Understanding Amino Acids
Oxygen|July/August 2017
Understanding Amino Acids

Check out our primer on these critical nutrients and see why they’re so important.

Steve Downs

We all know that protein provides the building blocks for muscle. And it’s common knowledge that on the molecular level, amino acids provide the building blocks for protein. But not all aminos are the same, and the amounts of each you need vary based on overall protein consumption and the requirements of your fitness lifestyle. To understand more about these critical nutrients and why you need them, let’s take a closer look.

There are 20 proteinogenic amino acids that create proteins in the body to perform countless physiological and chemical processes, including muscular development and maintenance. These are categorized according to their need to be supplied in the diet or the body’s ability to manufacture sufficient amounts for health. The three categories are known as essential, nonessential and conditionally essential.

Essential Amino Acids

Eight amino acids are considered essential for adults in that they are required to be provided by food consumption. Your body requires these to synthesize proteins to support anabolic muscular growth and reduce catabolic muscle breakdown, yet it cannot manufacture them. The essential amino acids are L-isoleucine, L-leucine, L-lysine, L-methionine, L-phenylalanine, L-threonine, L-tryptophan and L-valine. In addition, two additional aminos are considered essential for infants only: L-arginine and L-histidine.

Nonessential Amino Acids

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July/August 2017