Your body needs essential amino acids in order to function. These tiny components of proteins are responsible for everything from helping your immune system create antibodies to building muscle and even regulating the neurotransmitters in your brain. Your body can’t make anything on the essential amino acids list below on its own, and that’s why you must get yours from your diet or supplements.
Understanding Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids are classified into four major groups known as essential, nonessential, branched-chain, and conditional. Some of the amino acids fit into more than one of these groups, as well. Your body can make nonessential amino acids by breaking down the proteins you consume. Essential amino acids are those that your body cannot make on its own, and three of those are known as branched-chain amino acids. Finally, conditional amino acids are those that your body can usually make on its own, but may struggle to make enough of when your body experiences illness, stress, or trauma. Those on the essential amino acids list are easy to obtain through your diet and through supplements, however.
The Essential Amino Acids List
There are nine essential amino acids, and they each perform a variety of functions within the body.
- Histidine – Histidine is important for repairing muscles and tissues, and it helps in the formation of nerve sheaths called myelin. It also protects against radiation and removes excess heavy metals from the bloodstream.
- Lysine – Lysine is important for growth and development, calcium absorption, and the production of antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and collagen. It also helps to maintain the correct nitrogen balance in the body.
- Phenylalanine – This amino acid helps to regulate the mood, memory, and overall focus by improving the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain known as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
- Methionine – Methionine helps the body break down fat and use it for energy. This can improve testosterone levels and even aid in the loss of stored fat, known as adipose tissue.
- Leucine – Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that is crucial to the growth, maintenance, and repair of lean muscle tissue. It also heals wounds, provides energy, and prevents the breakdown of muscle tissue.
- Isoleucine – This is similar to leucine, but is even better at healing wounds. The body uses it primarily in the creation of hemoglobin, which is necessary for the formation of blood clots.
- Valine – Valine is also important for the grown and repair of muscle tissue, particularly in terms of maintaining nitrogen balances within those tissues. It also preserves glucose use to help improve stamina.
- Threonine – Threonine helps to regulate liver function, maintains the immune system by forming antibodies, and helps the body absorb proteins.
- Tryptophan – Tryptophan helps your body produce serotonin, which is important for your overall wellbeing. It also plays a very large role in nitrogen retention.
Although this essential amino acids list is vital to many of your bodily functions and systems, your body can’t make them by breaking down other proteins. You’ll need to get them from your diet or through nutritional supplements, and most fitness enthusiasts choose both to ensure that they cover the full spectrum of amino acids.