Whether you are a star athlete, just starting out on your fitness journey or fall somewhere in between it’s likely that you understand the importance that proteins, fats and carbohydrates play in your dietary health. Still there are other factors that affect your dietary health, which you should be aware of as well and they are called essential amino acids. Rightly named due to the fact that you need them to survive, these essential amino acids play a pivotal role in your life and yet, how much do you actually know about them?
Here are the most important main points that you should know about essential amino acids.
- Essential Amino Acids Are The Building Blocks Of Protein
- Essential Amino Acids Cannot All Be Produced By Your Body
- You Can Get All Of Your Essential Amino Acids By Eating Whole Foods
- Don’t Worry About Consuming All Essential Amino Acids In One Meal
1. Building Blocks of Protein
You know that you need protein to live, but did you know that once your body uses the protein to build and maintain healthy muscles, bones and skin it’s the essential amino acids that are left? These essential amino acids cannot be produced by your body and must be acquired through a healthy and well balanced diet. Whole foods such as meat, fish, poultry, beans, dairy, nuts and seeds are the best sources of protein and thus some of the best sources to gain these essential amino acids.
2. The Nine You Cannot Produce
There are nine essential amino acids. An essential amino acid is one that your body cannot produce on its own. All together there are twenty amino acids but your body can produce eleven of them, classifying them as non-essential. That doesn’t mean that your body still does not need these to survive, only that you do not need to get them from your diet.
The nine essential amino acids are:
When you do not consume enough of your essential amino acids through your dietary intake your body begins to use its own proteins (found in your muscles and organs) to fill in the blanks of those missing amino acids. If this process continues for too long it can cause degeneration of your muscle tissue and organs, creating serious health problems.
3. Eat A Variety Of Whole Foods
You may think that vitamins or supplements is a good way to ensure that you are getting enough of the essential amino acids in your diet, and while that’s true it isn’t always necessary. The key is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of different protein sources everyday. Eating only chicken and yogurt everyday as your protein sources will not give you the supply of essential amino acids you need to thrive.
A better alternative is to switch up your protein source everyday. Don’t worry about getting all of your amino acids in at every meal though, as long as you are eating a healthy and varied diet it is probably safe to say that you are already maintaining your essential amino acid intake.
Bodybuilders focus a bit more heavily on the branched-chain amino acids or BCAA than the average person. This is because they have been shown to increase energy, performance and recovery when it comes to intense exercises. There are three BCAA’s including: valine, isoleucine and leucine. While these can be attained through whole foods many bodybuilders stock up on these essential amino acids through the use of supplements to ensure their intake is adequate for their physique goals.
4. You Can Mix And Match What You Want
It was once believed that in order for your proteins and amino acids to be effective you needed to eat incomplete proteins together as a part of the same meal to ensure that you were creating a complete protein for your body to use. It has since been proven that this is not the case and that your body can use incomplete proteins as is to increase your essential amino acids.
Of course if you can create complete proteins from your meals that will ensure that you are attaining all nine essential amino acids, but it’s not necessary. More important than worrying about consuming the right amino acids in the right order is making sure that you are eating a variety of protein sources every day or even with every meal. When you focus on eating a variety of protein sources, whole grains, and healthy fats you are focusing on balancing your amino acids without even trying.
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