What are Amino Acids and why are they important?

Over the course of the next few articles, we are going to be taking a closer look at Amino Acids. Most regular gym-goers are fully aware of the importance of a protein rich diet for building muscle and gaining mass. For many, this is as far as their knowledge goes, but if you want to really make serious gains it is well worth spending a little time learning about Amino Acids.

Amino Acids are organic compounds that are vital for not just getting bigger, but our very existence. The human body needs a number of amino acids in substantial amounts to maintain good health, they are in every cell in our body and produce proteins which help with everything from digesting food to repairing body tissue.┬áProteins are comprised of hundreds of Amino Acids chained together by Peptide Bonds – you can think of Protein as a big beaded bracelet, each bead signifying an Amino Acid.

Amino Acids can be categorised into three separate groups – essential, non-essential and conditional. There are hundreds of them, however only some of these are naturally occurring,

Essential Amino Acids
The essential Amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. None of these can be produced by the body, therefore they must be sourced from our diet.

Non-Essential Amino Acids
The non-essential Amino acids are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid. These Amino acids can be produced by the body, but may require supplementation in some individuals.

Conditional Amino Acids
Conditional Amino acids are arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine. These amino acids are usually not essential, but may be required or supplemented on certain conditions such as illness or stress.

Whilst stacking up your Amino Acids at every meal is not required, it is important to get a balance of them throughout your day.

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