrients throughout the body. They work with cells to store nutrients until they are needed. Without them, your body would not be able to function as it does.

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These building blocks of protein also have importance in the function of most of your internal organs. Without amino acids, organ tissues would not be strong, and function would not be optimal. Glands, tendons, and arteries also need amino acids to be strong and function properly. These building blocks are also responsible for glucose control, recovery from illness and muscle building, the immune system, and many other functions of the body.

Amino Acids Benefits

There are many benefits to supplementing amino acids. While most people get enough of these nutrients from food, people who do not eat a lot of red meat may be lacking in proper nutrition. Your body also creates fewer of these nutrients as you get older, so a supplement can have many benefits.

Amino acids in general are good for the skin, because they carry nutrients to the skin to keep it elastic, healthy, and supple. However, specific proteins are important for the skin specifically. Creatine, one amino acid, is responsible for boosting collagen production. Collagen is what makes skin healthy and able to retain moisture, and it has important anti-aging benefits. Several studies have been done to confirm this.

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Another important essential amino acid is methionine. This is responsible for forming and strengthening cartilage. It is extremely important for joint health, and supplementing it has been proven to give relief to arthritis patients. Arginine likewise strengthens the bone, which can be important for arthritis patients and older patients who do not get enough calcium.

Some amino acids also have the benefit of fat burning and sugar control. Studies have shown that the acid carnitine is usually deficient in obese patients. Arginine, another amino acid, is also important for reducing insulin resistance, which can help diabetes control their sugar levels. These and other amino acids can help you manage your diet and lose weight.

Amino acids can also be good for managing cholesterol, slowing hair loss, improving sleep quality and mood, and increasing virility and libido. Different acids are responsible for different types of function in the body. The ones that are most beneficial in these areas are arginine, carnitine, glutamine, methionine, ornithine, and taurine.

Amino Acid Structure

Amino acids have a unique structure that scientists first discovered toward the end of the 19th century. The simplest amino acid was discovered in 1820, and all 20 of the standard or common amino acids were discovered by 1935. All amino acids have the same basic molecular structure. An amino acid is made up of an amino group, an acidic carboxyl group, and an organic R group, or side chain. The R group of each amino acid is different and unique. Each molecule of the amino acid has a central carbon atom, which is linked to the amino group and the carboxyl group, and a hydrogen atom that is linked to the R group.

All common amino acids except glycine are something called chiral molecules. This means that they have wo active asymmetric forms that are mirror images of each other. One is designated the D configuration and the other is designated as the L configuration. The common amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins are almost universally the L configuration, so the designation is usually left out when discussing amino acids as they relate to proteins.

Because amino acids have both a basic and an acidic group on the carbon atom, they are considered amphoteric. This means that they can act as both a base and an acid. Because of this, there is a pH at which they have equal positive and negative charges, with a zero charge. This usually occurs when they are dissolved in water.

How Many Amino Acids Are There

There are quite a lot of amino acids in the world, present in different organisms, animals, and marine life. However, there are 20 common or standard amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins. These are the ones that are important for your health.

All of the standard or common amino acids are divided into groups. The first group is nonpolar amino acids. These include alanine, glycine, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, tryptophan, and valine. All of these are hydrophobic, which means that they bury the chains in the interior of the proteins when introduced to water.

The second group are polar uncharged amino acids. These include asparagine, cysteine, glutamine, serine, threonine, and tyrosine. These all have a wider spectrum of functional groups, but all have at least one atom that bonds to water and other molecules.

The third group are acidic amino acids. There are only two in this group, aspartate and glutamate. Both of these have a carboxylic acid in its chain that makes it acidic in nature. The final group is basic amino acids, and these include arginine, histidine, and lysine.

Of the 20 common amino acids, 9 are called essential and 11 are called nonessential. Essential simply means that you must get them from your diet. Nonessential ones are produced by the body naturally when it is healthy. However, you may need some of the nonessential amino acids when you are ill and your body is not able to produce them effectively. The 9 essential amino acids are valine, tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, and histidine. The nonessential ones are tyrosine, serine, selenocysteine, proline, pyrrolysine, glycine, glutamine, cysteine, asparagine, arginine, and alanine.

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Best Amino Acids

People who eat a balanced diet with plenty of red meat are going to get the recommended doses of essential amino acids without a supplement. However, there are times in which a supplement may be needed. For example, people who are vegetarians or vegans will not get the appropriate amount of these essential amino acids. While they do occur naturally in the plant world, they do not occur in plants at the same rate or strength as they do in animals. Therefore, it is usually a good idea to supplement with the best amino acids if you are following one of these diets.

The best amino acids will contain all of the essential ones, and at least some of the nonessential ones. Studies have shown that consuming a supplement of essentials after resistance training and other physical stress can increase the synthesis of muscle proteins, which in turn stimulates the repair and recovery of muscles. This is another instance in which you might want to take a supplement.

Some of the nonessential amino acids are also very good for regulating glucose, building strong hair and nails, and other functions of the body. Supplements that contain a well rounded portion of essential and nonessential amino acids are the best option. These complete supplements will give you what your body needs to function at its optimum level, regardless of your diet or your body’s ability to produce and utilize what it needs to thrive.


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