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What are essential amino acids?

by Natasha Whiting

What are essential amino acids?

Amino acids are compounds that play an important role in the functioning of our bodies. Amino acids build proteins, boost our mood, and increase our energy levels.

Amino acids fall into three categories: essential, conditionally essential or non-essential. Let's look at essential amino acids in a little more detail.

What are essential amino acids?

Amino acids are made of nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. There are various types of amino acids - 20 that your body needs to function as it should. However, only nine amino acids are essential.

The nine essential amino acids are valine, lysine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, threonine, methionine, isoleucine, histidine and leucine. They cannot be made by our bodies, so we must consume these through our diet or via supplementation.

How to consume amino acids

Common sources of essential amino acids are animal proteins such as eggs, meat, and poultry. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can get amino acids through foods such as quinoa, hemp seeds, buckwheat, tofu, tempeh, and spirulina. Some other plant proteins, such as nuts and beans, do have amino acids present but they are incomplete sources, as they are all lacking at least one amino acid.

How much amino acid to take

Most people receive adequate amino acids through their diet. However, many people benefit from taking extra amino acids through a supplement. Here are some of the benefits:

- Tryptophan produces serotonin, which regulates mood and improves sleep. This means that a substitute with tryptophan can boost mood and tackle insomnia.
- A few different amino acids work really well to improve exercise performance. Working together, these amino acids can help athletes and give them more energy.
- Amino acids can also help combat muscle loss. Amino acids help the muscles to sustain their protein synthesis, maintaining their strength.
- Amino acids can also help with weight loss. Studies have shown that people with amino acid supplementation have less body fat percentage than those who trained with sports drinks or protein shakes.

Bearing this in mind, it might be beneficial to take an amino acid supplement. These can be bought on their own or you could try Kollo, a collagen supplement which contains amino acids and other essential vitamins.
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