EAA’s(Essential Amino Acids) are amino acids that the human body cannot make on its own, therefore they must be supplied through one’s diet. In one of my previous posts on maximizing recovery I highlighted the importance of supplementing with BCAA’s(Branched Chain Amino Acids), which are three of the nine known essential aminos. For those of us who exercise/weight train, or are contemplating weight training, an in depth knowledge of all amino acids and their functions is important. As I always mention to those I interact with, all of my advice and personal training methods are based on 20+ years of practical experience and sound science. Understanding the science of living a healthy lifestyle is of importance.
Here’s a list of the nine essential amino acids and their basic functions:
Phenylalanine is a precursor for the neurotransmitters tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. It plays an integral role in the structure and function of proteins and enzymes and the production of other amino acids.
Valine is one of three branched-chain amino acids, meaning it has a chain branching off to one side of its molecular structure. Valine helps stimulate muscle growth and regeneration and is involved in energy production.
Threonine is a principal part of structural proteins such as collagen and elastin, which are important components of the skin and connective tissue. It also plays a role in fat metabolism and immune function.
Though often associated with causing drowsiness, tryptophan has many other functions. It’s needed to maintain proper nitrogen balance and is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your appetite, sleep and mood.
Methionine plays an important role in metabolism and detoxification. It’s also necessary for tissue growth and the absorption of zinc and selenium, minerals that are vital to your health.
Like valine, leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that is critical for protein synthesis and muscle repair. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, stimulates wound healing and produces growth hormones .
The last of the three branched-chain amino acids, isoleucine is involved in muscle metabolism and is heavily concentrated in muscle tissue. It’s also important for immune function, hemoglobin production and energy regulation .
Lysine plays major roles in protein synthesis, hormone and enzyme production and the absorption of calcium. It’s also important for energy production, immune function and the production of collagen and elastin .
Histidine is used to produce histamine, a neurotransmitter that is vital to immune response, digestion, sexual function and sleep-wake cycles. It’s critical for maintaining the myelin sheath, a protective barrier that surrounds your nerve cells.
As you can see, essential amino acids are vital for a multitude of bodily functions and processes. Although amino acids are recognized for their role in muscular development and repair, the body depends on them for so much more. Essential amino acid deficiencies can negatively impact your entire body including your nervous, reproductive, immune, and digestive systems.
As mentioned in my post about maximizing recovery, if you’re using an amino acid product do not take it with protein. Amino acids may be taken with carbohydrates or on an empty stomach. If supplemented amino acids are taken with protein, or food containing protein, the aminos would combine with the protein and their therapeutic effects will be negated.
I hope that this short post gave you some insight into the importance of essential amino acids. As I often mention, training/working out is only part of the equation. Nutrition, with proper supplementation, is equally important.