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EXPLAINING AMINO ACIDS. WHAT ARE THEY? WHAT DO THEY DO? AND HOW MUCH DO I NEED?

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AMINO ACIDS are the building blocks of protein. We need these amino acids for almost every metabolic process in the body.

There are roughly twenty amino acids in total, which can be thought of like letters of the alphabet. While we combine letters in different orders to make words, each combination of amino acid will create a different structure with thousands of possible combinations.

 TYPES OF AMINO ACIDS

There are about 20 different types of amino acids. Nine of them are collectively referred to as essential amino acids. These can only be supplied by the foods we eat as our bodies cannot produce them naturally and consuming enough of them each day is critical for good health. Proteins that have all nine of these essential amino acids are referred to as complete proteins. Several plant sources are complete proteins including chia seeds, hemp, pumpkin seed protein, brown rice protein, quinoa, buckwheat and more. Anyone following a plant-based diet can easily consume complete plant proteins in a varied diet. Choosing a wide variety of protein sources (traditionally called food combining) will also ensure that you get your full complement of amino acids daily.

BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAS)

Another group of amino acids are BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) namely; leucine, isoleucine and valine. Contrary to most other amino acids, BCAAs are mostly broken down in the muscle, rather than in the liver. Because of this, they are thought to play a role in energy production during exercise. Out of the three, leucine is thought to have the biggest impact on your body’s capacity to build muscle. Isoleucine and valine seem more effective at producing energy and regulating your blood sugar levels.

HOW MUCH OF THESE ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS DO WE NEED TO CONSUME EVERY DAY?

A good way to work this out is to see how much PROTEIN we need each day. Men who work out for 45 minutes three to five days a week need about 0.45 gram per pound. So an 82kg guy who works out regularly needs about 80 grams of protein a day as a minimum.

Women who work out for 45 minutes three to five days a week need 0.35 gram per pound. For a 64kg woman, that translates to nearly 50 grams of protein daily as a minimum.

The Institute of Medicine lists its recommended daily intakes of amino acids as percentages of your total protein intake, which reiterates the importance of variation of sources.

For each gram of protein you eat, you should get;

7mg tryptophan

18mg histidine

25mg isoleucine, methionine, cysteine

27mg threonine

32mg valine.

47mg phenylalanine, tyrosine

51mg lysine

55mg leucine

 

If you were to eat 50 grams of protein each day, this amounts to a total of;

* 0.9g of histidine

* 0.06g of isoleucine (BCAA) methionine and cysteine,

* 2.7g of leucine (BCAA)

* 2.5g of lysine (BCAA)

* 2.3g of phenylalanine and tyrosine,

* 1.4g of threonine,

* 0.34g of tryptophan

* 1.6g of valine.

WHAT DO THESE ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS DO FOR MY BODY?

They are the building blocks of protein. Protein is vital for building and repairing muscle tissue and adequate protein is required for our body to be healthy. Without protein our bodies cannot fully recover from exercise but its impact is not isolated to strength. Protein is also essential for our hormone formation, a strong immune system, strong hair, skin and nails, a back-up source of fuel when our energy reserves are low and for important enzymes inside the body. It’s essential for our entire body.

IF I CONSUME MORE OF THESE AMINO ACIDS THAN THE OUTLINED RDA WILL I GET EXTRA BENEFIT?

There is only so much your body needs and the best possible tip for optimal health, regardless of your goal, is to distribute your protein intake evenly throughout the day and get your protein from varied sources that will ensure adequate intake of the full spectrum of amino acids. Studies have proven that grazing on protein as opposed to packing it all into one meal boosts protein synthesis by 25%.

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