All About Amino Acids

Ever see those guys at the gym with large water jugs filled a quarter of the way up with a colored substance? Some might assume it is just flavored water. When asked they will tell you that it is BCAA’s otherwise known as Branched-chain Amino Acids. Drinking BCAA’s is essential for those looking to replenish the protein in their muscles after a hard day of lifting. But what is it that makes them so essential? I will give you a breakdown of Amino Acids and how you can benefit from them in your training.

There are 20 amino acids present in the form of protein. They are separated by the 10 amino acids that the body produces and the 10 amino acids that must be consumed commonly referred to as the essential amino acids (the BCAA’s are amongst this group). The following is a breakdown of the 10 amino acids that are produced by the body and how they are helpful:

  • Alanine – found in muscle tissues and is important for exercise. It is involved in the process that converts glycogen and pyruvate into a source of energy (Glucose-Alanine Cycle). Any unused pyruvate is converted into alanine and transported to the liver where it is converted into glucose and is returned to the muscle tissue for energy.
  • Asparagine – aids the central nervous system because it helps maintain a balance that prevents large fluctuations in mood. Prevents the system from extreme nervousness and extreme calmness.
  • Aspartic acid – metabolized from glutamic acid. Involved in the Krebs cycle and urea cycle. It assists the body in detoxifying the liver by reducing the blood ammonia level after exercise. Helps increase stamina and reduce fatigue.
  • Cysteine – a sulfur-containing amino acid found in proteins. It is formed in the body from L-methionine in the presence of vitamin B. It is a precursor to glutathione. Rids the body of harmful toxins and thus preserves cells. Destroys free radicals. Can aid in weight loss by helping the body burn fat and promote muscle growth. Can be converted into glucose and used as energy.
  • Glutamic acidglutamate – involved in the Krebs cycle where carbs are metabolized to produce ATP. Assists the body in removing ammonia from muscle cells. This acid is needed when energy is produced from BCAAs. Without it energy production decreases. It is the only component besides glucose used as brain food/fuel. It is important during power exercises and intense weight training.
  • Glutamine – essential for proper functioning of the brain. Acts as a neurotransmitter. It can convert back to glutamic acid to be processed as brain food. Is essential for the immune system and cellular replication.
  • Glycine – manufactured from serine and folate. Is an important precursor for proteins, DNA, phospholipids and creatine. Prevents muscle breakdown. Important for body builders and athletes. Eliminates phenols to detoxify the liver.
  • Proline – synthesized from ornithine and glutamic acid. Known for its role in collagen. Hydroproline aids the body in the healing of collagen and cartilage. It strengthens joints, tendons and the heart muscle.
  • Serine – found in proteins and derived from glycine. Needed for the metabolism of fats and fatty acids. It aids in muscle growth and helps promote a healthy immune system. Aids in the production of immunoglobulins and antibodies.
  • Tyrosine – found in proteins and is synthesized from phenylalanine. Is important in its role as a precursor to neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Helps to control appetite and is also involved in melatonin production.

In my next post I will breakdown the 10 essential amino acids including BCAA’s.