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Amino Acid Basics
Check out this popular protein powder infused with plenty of amino acids.


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Amino Acid Basics
Author: Alex Borja

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This article will discuss what amino acids are, how we get them, and some useful information on the effects they give. While amino acids are very popular in the bodybuilding world, they are extremely important to everyone’s diet regardless of activity level or goals.

There are a total of twenty two standard amino acids but only 20 directly encoded by the universal genetic code. Of these 20 amino acids, 11 of these can be synthesized by the human body. In other words, our body can create these 11 for us while the other 9 must be made available through our diet. These amino acids are called “essential amino acids” because they are essential to our health! The rest of the amino acids are termed, “non-essential” amino acids. If you counted up the amino acids you will notice they don’t add up to 22 amino acids total. These unaccounted amino acids are integrated into proteins by unique synthetic mechanisms which will not be discussed in this article.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins which are organic compounds made up of a linear chain of these amino acids. Amino acids have two primary functions in the body. One function is to be oxidized to carbon dioxide and urea to be used as a source of energy. The other function is to synthesize proteins (create protein) or other bi-molecular structures. So you can see how amino acids can be very important to the body. Let’s look at some bodily functions that they can have an impact on.

Amino acids affect many major characteristics that relate to health and fitness. They are linked to physiological process such as energy, recovery, muscle/strength gains, fat loss, mood, and brain function. It is no wonder there is a huge market for amino acids out there for fitness fans.

How do you know what foods to eat to get those essential amino acids? The combination of essential and non-essential amino acids is how the quality in a given product is usually measured. That is to say some protein sources have a greater blend or maybe a higher amount of essential amino acids than others.

While you would think that essential amino acids are all that matters because non-essential amino acids can be made by the body, it can make more of a difference than you think. If you are currently exercising, the amount of non-essential amino acids needed often outweigh the actual amount being produced. Basically your body cannot keep up with your training because the synthesis process isn’t instantaneous--it takes time. This is a important factor for pro bodybuilders, fitness models, and/or if you take training seriously. Having enough amino acids, both essential and non-essential, must be supplied in abundance to reach your goals.

There is another term you must learn to better understand amino acid sources. “Bio-availability” is a term that describes the extent to which amino acids are being delivered to the tissues. Bio-availability of amino acids is important because you can have a perfect amino acid profile in a particular food item, but if it has poor bio-availability it is worthless. It’s like eating a bunch of food without ever getting any nutrients from them whatsoever.

Most meats and non fat dairy products will have great
bio-availability. If you prefer to not eat meat it can also
be found in vegetables and legumes. For serious fitness
individuals there seems to be a big trend in protein powders.
Why do they buy these relatively expensive products?

The bio-availabilities in these products are excellent and show
extreme promise for fast improvement. It also should be noted that
these are s-u-p-p-l-e-m-e-n-t-s and should not replace your diet or
exercise. This will only lead to disappointment and an empty
wallet. Combing these three are the key to fast gains and breaking
exercise plateaus. Here is a recommended product if you are
interested in protein powders. It has a full amino acid profile, great
taste, and a low price. You can also learn more about protein
powders here.

It is possible that two diets may contain exactly the same amino
acid content, yet completely different bio-availability. This is due to
the other stuff that goes with it such as fat, carbohydrates, sugar,
etc. This is another reason protein powders are popular as they have increased bio-availability because of the other stuff blended in with the amino acids. Another way to get great bio-availability is to get pure amino acid supplements. These don’t have anything else but amino acids in their blend. These are different route (or combined) to protein powders.

Pure amino acid products will generally elevate the amino acid content in the body within 15 minutes. This is because they are proteins which are already broken down the absorption rate takes place quicker. Many take them before during and after a workout to help fight fatigue, both physical and mental. They also prevent muscle protein catabolism (breakdown of protein) and speed recuperation.

Once absorbed these products will be processed by the liver and is often backed up by these amino acids. This is a good thing because when the liver is bombarded with amino acids (About 3-4g) the rest gets shunted to the tissues that need them. These would be your muscles that need repairing or conversion to energy for your workout. If you aim to build muscle, lose fat, and increase energy for workouts, I would try an amino acid product and see if you notice the effects. They are cheaper in the supplement market and can be taken in powder or pill form.

Hopefully this basic amino acid guide has informed you of some of the uses and
importance of amino acids. They can benefit anyone who loves to exercise and
wants to see results. I have included an “Amino acid guide” for you to explore
if you want to know learn more and get better details on each of them.

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