What's an Amino Acid?

Amino acids are literally the "building blocks of life". They are the smallest protein molecules in your body. Not only are all of your bodies proteins and muscle tissues made up of amino acids but they comprise about 75% of your bodies total solid weight. We have 20 different amino acids that sustain the growth, repair and protection of around 1,600 different proteins. Unfortunately your body doesn't store these very well so we have to continually re-supply ourselves through diet and supplementation. There are some amino acids that your body can make for itself and some it cannot. These are referred to as non-essential and essential amino acids.

What are "Non-Essential" and "Essential" amino acids?

Don't be fooled by these names. Every amino acid is essential to your bodies proper health and performance. An amino acid is considered "Non-Essential" when your body can make enough of them to stay in balance and healthy. When the term "Essential" is applied to them, it means that your body doesn't construct that amino acid or at least not enough of it to be in balance. We must obtain these "Essential" amino acids in our diets or through supplements. These two classifications come in two forms, peptide bonded and free form amino acids.

What are "Peptide Bonded" and "Free Form" amino acids?

Peptide bonded or just bonded amino acids are two or more proteins that are chemically bonded together. These can be used by the body after the act of digestion breaks them down. The act of digestion may take 4 to 6 hours to complete. Free form amino acids are singular molecules that can be rapidly assimilated into the blood stream and used within 20 or 30 minutes of ingestion. This is important because you get the most absorption of proteins or amino acids within a narrow window after you exercise. It is generally believed that this window opens 30 minutes to 45 minutes after the completion of exercise and stays open roughly 3 hours.

Why are they important?

The only thing more abundant than amino acids in our bodies is water . I've already written about the significance of getting enough water and you read that article by clicking the above link. Amino acids or protein is found not only in muscle but in bones, blood, skin, it's even found in the cartilage of your knees and throughout your body. Amino acids play a critical part in all the mechanisms involved in the process of life. If you are deficient in an amino acid your overall health will suffer. It is possible to develop depression, nausea, even obesity as your body searches for what it is missing. It's a good thing that they're easy to get through your diet but keep in mind that not all protein sources are created equal.

There are different types of proteins that aren't equal?

Yes! We have complete proteins and incomplete proteins. When a food is a complete protein it contains all the amino acids in generally equivalent amounts. Complete proteins are found in meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. Fruits and vegetables do not contain all the amino acids so they are classified as incomplete proteins. It is important to eat a balanced diet. It's important after exercise to. Almost everything you consume whether food or supplements gets processed by your liver. Your liver absorbs 3 - 4 grams of amino acids and hits capacity. Then the aminos are sent directly to the tissues that need them.

Don't think of amino acids something extra, they are important and natural. They are the very foundation of our lives and we should do all we can to ensure we get the proper amounts. We can do this by eating a balanced diet and using nutritional supplements when needed.