AMINO ACIDS are the building blocks of the body. Besides building cells and repairing tissue, they form antibodies to combat invading bacteria & viruses; they are part of the enzyme & hormonal system; they build nucleoproteins (RNA & DNA); they carry oxygen throughout the body and participate in muscle activity. When protein is broken down by digestion the result is 22 known amino acids.
As the building blocks of protein, amino acids are vital to health. Next to water, amino acids in the form of proteins make up the greatest portion of our body weight. They comprise tendons, muscles and ligaments; organs and glands; hair and nails; important bodily fluids, and are a necessary part of every cell in the body.
There are over 20 amino acids, separated into two categories - essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be manufactured by your body, hence, it is essential that you obtain them from your diet. Non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by your body, however, your body must have the right combination of essential amino acids and supporting nutrients to optimize healthy protein maintenance, so supplementation may be desirable. Twenty amino acids are needed to build the various proteins used in the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues.
Eleven of these amino acids can be made by the body itself, while the other nine (called essential amino acids) must come from the diet. The essential amino acids are isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Another amino acid, histidine, is considered semi-essential because the body does not always require dietary sources of it. The nonessential amino acids are arginine, alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Other amino acids, such as carnitine, are used by the body in ways other than protein-building and are often used therapeutically.
Who is likely to be deficient?
Dieters, some strict vegetarian body builders, and anyone consuming an inadequate number of calories may not be consuming adequate amounts of amino acids. In these cases, the body will break down the protein in muscle tissue and use those amino acids to meet the needs of more important organs or will simply not build more muscle mass despite increasing exercise.
Amino acids are not only absolutely integral to life, but they can have a profound impact upon how clearly we think and how well we feel.