Amino acids are the elemental building blocks of proteins, and they serve as the nitrogenous backbones for compounds like neurotransmitters and hormones. These organic compounds are composed of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
Our body needs twenty amino acids to grow and function properly. Out of these, nine amino acids are referred to as Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) as our body can not make them on its own hence we must obtain them through diet or supplement. The human body can synthesize the remaining amino acids using only the essential amino acids. Several non-essential amino acids are classified as conditionally essential as they become essential only under specific circumstances such as illness or stress.
Here is the amino acid classification for your quick understanding.
|ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS||CONDITIONALLY ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS||NON-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS|
Role of Essential Amino Acids in our body
Every essential amino acid has a significant role to play in our body.
- Histidine: Our body utilizes histidine to synthesize histamine in the body. Histidine plays a crucial role in energy metabolism. It is used by the body to make specific hormones and metabolites that affect kidney function, the transmission of nerves, stomach secretions and the immune system. Histidine also impacts the repair and growth of tissues, blood cells and helps protect nerve cells.
- Isoleucine: This branched-chain amino acid is essential for haemoglobin formation and red blood cells production. It also has a role in immune function, protein, fat and carb metabolism, and detoxification of nitrogenous waste like ammonia.
- Leucine: Leucine is necessary for overall muscle health. It stimulates muscle protein synthesis, prevents muscle breakdown and encourages insulin secretion to support healthy blood sugar levels.
- Lysine: This essential amino acid helps suppress anxiety levels by blocking the stress response receptors. Our body also utilizes lysine for collagen synthesis necessary for healthy skin, bones, joints and ligaments. Lysine is also believed to strengthen bone health by increasing calcium absorption and retention.
- Methionine: This sulphur-containing amino acid is required for tissue growth and formation, and absorption of certain powerful antioxidants like zinc, glutathione, selenium and amino acid cysteine.
- Phenylalanine: Phenylalanine act as a precursor to certain vital neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine and tyrosine. It also plays a crucial role in synthesizing proteins and amino acids.
- Threonine: Threonine aids in creating collagen, elastin, and muscle tissue. This amino acid is highly beneficial for the smooth functioning of the immune and central nervous systems.
- Tryptophan: As the sole precursor of serotonin, tryptophan is an essential factor in mood, behaviour, cognition and maintaining a healthy nitrogen balance in the body.
- Valine: Valine is one of three BCAAs that enhance energy, increase endurance, and aid in muscle tissue recovery and repair.
Health benefits of supplementing with Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)
- Better muscle health: Studies suggest that EAA supplements with a regular exercise routine promote muscle gain while losing body fat.
- Prevent muscle loss: Essential amino acids are significant to prevent muscle breakdown and preserve lean body mass. They are also a boon for older adults on bed rest or recovering from prolonged illness.
- Boost athletic performance: Supplementing with essential amino acids has been shown to alleviate fatigue, improve exercise performance and stimulate muscle recovery post-exercise, among several clinical trials.
- Promote sleep health: Essential amino acids like tryptophan and histidine help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and can reduce the symptoms of depression and uplift mood.
Dietary sources of Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)
Food sources of protein containing all nine essential amino acids are termed complete protein. Besides supplements, we can also get essential amino acids through protein foods like:
- Animal proteins like eggs, chicken, meat and seafood.
- Plant-based foods like buckwheat, soybean, quinoa and spirulina are also suitable for vegan diets.
The recommended dosage of Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)
One must meet the daily recommended allowance of these amino acids to prevent any deficiency as our body can not produce them. As per ICMR, these are the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) values for amino acids.
|S. No.||Amino Acids||RDA (mg/kg body weight/day)|
|7.||Phenylalanine + Tyrosine||25|
To conclude, protein should be a significant part of the diet, whether the goal is to get fit, lose weight, or put on muscle. Supplementing with essential amino acids is a convenient and effective way to increase daily protein intake via a high-quality source of amino acids.