The Essential Amino Acids

The essential amino acids are those necessary for good health that can’t be synthesised by the body, so need to be ingested as part of the diet. Eight amino acids are considered essential. These form the foundation of your health (like vitamins and minerals) whilst also optimising the micronutrients. EAAs provide fuel for growth, health, and good functioning of the body.

The Amino Acids

Amino acids in food make up protein. When protein is digested it is broken down into specific amino acids, that are put together for different uses. These new proteins make up muscle, skin, eyes, heart, and bones. There are considered to be around 20 to 22 standard amino acids, of which 8 to 10 of them are considered essential, meaning that you need them in your diet to function properly, as we cannot synthesise them from other materials.

The 8 Essential Amino Acids

  • Histidine is needed for the growth and repair of tissue of all kind. Histidine is also a manufacturer of both red and white blood cells.
  • Isoleucine promotes muscle recovery, regulates blood-sugar levels and stimulates HGH release. Isoleucine helps in the formation of haemoglobin and is involved in the formation of blood clotting, the body's defence against infection.
  • Leucine regulates blood-sugar levels, growth and repair of muscle, skin, and bone. Leucine may be one of the strongest natural anabolic agents and potentiates Human Growth Hormone (HGH), helps wound healing, regulates energy, and assists in preventing muscle tissue breakdown.
  • Lysine is important for growth and development. Lysine plays a role in revitalising the body to combat fatigue and overtraining and it maintains a positive nitrogen balance, creating an anabolic environment.
  • Methionine assists in the breakdown and use of fats, yielding a higher testosterone rate. Methionine also assists digestion and has anti-oxidising properties.
  • Phenylalanine elevates the mood by stimulating the nerve system. It increases levels of epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, and dopamine, important neurotransmitters needed by the nerve system. It helps the absorption of UV rays in sunlight, giving a higher rate of Vitamin D. It's also one of the manufacturers of glutamine, the amino acid that makes up the largest part of the amino acid pool. Phenylalanine is useful because of the nerve upgrading which will allow for maximal contraction and relaxation of the muscles.
  • Threonine is found in skeletal muscle, heart, and nerve tissue in the central nervous system. Threonine is involved in liver functioning, lipotropic functions and in immune system maintenance by helping in the production of antibodies and promoting growth and activity of the thymus. Threonine allows better absorption of other nutrients, so protein sources containing it are more bio-available. Protein absorption and maintenance of muscle are all important to bodybuilders.
  • Tryptophan is necessary for the body to create the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin.
  • Valine has a stimulating effect and is needed for muscle metabolism, repair and growth of tissue and maintaining the nitrogen balance in the body. Since it is a branched-chain amino acid, it can be used as an energy source in the muscles, and preserves the use of glucose.

Importance of Essential Amino Acids for Bodybuilders

Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) cannot be synthesised by the body therefore must be ingested via food and supplementation. As can be seen above, crucial functions result from the absorption of EAAs, including muscle growth and recovery, as well as nitrogen balance, all essential to bodybuilders. All of these essential amino acids can be found in vegetables, although attention much be paid to ensure that proper levels in a strict vegetarian diet. Supplementing with Essential Amino Acid supplements can be an effective way to ensure that you are getting the required levels of EAAs in your diet.

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