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Amino acids and their effects

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Why amino acids are vital for our health

Amino acids are our body’s building block of proteins, giving them a key role in supplying us with energy. If the body is supplied with enough amino acids, it can have a positive effect on our wellbeing. Many people associate amino acids exclusively with fitness. Yet amino acids also have an effect on other areas of our body. In our article you will find out what these are and which foods you can eat to give your body all of the essential amino acids it needs.

What exactly are amino acids?

Amino acids move around our body as molecules or complex molecules and enable the body to create its own proteins. They also support a variety of other processes in the human body. Amino acids have a major role in the formation of cell structures.1 For example, some amino acids can also have an impact on our brain. 2 There is a difference between D-amino acids and L-amino acids, as well as between essential and non-essential amino acids.

D-amino acids and L-amino acids

While D-amino acids are compounded artificially or synthetically, L-amino acids are of natural origin. They form protein building blocks and their effect is to regulate our protein requirements. We distinguish between a total of 20 proteinogenic types, which means “protein-producing” types.

Essential and non-essential amino acids

Essential amino acids are vital for humans because our bodies are unable to produce their own. Since these are not produced by the body, essential amino acids must be absorbed through food. While non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body, a supplementary supply through food is also possible.

Out of the total 20 amino acids that our body needs to build proteins, nine are essential amino acids and eleven are non-essential amino acids.
It is recommended that adults have a regular intake of eight essential amino acids:

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

For infants, the German Nutrition Society also recommends the amino acid known as histidine.1

The eleven non-essential amino acids are:1

• Alanine
• Arginine
• Asparagine
• Aspartic acid
• Cysteine
• Glutamine
• Glutamic acid
• Glycine
• Proline
• Serine
• Tyrosine

Which foods provide essential amino acids?

Foods of animal origin, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, contain the entire spectrum of essential amino acids that the body needs.3 Are vegetarians and vegans at a disadvantage? No, because even people who do not eat meat, fish or any foods of animal origin can give their bodies the necessary amino acids by combining different sources of plant protein.3 Pulses and cereals are easy to combine into meals, like lentils with rice or pea soup with bread.

A natural intake of amino acids through a healthy diet should always be the first choice. However, the hustle and bustle of everyday life can mean that a healthy and nutritious diet is not always possible. Apart from an intake through food, amino acids can also be provided by nutritional supplements. Please consult your GP or a nutritional expert on this matter.

Amino acids and their effects — the basis for fitness

In the world of fitness, amino acids are well known for their beneficial properties. Athletes value amino acids for benefits like improved performance or faster muscle growth. This is because amino acids provide our bodies with proteins that help build and maintain muscle mass and keep bones healthy. Therefore amino acids, especially BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), are very popular in the fitness sector. Whether they compete in strength sports or endurance sports, many athletes rely on the effects of amino acids to meet their protein requirements during training.

The category of BCAAs includes leucine, isoleucine and valine. Studies suggest that the BCAAs leucine and isoleucine can also improve our sugar metabolism.4 Thanks to these, many athletes manage to improve their endurance—even at peak performance levels.

Amino acids as a staple of a healthy diet

Whether you do a lot of exercise or not, amino acids are an essential part of a healthy diet. Since the body cannot produce essential amino acids itself, these must be consumed via the food we eat. Amino acids can be found in many animal and plant-based products. If it is not possible to consume the necessary amount of amino acids from food alone, you can also take nutritional supplements.

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