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Amino Acids, What They Are and Why Do We Need Them?

If you're reading this, chances are you're taking or considering taking an Amino Acid Supplement.  After all, Amino Acids are one of the most popular sports nutrition products in the world!  But, what exactly are Amino Acids and whey are Amino Acids Essential to for Athletes' Diets and Training?

  • What are Amino Acids?
  • Amino Acid Classifications
  • What Are Essential Amino Acids?
  • What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids?
  • What Are Non Essential Amino Acids?
  • What Are Conditionally Essential Amino Acids?

Amino Acids

"The Building Blocks of Protein"

Amino Acids are organic compounds containing an amino group (-NH2) and a carboxy group (-COOH). If Amino Acids are the Building Blocks of Protein and around 20% of your body is made up of protein, then Amino Acids make up quite a large part of your cells, muscles and tissues.

Amino acids also play important roles in our bodies, such as by transporting nutrients and building muscle. 

How Many Amino Acids Are There?

There are well over 100 total Amino Acids, but our bodies only use 20 Amino Acids to create muscle.  These Proteinogenic Amino Acids are those that we are mostly concerned with in this article.

The 20 Proteinogenic Amino Acids

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glycine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Tyrosine
  • Valine

Amino Acid Classifications

 Nine of the 23 Proteinogenic Amino Acids are considered Essential Amino Acids, 11 are considered Non-Essential Amino Acids and 3 are classified differently as they are not naturally found in the human body.

Essential Amino Acids (EAA)

Why are some Amino Acids Essential Amino Acids?

There are 9 amino acids that are not produced naturally by our bodies and it is; therefore, essential to obtain these Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) from our food.  These nine Essential Amino Acids each plays a crucial role in your body, to include maintaining existing muscle and creating new muscle .

The Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Why are some Amino Acids Branched-chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?

Three of the nine Essential Amino Acids are further classified as Branch Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs because they have side-chains that form a branch in their atomic structure. Athlete's pay special attention to BCAAs, especially Leucine, because BCAAs play the largest role in Muscular Recovery and Muscle Building. 

The Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

  • Leucine
  • Valine
  • Isoleucine

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Non Essential Amino Acids (NEAAs)

Why are some Amino Acids Non Essential Amino Acids?

Some Amino Acids are classified as Non Essential Amino Acids because your body can produce these Amino Acids on its own and it; therefore, isn't necessary to get them from your diet.

"Non Essential" doesn't mean that your body produces all that you need and some Athletes may require additional non essential amino acids to meet their increased need.  Some popular Non Essential Amino Acid Supplements are Arginine, Glutamine and Tyrosine.

Non Essential Amino Acids (NEAAs) Examples

  • Arginine
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids (CEAAs)

Why are some Amino Acids Conditionally Essential Amino Acids (CEAAs)?

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids are certain Amino Acids that can become Essential for some of us, particularly Athletes, in certain situations.  For example, if you require more of an amino acid than your body naturally produces due to an intense training schedule.

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids (CEAAs) Examples

  • Arginine
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine
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References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12885705
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12217881
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27872960
http://www.aminoacid-studies.com/amino-acids/methionine.html
http://privatelabelmgn.com/articles/how-amino-acids-are-manufactured/
http://www.naturalhealthresearch.org/amino-acids-2/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-proteinogenic_amino_acids
https://examine.com/supplements/leucine/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1197518/
http://aminoacidstudies.org/l-lysine/
http://www.aminoacidsguide.com/Thr.html