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Essential Amino Acids

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Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy
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Switch Nutrition Amino Switch
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About Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids supplements (EAAs) provide the human body's most foundational building blocks. EAAs are needed in the body for a vast number of processes, from the repair of muscle tissue after exercise to supporting liver detoxification and even aiding in neurotransmitter production in the brain. With such a wide range of metabolic processes that rely on these amino acids, any deficit can significantly impact general health as well as exercise performance and recovery.



Deficits can occur for a number of reasons, such as decreased intake of quality protein food, poor protein digestion or absorption, or an increased protein requirement. Increases in requirement for protein, or essential amino acids, can occur for a number of reasons, such as fighting an infection (cold or flue), healing after a physical injury or increases in exercise level. Interestingly, when we need essential amino acids to produce new white blood cells (immune cells) in the bone marrow, for the synthesis of immunoglobulins and also to heal damaged tissue. EAAs really are that important.


Essential amino acids supplements are also powerful stimulators of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), with decades of solid research supporting their use. MPS is an anabolic process in the muscle tissue, that leads to muscle building and repair. When the rate of MPS is the same as the rate of breakdown, muscle siZe stays the same. However, the muscle tissue protein are refreshed, like replacing worn out rope. This is a normal part of healthy muscle protein turnover.  


EAAs have been shown to stimulate MPS to a much greater degree than whey protein powders, or even high quality dietary protein. This means, they are formidable at improving muscle recovery or growth as a result of exercise, or for recouping muscle tissue losses after illness. 


Essential amino acids supplements have the tremendous advantage of being in free-form. This means that no digestion is required before absorption can take place into the blood, where they are transported to the tissues of the body. Individuals with digestive difficulties may find essential amino acids supplements more helpful than standard protein powders for this reason—they do not need to be digested by acids and enzymes, which we may not always have enough of. Additionally, they can be used before, during or after exercise, without provoking nausea, as food or protein shakes can sometimes do to those engaged in rigorous exercise. 


Some other roles of essential amino acids are as follows:

* Tryptophan- used for serotonin production, which is then used for melatonin synthesis at night, therefore helping with mood and sleep. 

* Phenylalanine- required for tyrosine, dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline production. These assist with mood, energy level, blood pressure and help to reduce addictive tendencies. 

* Lysine: needed for carnitine synthesis, which aids in mitochondrial health and the conversion of long-chain fatty acids to energy. It is also needed to support the immune system, helping to control the replication of some viruses and soft tissue strength via hydroxylysine. 


You may wish to try essential amino acids supplements between meals, to maximise muscle protein synthesis, or take them immediately before or during exercise, to offset the catabolic effects of strenuous training. Do you need to take them during a nice long walk? Unlikely. Evidence suggests that cortisol levels can actually be lowered by this form of exercise, with reductions seen for aerobic exercise up to 40% of maximal oxygen consumption. 


Three of the essential amino acids are called the branched chain amino acids, and are found in quality protein food and powders, as well as plant proteins, such as those found in plant protein powders of pea, rice, sacha inchi and chia seed etc. Proteins that contain all of the essential amino acids in appreciable amounts are generally referred to as complete proteins. These foods will also contain a substantial amount of nonessential amino acids.