To understand optimal amino acid nutrition, we must first understand the relationship between proteins and amino acids.
Proteins are constructed from chains of amino acids. The specific arrangement of aminos determines the type of protein and its function. If just one amino acid is missing or defective or misplaced, the protein either cannot be made, or cannot function as intended.
Fun fact: Next to water, protein makes up the largest proportion of the human body!
Some proteins your body makes, and others your body needs from food sources. Essential amino acids are the components of dietary protein (like chicken, seafood, and poultry) that make protein building possible. For this reason, essential amino acids are the only macronutrient required for survival. So, you don’t want to skimp on protein in your diet!
How Much Protein Do I Need to Eat?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. If you are breastfeeding, then the RDA is 20 grams more to facilitate milk production, and, if you are older, then the RDA is 1 to 1.5 grams of protein.
Use this handy online calculator from the USDA to calculate your minimal protein requirements.
What’s the Best Protein to Eat?
Dietary protein, particularly in the form of organic and grass-fed meat, is the best protein to eat. Industrially-raised meat is loaded with antibiotics and hormones linked to health risks. And processed meat is packed with sugar. Stick with high-quality sources of fish, shellfish, lean meats such as chicken and turkey, beans, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and dairy (raw milk is preferable).
Amino Acid Supplements
Can you meet your MINIMUM amino acid requirements by eating a well-balanced diet? Yes, you can.
If that’s the case, are amino acid supplements necessary in amino acid nutrition? ABSOLUTELY!
That’s because an amino supplement can provide benefits that even the highest quality dietary proteins cannot. Clinical trials have shown that essential amino acid supplements can enhance muscle strength and mass, control plasma lipid levels, reduce liver fat, and speed recovery from serious injury or surgery.
Rather than subsisting on protein powders, many of which are loaded with carbs and added sugars, I recommend supplementing with an amino acid complex that’s low calorie and specifically formulated to address your amino acid requirements. On a gram-for-gram basis, essential amino acids are at least 3 times as effective as whey protein when it comes to stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Essential amino acids from a supplement are absorbed quicker and more completely, and thus reach higher peak concentrations, than when intact protein is consumed.
Amino acid supplements can be formulated to optimally stimulate muscle protein synthesis according to specific circumstances, and without unnecessary caloric intake. You can get the beneficial effects in a 4-gram dose…that’s just 16 calories!
Compare this to the calorie consequence of dietary protein—100 calories (5 times more calories than an amino supplement!). Plus, 50% or more of the calories from dietary protein come from carbs and fat and nonessential amino acids that don’t really contribute to protein synthesis.
An appropriately formulated amino acid supplement also helps maintain the optimal balance of available amino acids in the blood. Blood amino acids are critical for producing neurotransmitters, boosting immune function, and improving plasma lipid profiles.
The Best Amino Acid Supplements
Many amino acid supplements on the market are missing the crucial element: all essential amino acids need to be present in their optimal amounts. If an amino acid supplement only contains a few aminos, such as popular BCAA supplements touted for muscle building, then they will have little effect on protein synthesis. In order to synthesize complete protein, all the essential amino acids need to be accounted for.
I’m a big fan of Amyno amino acids. Amyno’s premium amino acid blends are uniquely designed to increase muscle mass and/or strength by stimulating muscle protein synthesis and increasing muscle energy. When foraging for the best amino acid supplement for your needs, check labels carefully to make sure you are benefiting from pure amino acids. Your body will thank you.
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