Are you getting an adequate intake of essential amino acids? Here’s how you can be sure you’re not lacking in these critical components to our health.
We often talk about the importance of vitamins and minerals for a range of health functions, but less talked about are amino acids. However, this doesn’t make them any less important. To the contrary, there are some key amino acids that are essential, meaning we need to obtain them through diet and supplements as our body can’t make them. But why do you require them and how can you obtain them in adequate amounts to avoid deficiency?
WHAT ARE AMINOS?
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and we need them to be able to function properly. While there are many, with varied functions, there are nine that are considered essential, which means our body doesn’t have the ability to make them, and so we need to obtain via the diet or through supplements.
Among the essential amino acids, there is leucine, methionine and tryptophan, and they will be created when you consume protein, which is then broken down into an amino acid.
In terms of specifics as to what amino acids are needed for, this includes supporting immune function, for repair, building muscle (which is why supplements are common for sportspeople), and for sleep and mood. There are also the likes of leucine for regulating blood sugar, and lysine, required for energy.
There are also branched chain amino acids, better known as BCAAs, which are popular among athletes as they can support better performance and also muscle recovery. BCAAs are simply amino acids that have a chain branded off from its molecular structure.
BOOST YOUR INTAKE
The good news is amino acids can be found in a wide variety of foods, and so if you are following a generally healthy, balanced diet, you are likely to be getting enough.
Foods to consume that contain amino acids are animal proteins, which are considered complete proteins, and include meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy products, although you can also find them in tofu. Other plant-based sources, such as beans and nuts, do contain some amino acids but are considered incomplete proteins as they don’t offer all of the essential amino acids.
If you don’t consume such foods, or if you have additional needs for amino acids, such as those who do a lot of sport and those who are vegan, then a supplement may be worthwhile. Do speak to your health food store about your specific needs, and if you are vegan, and they can recommend the correct supplement for you.