Amino acids are the building blocks for skeletal muscles as well as digestive enzymes, hormones, antibodies and other body proteins necessary for optimal functioning. Of the 20 amino acids in the body, there are two types: essential and non-essential. The term essential is used because the body cannot synthesize these amino acids, making it necessary to obtain them from the diet. The twelve non-essential amino acids are equally important, but most of the time can be synthesized in the body at a rate that equals demand so dietary intake is not as crucial.
There are 8 essential amino acids including — leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Leucine – Leucine, or L-Leucine is classified as a “Branched-Chain” amino acid, (BCAA) and an “essential” amino acid. Leucine is critically important in that it is the only Amino Acid that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, so as we age it helps to slow normal age-related degradation of muscle tissue. Instead it supports muscle growth! The fact that Leucine stimulates muscle protein synthesis makes it very important to athletes, body builders, and men and women of all ages that have good exercise and, or workout routines. Leucine has also been shown to enhance and slow mental acuity due to aging.
Isoleucine - Isoleucine is critical to ongoing muscle tissue maintenance and it helps muscles tore glycogen to produce energy. It further helps prevent protein deterioration during muscle-demanding sports and, or exercise. It helps to repair, heal, and grow damaged muscle tissue. It also helps to reduce recovery time after workouts and, or strenuous exercise routines.
Lysine - Lysine, or L-Lysine is considered an “essential” amino acid. Our bodies cannot synthesize it, so we must get it from certain foods we eat or from a dietary supplement. Lysine is an important building block for all proteins in our bodies. It works in combination with other Amino Acids to build lean body mass and promote normal growth. It has positive effects on serotonin receptors in our intestinal tract and helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Early studies show that Lysine may help in the treatment of cancer by causing cancer cells to destroy themselves. There are also studies that show that Lysine may moderate high blood pressure and the incidence of stroke. Lysine also aids the formation and maintenance of skin collagen and also helps the body absorb calcium. It supports immune system function and a healthy cardiovascular system.
Methionine – Methionine, or L-Methionine is a very efficient antioxidant and it supports the natural detoxification. Methionine helps to support joint health and brain function. It also supports healthy skin and nails.
Phenylalanine – Phenylalanine, or L-Phenylalanine is an electrically neutral Amino Acid and it is used to biochemically form proteins. Studies have shown that Phenylalanine helps to provide analgesic and antidepressant effects.
Threonine – Threonine, or L-Threonine is an important Amino Acid that supports many critical biological functions such as: immune system, central nervous system, liver, and cardiovascular functions. Threonine also helps to build and maintain tooth enamel and strong bones. It also speeds wound healing.
Tryptophan – Tryptophan is an important Amino Acid in protein biosynthesis. It has been shown to be effective for brain conditions associated with low serotonin levels, so it may have antidepressant benefits.
Valine – Valine, or L-Valine is classified as another “Branched-Chain” amino acid. Because Valine stimulates protein synthesis directly in muscle tissue, it is considered one of the body’s most important “fuels” used in the building of lean muscle tissue and the enhancement of muscle “reaction”. Valine also helps our bodies maintain the proper nitrogen balance. Valine also helps to stimulate the central nervous system for ongoing mental acuity and it may also improve liver functions that may have been degraded by alcohol or drug abuse.
A Study By The American Society For Nutrition Suggests Amino Acids Can Reduce Damage To Muscle Intregrity The amino acids that endurance athletes should be most interested in are, valine, leucine, isoleucine and glutamine. The Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), valine, leucine and isoleucine, are metabolized differently than other amino acids. During prolonged exercise, BCAA’s are taken up by the skeletal muscle rather than the liver in order to contribute to energy production (oxidative metabolism). Making up one third of the muscle amino acid pool, BCAA’s can become quickly depleted with exhaustive endurance exercise.
The results of a study performed by The American Society for Nutrition suggest that the recovery from muscular fatigue that occurs during exercise training is facilitated by the use of the orally administered Amino Acid mixture. Likewise, the Amino Acid mixture reduced the damage to muscular integrity that accompanies strenuous exercise. Additionally, the observation that the Amino Acid mixture produced favorable changes in indicators of hematopoiesis indicates that, when used for extended periods, increases in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood may occur that further contribute to improved athletic performance.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body accounting for more than 60% of the total intramuscular amino acid pool. Many cells in the body use glutamine as a fuel for growth and is synthesized in both skeletal muscle and in adipose tissue in addition to the lungs, liver and brain.
There is evidence that during times of stress the body cannot produce enough glutamine to keep up with demand which in turn can reduce performance and immune system function. Athletes at risk for inadequate stores of glutamine include those not eating enough calories, carbohydrates or protein or those participating in strenuous endurance events, such as marathons and triathlons. Research has shown that glutamine levels decreased as much as 25% after running a marathon! Therefore, the need for proper daily nutrition is important to help maintain normal glutamine levels in endurance athletes.
Recent accounts from endurance athletes of all levels have supported this research. Pro, elites, and amateur endurance athletes have seen a difference in performance and recovery when incorporating a daily system of mineral supplements including essential amino acids and L-glutamine. You can read more about how endurance athletes have seen improvement in their recovery through a daily system of amino acids here.