What are amino acids?
Amino acids and BCAA supplements are one of our best-selling product categories, for good reason. So what are amino acids? They’re essential for workout recovery, hydration, muscle growth and general wellbeing. This blog post breaks down what amino acids (aminos) are in a way that makes it easy to understand. It doesn’t get bogged down in the science.
A scientist would say that aminos are the monomers that make up proteins. They’d talk about linear chains, carbon atoms and polypeptides. We’ll sum it up by saying that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Why is this important? Twenty percent of your body is made up of protein – you need it to function and survive. When you eat food and consume protein, your body breaks that protein down into amino acids. All foods that contain protein, regardless of whether that protein is animal-based or plant-based, will contain at least some amino acids when broken down.
How many amino acids are there?
More than 50 have been discovered by scientists, but only 20 amino acids can be found inside your body. Each of these 20 aminos has a specific chemical makeup and plays a unique role within your body. Of these 20, only 9 are crucial to your diet because your body cannot synthesize (manufacture) them, i.e. you must ingest them by consuming amino acids in solid or liquid form (supplements). Without them, your body would deteriorate.
Essential Amino Acids
These 9 amino acids are referred to as the ‘Essential Amino Acids’. They are valine, histidine, tryptophan, isoleucine, leucine, threonine, lysine, phenylalanine and methionine. These essential aminos perform vital roles inside your body. They assist in the process of immune function, nutrient absorption, tissue growth and energy production.
Essential aminos can be found in a lot of common foods such as dairy, nuts, seeds, vegetables, buckwheat, meat, quinoa, eggs, soy and tofu. However, just like a car chews through more petrol when it works harder, if you’re training hard and pushing your body to its limits on a regular basis, your body needs more essential aminos than are consumed as part of a regular diet. This is the reason why amino acids and BCAA supplements like Ghost Amino are so popular!
The 11 other amino acids are referred to as the ‘Non-Essential Amino Acids’. Your body can manufacture these acids by itself, which means you don’t need to ingest them – though this doesn’t mean that you can’t.
However, there are circumstances in which your body might not be able to produce 7 of the 11 non-essential amino acids. For example, if your immune system was down because you were suffering from stress or illness. These 7 amino acids are referred to as ‘Conditionally Essential’.
The 4 non-essential amino acids are glutamic acid, asparagine, aspartic acid and alanine. The 7 conditionally essential amino acids are tyrosine, arginine, serine, cysteine, proline, glutamine and glycine.
It’s important to understand that even though your body can produce non-essential aminos, there are times when you need to top your body up to ensure good health is maintained. For example, if you put your body under stress by doing intense exercise, your body’s demand for glutamine will increase to a point where it requires more than what can be produced naturally. This is why products such as ATP Science L-Glutamine are popular with athletes.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
There are 3 essential amino acids that are classified as branched-chain amino acids, which are widely known as BCAAs. These are valine, leucine and isoleucine. BCAAs are unique because they are metabolised in your skeletal muscle, not in your liver like the other 6 essential aminos. This means they have a direct impact on your muscles, strength, power, recovery time and endurance – which is why they are the focus of popular amino supplement products like Staunch BCAA Hydration.
BCAAs provide many proven benefits to your body but the 4 major ones are: increased muscle growth, decreased muscle soreness, reduced exercise fatigue and reduced muscle breakdown (wasting).
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