Amino AcidsWhat are Amino Acids?
With the market place currently being saturated with many different forms of amino acid products
, the potential user is left scratching his head as to which kind to take, which brand to use, when to take them, or more fundamentally - why take them in the first place. As a consumer you are faced with amino acids that are; predigested, free form, hydrolysates, branched chained, made from egg, made from casein, liquids, powders, capsules, tablets, time-released and more. When you read the magazine advertisements, they all present a case as to why "theirs is better". With the minimal amount of factual background and understanding of the subject that most potential users have, the choice typically falls to choosing the product with the classiest, sexiest, or most outlandish advertisement. Of course, the only results that these advertisements produce is more sales for the advertiser. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on this field. With a fundamental understanding of the issues you can, then, make an educated and sensible purchase that will help you to advance the achievement of your goals. Therefore, let's start with the very basics.What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are organic molecules that form the basic constituents of protein. Proteins are simply collections of large particles of accumulated links of peptides (or poly-peptides). In the digestion process proteins are broken down, in a process called hydrolyzation, from poly-peptides to smaller oligo-peptides, then to di-peptides or tri-peptides, which are made up of two or three links of specific amino acids, called free form amino acids, that are finally absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, we can see that amino acids are, quite simply, the most basic building blocks of proteins.
Typically, discussions of amino acids
revolve around about 20 or so amino acids that are involved in body function. Of these, 8 (some say 10) are deemed to be essential due to the fact that; 1) the body can not make them so that they must be taken in from an external source, and 2) the body can not survive with a deficiency of any one of them. The essential amino acids are; Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Methionine, Lysine, Threonine, Phenylalanine, and yes, Tryptophan. The first three, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, are commonly referred to as the branched chained amino acids and are of particular importance due to their ability to provide the body with about 70% of its nitrogen needs. Studies have shown that a shortage of branched chained amino acids, coupled with increased physical demands on the body, can lead to a cannibalization of muscle tissue to respond to the body's need for nitrogen.What do Amino Acids Do?
In the human body, amino acids not only form the building blocks of our voluntary, or skeletal, muscle tissue, such as the biceps, quadriceps, etc., but they also form the building blocks of our less ego oriented involuntary muscles, such as the heart. In addition to this muscle building function, each individual amino acid has a specific function in the body. These functions include among others in; assisting in transporting long chain triglycerides, or dietary fat, into the cells for energy; stimulating the pituitary to secrete growth hormone, which is involved in developing lean muscle tissue as well as mobilizing fatty acids from the adipose tissue (i.e., dropping bodyfat); supplying the body with nitrogen; and much, much, more.Who Should Take Amino Acids?
From the previous discussion we can see that an obvious source of amino acids is from the dietary intake of protein. However, as we will now see there are some reasons that this source may not always be the most desirable. First, a quick look down the nutrition charts will reveal that foods that are high in protein tend to, also, be high in fat. Second, as we age our level of digestive enzymes tends to decrease, thus impairing our ability to efficiently utilize proteins. At best, our digestive systems are extremely inefficient. Third, for the athlete, meals that present an incomplete amino acid profile (i.e., a shortage of the essential amino acids) to our system will be of marginal use to the muscle building process. Therefore, a well balanced amino acid supplement
can prove to be extremely cost effective for individuals desiring to maximize their protein intake at a minimal caloric cost.What Kinds to Take?
As was mentioned earlier the end products in the digestion (hydrolyzation) of protein are tri-peptides, di-peptides, and free form amino acids. Therefore, it stands to reason, that if we are looking to take in proteins with a minimal amount of further digestion required, then we should try to find protein sources that are already close to this end state. Free form amino acids and high-degree hydrolysates with a good supply of the eight essentials are excellent choices to fill this need. Unfortunately, there are many suppliers of amino acid supplements that take the "short cut" (to profits) by producing products that are very little more than egg, milk, whey, or soy protein compressed into a pill and sold as an amino acid product. Do these products contain amino acids? Yes. Are you getting a supplement that is going to give you a large amount of usable end products, without loss due to digestion? No. A quality amino acid product
will either be a complete free form product or a free form/hydrolysate mix that identifies a quality base material, such as casein (milk protein) or egg protein, and that the hydrolyzation process was conducted using the same protein-splitting enzymes that are used in the human digestive process (i.e., pancreatic enzymes). As a side issue, there are constructional constraints (that are unrelated to P.E.R.) that make casein the best choice for a base material. In addition, since the object of amino acid supplementation is to rapidly and efficiently supply the body with these protein end products, the notion of timed-release amino acids is rather comical.
Typically, due to its cost to benefit ratio, we will use the hydrolysates for individuals looking to maximize protein at a minimum cost (yes, dollars too). However, for certain individuals, such as athletes that are within 6 weeks of a bodybuilding contest, we will recommend specific free form configurations. In addition to satisfying an increased protein need, we will suggest specific blends of amino acids such as the branched chained amino acids, the "GH releasers", or other configurations of specific free form amino acids based on the individual's needs.When to Take Amino Acids?
It must be kept in mind that the timing, as well as the presence of certain co-factors, such as vitamins and minerals, are essential to the success of these programs. By understanding the processes that ultimately lead these building blocks to the muscle cells it is possible to optimize their usage. At the Center we always recommend that amino acids (with the exception of specific free form combinations, i.e, GH releasers) should be taken with meals. The reason for this is three fold. First, we are not chickens. We do not deal well with swallowing hard masses. The meal serves as a buffering, or softening, agent for the aminos. Second, if we eat a meal that has an incomplete amino acid profile then the muscle building benefits will be considerably reduced. A quality amino acid supplement can help us to "get more" from our meals. Third, the transport of amino acids from the bloodstream into the muscle cells appears to be regulated by the hormone, insulin. Due to the fact that our meals traditionally have some carbohydrate value, the corresponding insulin release will facilitate the increased utilization of the amino acids. The prior reasoning combined with considerable clinical experience has led us to utilize this administration approach that, while flying in the face of traditional "gym wisdom", has led us to produce a considerable number of world class athletes.Capsules VS. Tablets?
One of the more controversial topics regarding aminos today is capsule absorption versus the value of using tablets. In past years, capsules definitely proved to have a quicker entry time into the system. However this is no longer true. Due to advances in tabletting technology, using magnesium stearate and various brewers yeast bases, the modern tablet today can actually dissolve faster than most capsules. The true value of capsules today is the simple fact that you do not have binders, fillers or coating, some of which may contain potentially allergenic factors. Don't let yourself get caught up in the mass advertising hype pertaining to this matter. The simple truth is they are both good. It's simply your choice as to which you prefer to take.Truth in Labeling
In conclusion, when purchasing amino acids be sure you understand what you are getting. Some manufacturers take "poetic license" with their label descriptions which, while being legally proper, can in many cases be misleading. Understand the difference between free form and hydrolyzed amino acids and above all, ensure that the product you are using has not been beefed up with soy, calcium sulfate, or cheap forms of protein powders to increase the label amino acid profile. One quick and effective test, to ascertain the degree of hydrolyzation for a "hydrolysate" is to quite simply bite into the tablet. It should be bitter and repulsive. If it tastes good you are probably getting nothing more than an expensive tabletted protein powder and not what you paid for. This brings up another equally poor choice for an amino acid delivery system: liquid aminos. In order to mask the horrible taste that is inherent to the high degree hydrolysate/free form products, these liquids, like their low quality pill counterparts, tend to use very low levels of aminos fortified with an inexpensive protein food, and then are sweetened with sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup. Not a great recipe for success.ARGININE
Studies have shown that is has improved immune responses to bacteria, viruses & tumor cells; promotes wound healing and regeneration of the liver; causes the release of growth hormones; considered crucial for optimal muscle growth and tissue repair.ALANINE
This non - essential amino acid which may be considered essential under some circumstances, is an important source of energy for muscle tissue, the brain and central nervous system, helps in the metabolism of sugars and organic acids, and may also help stabilize the blood glucose levels in people with hypoglycemia.ASPARTIC ACID
Aspartic Acid is a non - essential amino acid, aiding in the expulsion of harmful ammonia from the body. When ammonia enters the circulatory system it acts as a highly toxic substance which can be harmful to the central nervous system. Its ability to increase endurance is thought to be a result of its role in clearing ammonia from the system. Athletes use it to promote stamina and endurance. The popular sweetener Aspartame is a combination of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Aspartic acid is considered nontoxic. Some research has shown that aspartic acid might be useful in opiate withdrawal.CYSTINE
Functions as a powerful antioxidant and an immune support substance, neutralizing free radicals. It can help slow down the aging process. It is necessary for the formation of the skin, which aids in the recovery from burns and surgical operations.GLUCOSAMINE
Glucosamine consists of glucose combined with the amino acid Glutamic Acid. Soaring Eagle Ventures sells Flex-Flow which contains Glucosamine Sulfate. Studies have shown that Glucosamine Sulfate may be of use in treating osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. This natural nutrient provides the body with an important raw material that appears to halt the disease process itself. In the body, the main action of glucosamine on joints is to stimulate the manufacture of substances necessary for joint repair. Glucosamine has also been shown to exert a protective effect against joint destruction and, when taken orally, is selectively taken up by joint tissues to exert a powerful therapeutic effect.GLUTAMIC ACID
This amino acid has been shown to improve mental capacities, speeds the healing of process of ulcersand gives a lift from fatigue. It also helps control alcoholism and the craving for sugar.GLYCINE
A non-essential amino acid, is required by the body for the mainainence of the central nervous system, and in men glycine plays an essential role in maintaining healthy prostate functions. It helps trigger the release of oxygen to the energy requiring cell-making process as well as providing nutrients to support a strong immune system and free radical fighter.HISTIDINE
This non-essential amino acid is found abundantly in hemoglobin; Histadine maintains nutrients for the myelin sheaths which surround and insulate nerves. Histidine is required for the production of histamine, and is often used in the treatment of anemia, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory reactions.ISOLEUCINE
An essential amino acid, Isoleucine is necessary for hemoglobin formation,stabilizing and regulating blood sugar and energy levels. Deficiencies may contribute to muscle twitching and tremors.LEUCINE
LEUCINE is an essential amino acid that cannot be synthesized by the body but must always be acquired from dietary sources.Leucine promotes the healing of bones, skin and muscle tissue. Because Leucine cannot be made by the body from other sources, it is very important to maintain adequate amounts in your diet or by additional supplementation.LYSINE
Lysine is one of the essential amino acids that cannot be manufactured by the human body. It insures the adequate absorption of calcium; helps form collagen which makes up bone cartilage & connective tissues; aids in the production of antibodies, hormones & enzymes. Recent studies have shown that Lysine is known for its ability to fight the Herpes Simplex-1 virus and cold sores.METHIONINE
Methionine is an essential amino acid that is not manufactured by your body. Is a principle supplier of sulfur which improves the tone of your skin, promotes growth and conditions your hair as well as strengthen your nails. The sulphur also protects the cells from airborne pollutants, such as smog, slows down the aging process in the cells, and is involved with the production of protein. Methionine is an excellent chelator of heavy metals,such as lead, cadmium and mercury, binding them and aiding in their excretion from the body. It can help aid in some cases of allergy because it reduces histamine release.PHENYLALAINE
Phenylalaine is an essential amino acid. Phenylalanine comes in two forms which mirror images each other: L-phenylalanine has nutritional value, and D-phenylalanine has painkilling and depression alleviating properties. DL-phenylalanine, is a 50/50 mixture of these two forms. Phenylalanine activity is enhanced by additional Vitamin B 6, which has been shown by studies on depression.PROLINE
Proline is a non-essential amino acid, which improves skin texture, proper functioning of joints and tendons, and also helps maintain and strengthen heart muscles. Proline is most effective when adequate Vitamin C is supplied at the same time.THREONINE
Threonine, an essential amino acid is an important constituent in many body proteins and is necessary for the formation of tooth enamel protein, elastin, and collagen.It also has a minor role in controlling fat buildup in the liver, helps the digestive and intestinal tracts function more smoothly and can be helpful in some cases of depression.TRYPTOPHAN
This essential amino acid, which many of us recognize with the "overdose" of turkey on Thanksgiving day - wow what a natural relaxant. But more seriously, it helps control hyperactivity, relieves stress, suppresses the appetite and enhances the release of growth hormones. There is a common thread here. All of these things are affected by the level of serotonin. And tryptophan is also a precursor of serotonin. Studies have shown that experimenting with tryptophan supplements with moderately obese people, while on a calorie-restricted diet lost significantly more weight than people who received a placebo.VALINE
Valine is an essential amino acid that is helpful in muscle building (along with isoleucine and leucine) and in liver and gallbladder disease. Valine has a stimulant effect. Healthy growth depends on it. A deficiency results in a negative hydrogen alance in the body.TYROSINE
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that is used by the thyroid gland to produce one of the major hormones, Thyroxin. This hormone regulates growth rate, metabolic rate, skin health and mental health. It is used in the treatment of anxiety, allergies and headaches.Tyrosine can act as a mild appetite suppressant. It may also be useful in the control of anxiety or depression. Tyrosine is known as the "antidepressant" amino acid.SERINE
Serine is a non-essential amino acid that is needed for the metabolism of fats and fatty acids, muscle growth and a healthy immune system. There is some concern that elevated serine levels (especially in sausage and lunch meats) can cause immune suppression and psychological symptoms as in cerebral allergies.TAURINE
Taurine is a non-essential amino acid that functions electrically active tissues such as the brain and heart to help stabilize cell membranes. Supplements decrease the tendency to develop abnormal heart arrythmias after heart attacks. People with congestive heart failure have also responded to supplementation with improved cardiac and respiratory function.