It’s well-known that proteins are the building blocks of life, whilst it isn’t as well known that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.
While some amino acids make proteins, others have numerous roles which they carry out in our bodies to ensure that they operate efficiently.
Amino acids are joined together in chains to form RNA, a copy of DNA. This occurs when certain cells require protein, for example, when your muscles ‘grow’.
In order for this process to occur, all of the specific amino acids must be available at the time, otherwise the required protein cannot be synthesised. Once the amino acids sequence has been formed, it folds and twists making up the secondary structure.
Lots of alpha helix and beta pleated sheet shapes (secondary structure of a protein) join together, forming the tertiary structure. Each protein has a specific shape, which allows it to carry out its desired function.
All proteins are different; therefore specific proteins are made for a specific purpose. When your muscles experience micro tears, specific proteins are required in order to rebuild the muscle. This is why amino acid supplements such as BCAAs are very popular among fitness enthusiasts.
Amino Acid Benefits | Improves Cardiovascular Health
Nitric oxide is required to lower blood pressure, since its helps by relaxing tiny muscles inside your blood vessels. This reduces the pressure and is vital for cardiovascular health. In order to synthesise nitric oxide, amino acids are required.
Lower blood pressure can help prevent atherosclerosis, as plaques are less likely to form within your arteries. This prevents diseases such as heart attacks or strokes. Furthermore, nitric oxide is the main active ingredient in nitro-glycerine, a medicine which can be sued to relieve chest pains caused by coronary heart disease.
Amino Acids Produce Neurotransmitters
There are several well-known amino acids, such as tyrosine and tryptophan, which produce neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help to complete nerve responses, which improve reaction times and alertness.
Furthermore, tryptophan produces a hormone known as serotonin, which improves your mood. Tyrosine also synthesises adrenalin, which provides short term energy. When both work together, they can improve energy levels and brain power.
✓ Eating foods high in protein or taking amino acid supplements will raise the levels of these amino acids, allowing you to reap the benefits.
Amino Acids Help To Improve Metabolism
Another role which amino acids play in our bodies is to do with our metabolism and energy levels.
✓ Whilst the preferred source of energy is from complex carbohydrates and fats, however amino acids can be used as an energy source when required. For example, when fitness competitors are nearing a show, carbs are usually minimal – therefore a drop in energy can occur. Amino acids such as BCAA’s can a little extra energy and the right amino’s to help prevent muscle breakdown.
Amino Acids & Antioxidant Properties
Three amino acids, known as glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine combine to form glutathione, which is an antioxidant.
✓ These may help to fight off infections and allows cells to carry out their normal every day properties.
Sources of Amino Acids
There are two types of amino acids; essential and non-essential. Read more.
Simply put, essential amino acids are those which your body cannot produce itself, therefore you must consume them through your diets, be it from food sources or supplementation.
✓ Non-essential amino acids can be synthesised by our bodies, however it is often beneficial to consume them through our diets in order to achieve optimal results.
✓ Amino acids are mostly found in animal produce, so vegans and vegetarians can often struggle to get the essential amino acids that they require. For this reason, supplementation can be necessary.
Take Home Message
Amino acids are very important substances for our bodies. They all carry out different properties to ensure that we can function properly in our day to day lives. Without them, we simply would not be able to survive.
Be sure to check out some of the other articles here on the The Zone regarding amino acids, from essential and non-essential amino acids, to the benefits of BCAAs when it comes to building muscle!