For most of us, life is a balancing act. In a perfect world, we’d all have time during our day to devote to our health. But in the real world, 24 hours a day doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to fit in work, school, family and the plethora of responsibilities that life throws at us. Whether it’s working long hours, lack of sleep, eating the wrong foods, or staying out too late, the mixture of poor diet and lifestyle creates a perfect cocktail for low energy. And, despite our best efforts to exercise daily, eat right and sleep well, life in the 21st century is very demanding. This constant onslaught can deplete our bodies on a cellular level.
That said, amino acids play a critical role in overall health. The body needs 20 different amino acids to maintain good health and normal functioning. Amino acids are grouped into three categories as follows:
Essential: The body cannot produce essential amino acids. These must be obtained by an external source, usually through food or supplementation. The essential amino acids are:
• Histidine: Facilitates growth, the creation of blood cells and tissue repair. It also helps maintain the special protective covering over nerve cells, which is called the myelin sheath. The body metabolizes histidine into histamine, which is crucial for immunity, reproductive health and digestion.
• Isoleucine: Promotes wound healing, immunity, blood sugar regulation and hormone production. It is primarily found in muscle tissue and regulates energy levels. Older adults may be more prone to isoleucine deficiency than younger people. This deficiency may cause muscle wasting and shaking.
• Leucine: Helps regulate blood sugar levels and aids the growth and repair of muscle and bone. It is also needed for wound healing and the production of growth hormone.
• Lysine: Plays a vital role in building muscle, maintaining bone strength, aiding recovery from injury or surgery, and regulating hormones, antibodies and enzymes. It may also have antiviral effects.
• Methionine: This amino acid and the nonessential amino acid cysteine play a role in the health and flexibility of skin and hair. Methionine also helps promote healthy nails. It aids in the proper absorption of selenium and zinc and the removal of heavy metals, such as lead and mercury.
• Phenylalanine: Assists the body in using other amino acids as well as proteins and enzymes. The body converts phenylalanine to tyrosine, which is necessary for specific brain functions.
• Threonine: Necessary for healthy skin and teeth, as it is a component in tooth enamel, collagen and elastin. It helps aid fat metabolism and may be beneficial for people with indigestion, anxiety and mild depression.
• Tryptophan: Necessary for proper growth in infants and is a precursor of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, mood and pain. Melatonin also regulates sleep.
• Valine: Essential for mental focus, muscle coordination and emotional calm. Valine is widely used in supplements for muscle growth, tissue repair and energy.
Nonessential: the body naturally produces these amino acids throughout the day. Nonessential amino acids include:
• Aspartic acid
• Glutamic acid
Conditional: These amino acids are produced only under specific circumstances, typically when the body is fighting off an illness or is stressed. The conditional amino acids are:
Amino acids are compounds that combine to make proteins. When a person eats a food that contains protein, their digestive system breaks the protein down into amino acids. The body then utilizes the amino acids in various ways to carry out bodily functions.
Amino acids build muscles, cause chemical reactions in the body, transport nutrients, prevent illness and carry out other functions. Amino acid deficiency can result in decreased immunity, digestive problems, depression, fertility issues, lower mental alertness, slowed growth in children, as well as many other health issues.
A balanced diet and strategic supplementation will help to ensure that you get a healthy intake of essential and nonessential amino acids throughout the day. Without an adequate intake of amino acids, your body will not be able to produce proteins as effectively. In some cases, the proteins in muscle and tissues will start to weaken or degrade.
Amino acids play a critical role in almost every system in the body, including (among others):
• Providing the body with energy: Isoleucine and valine, in particular, are good sources of energy to fuel the body.
• Enhancing the musculoskeletal system: Isoleucine and valine assists with healthy muscle function, while leucine works to repair muscles. Lysine promotes calcium absorption needed for bone growth. These amino acids are good for healthy, toned muscles and strong bones. Isoleucine and valine are common ingredients in workout supplements because they target the muscles and boost energy.
• Regulating digestion: The body produces histamine, which positively impacts the digestive system. You need histidine to help generate histamine.
• Creating healthy sleep/wake cycles: Erratic sleep habits caused by insomnia, sleep apnea and stress, can take a toll on overall health. Histidine and tryptophan help to maintain normal circadian rhythms for impactful sleep.
• Supporting the immune system: Histidine, lysine and threonine help to boost immunity, so important in today’s COVID world.
• Producing neurotransmitters: These chemicals are the nervous system’s way of communicating with the body, regulating everything from appetite to mood. Phenylalanine not only produces some neurotransmitters, but other types of amino acids, as well.
• Stimulating the growth of healthy hair, skin and nails: Collagen and elastin significantly benefit skin health. These two proteins also promote hair and nail growth. Lysine assists with collagen production, while threonine helps generate collagen and elastin.
• Producing hormones: Amino acids, such as lysine, help to maintain healthy hormone levels. Amino acid hormones include epinephrine and norepinephrine, which oversee the body’s stress response and thyroxine, which plays a role in metabolism.
• Maintaining a healthy weight: Methionine impacts metabolic rate and can also help with detoxification. Threonine is key for metabolizing fat.
• Impacting mood: Tryptophan produces serotonin, a hormone that’s essential for that “happy” feeling.
If you maintain a healthy lifestyle but still feel like something is missing, amino acids will impact a wide range of body systems. Unlike some recommendations that provide a temporary solution, amino acids will set you up for long-term wellness. Additionally, they each offer unique benefits beyond your exercise regimen and energy levels. Moreover, there are a wide range of clinical trials indicating amino acids impact many areas of health, and, a whole host of clinically validated, amino acid products can easily be purchased in a wide range of retail and online channels, including health food stores. VR
Mark Becker is a senior account manager for Vivion Inc., a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Becker has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 35 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/becker_mark. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com, www.alliedbionutrition.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.
• Aspartic acid
• Glutamic acid