What are amino acids, and which foods contain them?

Amino acids regulate the metabolism and are partly produced in the body. Others are ingested with food.

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are essential for energy production, growth, and development. They are also said to support weight reduction during diets or muscle building in athletes.

Amino acids form proteins in the body as chain-like chemical compounds. Proteins are found in all cells and used as building materials for muscles, bones, hair, and other organs.
Hormones, antibodies, and enzymes also contain amino acids as messenger substances in metabolism.

Are there different amino acids?

There are more than 250 different amino acids. Twenty-three proteinogenic amino acids are responsible for building proteins. According to their chemical structure, twenty are known as (canonical) standard amino acids. The other non-proteinogenic amino acids are not part of the body's proteins.

Proteinogenic amino acids

Essential amino acids:

  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Essential amino acids are ingested with food. Deficiency of a specific amino acid can relate to stress, competitive sports, an unbalanced diet, pregnancy, and chronic illnesses.

Essential amino acids:

  • Arginine
  • cysteine
  • histidine
  • tyrosine

Non-essential amino acids are just as important as essential amino acids. However, these are produced by the body itself. The amount of non-essential and essential amino acids produced depends on performance requirements and age.

Non-essential amino acids:

  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartate
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Groline
  • Gerine

Amino acid deficiency?

A weakened immune system and lack of drive can be signs. Other signs include concentration difficulties, inner restlessness, sleep problems, loss of performance, and depression. Furthermore, joint complaints and digestive problems can indicate an amino acid deficiency.

An amino acid deficiency is detected with a blood test known as an aminogram.
Various amino acids are available as dietary supplements from specialist retailers.
It should be noted in this context that an overdose of proteins can strain the kidneys.

Are you losing weight with amino acids?

A change in diet and exercise are essential for weight loss. Nevertheless, some amino acids can be supportive when taken in the correct dosage. The need for leucine, isoleucine and valine increases with physical exertion and dieting. Diets can also lead to a deficiency of phenylalanine, tryptophan and methionine.

Where are essential amino acids found?

Essential amino acids are found in both plant and animal protein sources. Eggs, dairy products, and muscle meat are good sources of amino acids. Vegans switch to equally good sources of amino acids such as pulses, vegetables, and tofu.

Below is a list of foods with a high nutrient density and good amino acid composition:

  • Amaranth
  • Avocados
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Beans (black, kidney, pinto)
  • Broccoli
  • Chia seeds
  • Edamame
  • Peas
  • Kale
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chickpeas
  • Linseed
  • Lentils
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts
  • Pak choi
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Sempeh
  • Tofu

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