Essential Amino Acids: A Complete Overview

Essential Amino Acids: A Complete Overview

When you talk about meeting your daily protein needs, are you sure you are consuming the right quality of protein? Dietary proteins are made from a unique combination of smaller molecules called amino acids. These are the reasons behind protein being the building blocks of your life. 

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are organic compounds made up from the composition nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The molecules comprise a basic amino group, an acidic carboxyl group, and an organic R group (a unique side chain to each amino acid). When broken down in your body, proteins leave you with amino acids. These amino acids are then used by your body to perform its functions.  

Now that you know the chemistry of amino acids, let's jump right into discussing the different types of amino acids and why you should consume them.

What are the types of amino acids?           

There are 20 amino acids[1] your body needs to perform its normal functions. They are classified into three groups: 

  • Essential amino acids: Essential amino acids need to be consumed from food sources since our body cannot make them. There are nine essential amino acids. A food source is said to have complete proteins when it contains all nine essential amino acids. We will understand these in detail further. 
  • Non-essential amino acids: These are the amino acids produced by your body (Fun fact: Your body can make some amino acids on its own from the amino acids you consume). The 11 different non-essential amino acids that your body can make are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
  • Conditional amino acid: Conditional amino acids are the ones you need to consume during illness or stress. If you are healthy then these are actually non-essential amino acids. Conditional amino acids include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.

In this article, you will find a detailed understanding of different types of essential amino acids, their sources, and their daily recommended dosages. 

Essential amino acids

As the name suggests, these are amino acids that are most important for the functioning of your body. They are called essential because they need to be consumed by you from food sources. These are the 9 amino acids that your body cannot synthesize. The specific functions each of these essential amino acids perform are as follows:

Phenylalanine: Phenylalanine is an amino acid that helps your body in the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters like tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. It plays an essential role in the biosynthesis of other amino acids. It is also an essential part of the structure and function of protein and enzymes. Some sources of phenylalanine are milk, cheese, eggs, soybeans, chicken, beans, and fish[2].

Valine: Valine is a Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAA)[3]. BCAA’s have a three-dimensional molecular structure. It helps you maintain mental vigor, muscle coordination, and emotional calm while stimulating muscle growth and providing you with energy. Some sources of valine are soy, dairy, fish, meats, nuts, and vegetables[4][5]

Leucine: Leucine is a BCAA that is vital for protein synthesis. It is also essential for you as it contributes to many metabolic functions. It plays a role in blood sugar regulation and promotes growth and repair of muscle and bone tissue, production of growth hormone, and healing of your body. Leucine is found in most food sources such as Salmon, chickpeas, brown rice, eggs, soybeans, nuts, and beef[6][7].

Isoleucine: Isoleucine is a BCAA that aids in muscle metabolism and is concentrated in muscle tissue. It has multiple physiological functions, including healing injury and wounds, detoxifying nitrogenous waste, stimulating immune function, and aiding in the secretion of several hormones. It also plays a vital role in regulating blood sugar and energy levels and the formation of hemoglobin. Isoleucine is found in food sources like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, lentils, nuts, and seeds[8][9]

Threonine: Many proteins, including tooth enamel, collagen, and elastin, include threonine. It plays a vital role in fat metabolism and prevents fat build-up in the liver. It is a critical amino acid for the nervous system. Threonine can be found in food sources like lean beef, cheese, lamb, pork, tofu, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, wheat germ, cashews, almonds, lentils, and pistachios[10]

Tryptophan: Tryptophan is known to be the precursor of serotonin for its use to treat depression, insomnia and help in weight control. This amino acid is converted into serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating appetite, sleep, mood, and pain. Tryptophan can be used as a natural sedative and aggression control. It can be found in food sources like milk, canned tuna, turkey, chicken, oats, cheese, various seeds, and nuts[11]

Methionine: The amino acid methionine contains sulfur. It plays an essential role in the growth and repair of tissues and muscle fibers. This amino acid aids in the improvement of tone and flexibility of your skin, hair, and nails. The sulfur helps with skin and hair, protects cells from pollutants, slows down the aging of cells, and aids in the absorption of selenium and zinc. Some food sources of Methionine are egg whites, spirulina, lean beef and lamb, brazil nuts, bacon, parmesan cheese, chicken breast, and tuna[12]

Lysine: Lysine is responsible for calcium absorption, proper growth, and converting fatty acid into energy which helps lower cholesterol. It plays an important role in the formation of collagen. Collagen is an essential structural protein (it forms a scaffolding to provide support and structure) found in bones and connective tissues such as tendons, skin, and cartilage. If your Lysine consumption is lower than the Recommended Dietary Allowance, you might experience fatigue, dizziness, agitation, bloodshot eyes, anemia, and reproductive disorders. Some food sources of Lysine are red meat, cheese, eggs, soya beans, spirulina, and fenugreek seeds[13]

Histidine: Histidine is used by your body for the biosynthesis of histamine. Your immune response, digestive functions, sexual function, and sleep-wake cycle are all regulated by histamine. It is also responsible for blood cell production and protects tissues from damage-causing radiation and heavy metals. Some food sources of histidine are meat, dairy products, legumes, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, and whole grains[14]

How much EAA’s should you eat?

There are specific recommendations for the quantity of amino acids you need to consume to enjoy their full benefits. The recommended dosage are[15]:

Essential Amino Acids

Milligrams per KG of your bodyweight

Leucine (BCAA)

39

Isoleucine (BCAA)

20

Valine (BCAA)

26

Histidine

10

Lysine

30

Methionine

10.4

Methionine combined with cysteine

15

Phenylalanine combined with tyrosine

25

Threonine

15

Tryptophan

4


So if you weigh 70 kilos (154 pounds), then your ideal consumption of Histidine should be 700 mg on a daily basis. 

Food sources for EAA’s

Individually EAAs are found in various food sources. Some sources that contain the whole protein are: 

- Dairy products. 

- Legumes and whole grains. 

- Eggs. 

- Nuts and seeds. 

- Red meat (beef, chicken, lamb). 

- Soy and pea protein. 

- All Happy Ratio products. Happy Ratio Protein-Focus has both vegetarian (Whey) and Vegan (Pea protein) options.

The essential amino acid profile Happy Ratio Protein-Focus (per serving of 37g) are:

Essential Amino Acid

Vegetarian (Whey)

Vegan (Pea protein)

Isoleucine

1.26

0.90

Leucine

2.09

1.64

Valine

1.17

0.95

Lysine

1.90

1.46

Methionine

0.44

0.20

Phenylalanine

0.59

1.06

Threonine

1.32

0.78

Tryptophan

0.28

0.18

Histidine

0.34

0.48

Total BCAAs

4.52

3.49

 

What’s more? Our Protein-Focus product contains non-essential amino acids as well that promotes the repair and growth of muscle mass. The amino acid profile of the NEA are:

Amino Acids

Vegetarian (Whey)

Vegan (Pea protein)

Arginine

0.41

1.69

Cysteine

0.44

0.20

Glycine

0.28

0.81

Proline

1.09

0.85

Tyrosine

0.51

0.75

Glutamic acid

3.58

3.42


Final Word

Amino acids are essential for your body to function efficiently. You need to consume essential amino acids by consuming the right proteins because your body cannot make them on its own. So ensure that you are eating the right foods and supplementing with the right products to avoid any deficiencies. 

Happy Ratio understands the requirement of essential amino acids for your everyday functioning. Therefore, it has ensured that its "All-In-One" health shake variants contain all the 9 EAAs you need with a good proportion of BCAA’s. You can find your favorite Happy Ratio flavor here

References:

  • https://examine.com/supplements/amino-acid/
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-phenylalanine
  • https://examine.com/supplements/branched-chain-amino-acids/
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-valine)
  • https://examine.com/supplements/valine/
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-leucine
  • https://examine.com/supplements/leucine/
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/l-isoleucine
  • https://examine.com/supplements/isoleucine/
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-threonine
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/6305
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-methionine
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/5962
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/L-histidine
  • https://examine.com/supplements/essential-amino-acids/
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