Protein is crucial for growth and repair, and getting enough in your diet is essential if you want to make changes to your physique and promote a healthy, happy body.
This is exactly where Amino Acids come in to play…
What Are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein, therefore the foods that have the most amino acids are amongst the highest protein sources.
The body requires 20 amino acids, some of which it can manufacture itself known as non essential amino acids. This does not mean they are not important, it simply means the body can keep up with the rate of demand for these amino acids of its own accord.
9 of the 20 amino acids are known as essential amino acids, this means the body can’t make them on its own and they must be consumed through the diet.
Animal based protein sources tend to be the best foods containing all the amino acids, whereas most plant based food sources tend to be missing one or more of the essential amino acids. There is no extra health benefit that is amino acid related from obtaining your source from a plant or animal origin. Of course plant sources and animal sources have additional health benefits such as red meat containing iron and plant sources containing fibre, but the amino acids themselves are of equal value from either source.
The main thing to remember is all essential amino acids are needed by the body – therefore should be included in your diet, regardless of the source.
Essential Amino Acids
The nine essential amino acids include: Histidine (infants), lysine, leucine, methionine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine and tryptophan.
Branched-chain amino acids are three amino acids from this group including leucine, isoleucine and valine.
10 Foods High In Amino Acids
Eggs are well known as a muscle building food and many old school bodybuilders used to chug them raw from a tall glass (not recommended).
A large egg contains 6g protein and is an incredibly versatile – try them scrambled, poached, boiled or even as an ingredient in baking.
Chicken is a great source of amino acids, and is also rich in niacin and selenium, hence why it’s such a popular food choice amongst those in the fitness industry. Packs a punch of lean protein.
Beef includes all the essential amino acids and is a really versatile meat. It is a great source of iron and depending on the cut, it can either be quite lean (preferably) or calorie-dense in regards to the excess fat.
This is a great choice for anyone on-the-go and stuck for a handy source of protein.
Soybeans have a high protein content and are rich in vitamins, minerals and insoluble fibre. The bean also contains a good level of potassium, zinc, iron and vitamin E.
A great source of healthy fats, salmon is a brilliant choice for packing a punch of protein into a meal.
Another oily fish which is great for adding some heart healthy fats into your diet – you cant go wrong with a tin of sardines or try grilling fresh ones with a Mediterranean style salad.
Extremely low-fat but high in protein, prawns are a great choice for anyone counting the calories and looking to add a healthy protein boost to their meal.
Scallops are a great source of vitamin B12 and also contain omega 3 fatty acids. They also contain potassium and magnesium.
Grass fed lamb is a great source of CLA which is a health supportive omega 6 fatty acid. It is also a great source of selenium and zinc.
Supplementing with amino acids
If you are entering a dieting phase, Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a excellent supplement you can use as a tool to minimise muscle loss when reducing your calorie intake.
Dieting is catabolic, which means that you are breaking down fat but also losing some muscle at the same time as a result of this process. Minimising muscle loss will help to keep your metabolism strong and make dieting down a little easier for you. This is because lean muscle tissue will burn more calories at rest than fat.
BCAAs can also help increase your training intensity. This is due to the fact that during exercise, serotonin levels can increase. This increase in serotonin can mean an increase in fatigue.
The role of BCAAs in this instance is to reduce the amount of tryptophan that enters the brain, which in turn decreases the amount of serotonin produced, which results in less fatigue.