Amino acids are popularly referred to as the building blocks of protein. Each of them provides different functions, thus, they’re needed by our body to function properly. There are 20 types of amino acids that our body needs. 11 of them can be produced internally but 9 of them can be obtained through foods or dietary supplements.
Those that the body produces naturally are called non-essential amino acids while those we need to intake are called essential amino acids. Each of their unique function will be explained in detail later in this article.
Essential Amino Acids
These types of amino acids can’t be synthesized by the body. Thus, we must obtain them through vegetables, meat, or supplementary products.
1. Branched-chain amino acids (isoleucine, leucine, and valine)
These amino acids are classified as one because unlike all types of amino acids, their molecular structures divert to another branch.
BCAA supplements are very popular especially for individuals with an active lifestyle. It provides energy and promotes growth and fast recovery of muscles after a workout. Among other essential amino acids, they represent about 35% to 40% present in your body. And an estimated 14% to 18% of BCAAs can be found in muscle tissues.
Histidine is essential in maintaining the body’s normal pH level of 7. This is made by transporting protons to regulate the balance of acids or bases in the blood and tissues. Also, it helps in oxygen circulation in the body.
It’s also commonly used in the treatment of certain medical conditions such as anemia, ulcers, kidney disease, allergic reactions, and rheumatoid arthritis.
It promotes muscle development and recovery if an injury occurs. It’s also used in the creation of creatinine—a compound that is essential and found in certain cells of the body. Additionally, it helps your body burn stored fats in the body.
Lysine’s primary health benefits may include reducing the effects of anxiety, enhance calcium absorption, treating cold sores, and promote faster wound healing.
Methionine provides a unique function in the body. One of its main responsibilities is to support the synthesis of proteins from your cells. It also has sulfur which can stimulate the production of other molecules that contain sulfur as well.
Health benefits include reducing risks of liver disease, faster wound recovery, treat rashes from allergies, and lessen the effects of depression.
This type of amino acid is split into two identities which are D-phenylalanine and L-phenylalanine.
They have a similar molecular structure but with slightly different features. The L-phenylalanine, for example, is obtained through plant or meat sources. On the other hand, D-phenylalanine is used for medical purposes.
Phenylalanine supports protein synthesis and may also help the production of certain compounds such as neurotransmitters.
According to studies, it may have medicinal value for depression, skin diseases, and as a pain reliever. However, it also shows that it can harm individuals suffering from a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria.
Threonine supports the health of the liver, nervous system, heart, and strengthens our immune system.
It’s used to synthesize serine and glycine. These types of chemicals are specifically vital to the brain; it helps to reduce symptoms of muscle constrictions. It also aids the production of elastin and collagens.
Tryptophan provides many essential functions in our body such as the production of niacin which is used to synthesize serotonin. Also, it helps in regulating the balance of nitrogen in our body.
It is divided into two types—the D-tryptophan and L-tryptophan. They’re almost the same with a slight distinction in their molecular structure.
Non-Essential Amino Acids
These types of amino acids are naturally formed in the human body. However, there are cases that it might deteriorate due to aging and negative lifestyles. Thus, a dietary supplement may be necessary to account for the deficient amino acid.
Alanine is usually found in our plasma. It’s known for its contribution in boosting the immune system, muscle tissue development, and improving cognitive abilities.
It also helps in the conversion of sugars into glucose which is in turn used by our body for energy.
This amino acid stimulates the production of growth hormones. A decrease in the production of growth hormone causes our muscle mass to deteriorate as we age while fats increases.
It’s also responsible for keeping our skin elastic and healthier. Insufficient amounts of arginine in our body results in less flexible and thinner skin.
Asparagine is primarily known for its contribution to the creation of glycoproteins. Its other function includes supporting chemical balance with the nervous system. Also, asparagine strengthens your defenses against fatigue and enhances liver health.
4. Aspartic acid
It plays a major in protein synthesis but it’s also shown to provide energy. Aspartic acid is particularly important in improving physical endurance and cognitive health. It supports the functions of DNA and RNA. It’s also important in the production of antibodies and immunoglobulin.
Cysteine improves the function of white blood cells. Increased activity of white blood cells protects us from diseases and prevents the development of disorders. It’s also crucial in skin recovery after a surgical procedure.
6. Glutamic acid
Aside from its role in protein synthesis, glutamic acid also acts as a neurotransmitter. It’s also considered as one of the general excitatory neurotransmitters in the nervous system.
Glutamic acid helps ensure that cells are functioning properly.
This type of amino acid is found to be active in the metabolic process. It particularly helps in the conversion of glucose to be used as the body’s fuel source. Also, it helps in regulating your pH and blood sugar levels.
Glycine plays a major role in maintaining a healthy digestive system. It promotes the proper synthesis of bile acids to aid the digestion of fats.
Also, it acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, particularly in the spinal cord and retina.
Proline is essential in collagen synthesis which ensures the proper functioning of tendons and joints. It also promotes a healthy heart.
Serine is synthesized through another type of amino acid called glycine. This amino acid is found to be beneficial to the digestive and nervous system.
This amino acid is used as a compound for synthesizing neurotransmitters. It contributes to increasing the levels of neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline and dopamine.