The Essential Facts About Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids are organic compounds that contain carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen…and they are the building blocks used to create protein molecules.
Your body needs 20 different amino acids to maintain good health.
These compounds are used in an array of bodily functions ranging from building lean muscle tissue to breaking down the food you eat.
Although all 20 amino acids are required for your body to function correctly, only nine are referred to as “essential” amino acids.
What makes this group of amino acids different? Well…it isn’t that they’re special in some way. In other words, they don’t perform functions that are more important than the functions performed by other amino acids.
Essential amino acids are unique because your body can’t produce them on its own…you have to get them from the food you eat.
What Are the Essential Amino Acids and What Do They Do?
The nine essential amino acids are:
Your body uses histidine to create histamine. This neurotransmitter is critical for proper sexual function, immune system response, digestion, and regulation of sleep cycles. Histidine is also used to maintain the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells.
Isoleucine is needed to produce hemoglobin, which is used to carry iron through your bloodstream. It also regulates blood sugar and nitrogen levels.
Apart from acting as the main building block for muscle tissue, leucine also helps regulate blood sugar and helps to maintain the health of your brain and neurotransmitters.
Lysine is important for muscle repair and growth. In addition, it supports your immune system and assists with the absorption of important minerals. You also need lysine to synthesize collagen for bones and connective tissues.
This essential amino acid supports proper metabolism and muscle growth. Methionine also helps your body get rid of toxins and aids in the absorption of zinc and selenium.
This amino acid has a large effect on mood and brain health as it’s the precursor to the important neurotransmitters tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
Your body uses threonine to produce structural proteins like collagen and elastin for healthy skin and connective tissue. It also helps to create and maintain muscle tissue. Other uses for threonine include fat metabolism and immune system support.
Tryptophan is best known for causing drowsiness. But it’s also used to produce serotonin (the “feel good” hormone), and it helps to maintain proper nitrogen balance.
Valine helps your body to maintain and repair muscle tissue. It also controls the delivery of glucose that your muscles use for energy during physical activity.
Sources of Essential Amino Acids
Recall that essential amino acids get their name because your body doesn’t produce them…you have to consume them. Ideally, essential amino acids are broken down from protein-rich foods.
So which foods are the best sources for essential amino acids?
Animal proteins like red meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs provide all nine essential amino acids. Nutritionists refer to these as “complete” amino acid sources.
For vegans and vegetarians, complete sources include soy, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth.
Many other plant sources like beans, seeds, and nuts contain some (but not all nine) essential amino acids. It’s still possible to meet your amino acid needs using these foods…just make sure you eat a variety of plant proteins.
Realistically, many people will have a hard time meeting all of their essential amino acid needs from food alone. Fortunately, amino acid supplements can fill in the gaps.
At Renew Youth we understand that amino acids are as important for your health and well-being as proper hormone balance.
Want to learn more? We’re here to help. Just call 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.