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How Essential Amino Acids Help Build a Beautiful Life

How Essential Amino Acids Help Build a Beautiful Life

If you were to look at our bodies at the cellular level, almost as small as the atomic level (which is as small as you can get), you would see that we are little more than a series of chemicals bonded together.

Our bodies may look like flesh and bone…and we are.

But our flesh, our bones, and everything else are really made up of tiny molecules known as amino acids.

While over 500 amino acids naturally occur in nature, just a handful help form the proteins that make up the human body.

Which is what I’ll be focusing on today.

Amino acids are tiny building blocks that make up proteins. They're made mostly of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, which are elements in the periodic table.

Your body needs 20 different kinds of amino acids to grow and work right.

Of these 20, 9 are super important and called "essential amino acids (EAAs).” 

Your body can make some amino acids independently but can't make the essential ones.

So, you need to eat foods that have them (or get them from supplements).

When you eat proteins, your body breaks them down into amino acids and uses them to do important jobs like building muscles and helping your immune system work well.

In this article, I’ll explain how important it is to build your diet around EAAs and the best sources of EAAs.

What are EAAs and What Are They Good For?

When discussing EAAs as essential for health and life, I think it's easy to gloss over what that means.

Just like water is essential, we take things like that for granted, yet millions of people walk around dehydrated and feeling awful because of it.

All for a lack of water in their lives.

EAAs are no different.

I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m sure millions of people worldwide feel terrible because their diet consists of foods that aren’t filled with EAAs.

Now, let’s talk about the EAAs.

These special ones are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Here’s what they do:

1 - Phenylalanine: Your body changes this amino acid into important chemicals like tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These help make proteins and enzymes work well and also help create other amino acids.

2- Valine: This is one of three special amino acids called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) because it has a side chain. Valine helps your muscles grow and fix themselves and also helps make energy.

3 -Threonine: This amino acid is a major component of proteins like collagen and elastin, which are crucial for your skin and connective tissues. It also helps break down fats and keeps your immune system healthy.

4 - Tryptophan: Known for making you feel sleepy, tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin, which controls your appetite, sleep, and mood.

5 - Methionine: This amino acid is important for breaking down foods and getting rid of toxins. It's needed for growing tissues and absorbing minerals like zinc and selenium, which are very important for your health.

6 - Leucine: Another BCAA, like valine, helps make and fix proteins in your muscles. It also helps check your blood sugar levels, heal wounds, and make growth hormones.

7 - Isoleucine: The third BCAA, isoleucine, helps with muscle metabolism and is found in muscle tissue. It’s also crucial for your immune system, making hemoglobin and regulating energy.

8 - Lysine: Lysine is key for making proteins, absorbing calcium, and producing hormones and enzymes. It also helps with energy production, immune health, and making collagen and elastin.

9 - Histidine: Your body uses histidine to make histamine, which is important for immune response, digestion, sexual function, and sleep patterns. It also helps protect your nerve cells with a shield called the myelin sheath.

If you read my writings, you’ll see I’ve touched on BCAAs plenty of times. That’s actually why my wife’s company, Momsanity, made a BCAA supplement: We know that there are times when people don’t get enough of them.

I’ve either touched on the 6 others loosely or spent a great deal of time talking about them (like tryptophan).

But what happens when you get the right amount of EAAs in your diet daily?

It Can Boost Mood:

One of the most important neurotransmitters is serotonin, which helps control mood and sleep. Without adequate serotonin levels, you might feel depressed or have trouble sleeping.

Studies indicate taking tryptophan supplements can make you feel happier and less anxious.

Healthline writes:
“A review that included 11 high quality studies found that taking 0.14–3 grams (g) of tryptophan per day could help decrease anxiety and increase positive mood in generally healthy people.”

Helps Boost Athletic Performance:

BCAAs (valine, leucine, and isoleucine) can help with athletic performance. They can lessen fatigue and help you recover faster after exercising.

One small study showed that athletes who took BCAAs felt less sore and performed better than those who didn’t.

Another review found that BCAAs are better than just resting for muscle recovery and reducing soreness after tough workouts. There's also proof that BCAAs can make workouts feel easier.

Helps With Wound Healing:

Taking EAAs can also help if you’re healing from surgery.

In a study with people who had broken bones, those who took special amino acids for two weeks after surgery had fewer problems than those who just had regular food.

Some reviews even showed that people with cancer who took BCAAs during surgery had fewer issues with infections and fluid build-up.

A study also found that essential amino acid supplements can help older adults keep their muscle size while recovering from knee replacement surgery.

Best Foods for EAAs and How Much to Get Daily

Now, since your body can't make essential amino acids on its own, you need to eat foods that contain them (or take supplements).

Fortunately, almost all foods I recommend (i.e., real ones) have EAAs.

They include

  • Red Meat
  • Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Pork
  • Soy (though I don’t recommend soy often)
  • Pea protein

While you can get some EAAs from other sources (like beans, nuts, and some grains), they don’t have all the essential amino acids, so they're called incomplete proteins.

But, if you eat a mix of plant proteins daily—like beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and veggies—you'll still get all the essential amino acids you need, even without animal products.

As far as daily amounts for essential amino acids based on every 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of body weight, you should get roughly the following:

- Histidine: 10 milligrams (mg)
- Isoleucine: 20 mg
- Leucine: 39 mg
- Lysine: 30 mg
- Methionine: 10.4 mg
- Phenylalanine (plus tyrosine, which isn't essential): 25 mg
- Threonine: 15 mg
- Tryptophan: 4 mg
- Valine: 26 mg

To figure out how much you need to eat daily, just multiply these numbers by your weight in kilograms. For example, if you weigh 60 kg (132 lb), you should get 1,200 mg (or 1.2 g) of isoleucine daily. Most diets give you more than enough of these amino acids, so you don't really need to count each one…especially if you eat like I recommend.

Hopefully, this will help you understand how EAAs work, why they’re critical, and how to get more of them in your diet every day. 

 

 

Talk soon,

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