What Do Amino Acids Do?

As a fitness enthusiast and a woman on a mission to sculpt the most enviable physique, I've dived deep into the labyrinth of nutrition science. And what has my quest thrown at me? Amino acids. Now, these aren't some alien molecules designed for astronauts. They're the fundamental building blocks of proteins which, in turn, are the building blocks of our bodies.

  • Amino acids are essential molecules utilized by all living organisms for protein synthesis. The proper functioning of your body relies on the presence of 20 distinct amino acids.

Digital representation of a complex amino acid molecule, depicted with interconnected spheres and rods to illustrate atoms and bonds.

If we break down my favorite protein shake – the Chocolate Smooth flavor from MyProtein – it's just a jumble of these amino acids. The label says it contains 21g of protein, but really, it's delivering a cocktail of 20 different amino acids. 9 of these are the much-hyped ‘essential amino acids', which the body can't make on its own. They're ‘essential' in the same way that my Giorgio Armani lipstick in Rouge D'Armani Matte is – I might not produce it myself, but you bet I can't live without it!

The truth is, without these 9 pivotal players, from leucine to tryptophan, our bodies struggle to build lean muscle. Here's an equation to remember: essential amino acids + resistance training = a lean, mean muscular machine. The science is clear as day – a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that supplementing with leucine, in particular, can stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Overdoing it on the amino acid supplements can lead to a messed up balance in the body. Just like in life, balance is key – in love, in that Pilates class, and, yes, even in your amino acid intake. I'm talking nausea, bloating and other unpleasantries if you really go to town on those supplements. Remember: moderation is not just wisdom, it's the secret to sustained success.

So, as I lace up my Nike Air Max trainers for my early morning workout, I know that my body is prepped with all the amino acids it needs to endure the session. And when I'm pushing through that final, excruciating rep, it's the amino acids working behind the scenes, repairing my muscles, fueling my resolve, and creating the transformation I crave.

Just last month, I decided to experiment with a shiny new bottle of BCAA capsules from Optimum Nutrition. These bad boys promised a potent mix of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, the three musketeers of essential amino acids that are all the rage in the bodybuilding community. The first few days, I felt like Superman's more athletic cousin.

My energy was through the roof, and I was hitting personal bests on my squats and deadlifts. But then, the side-effects crept in. Let's just say my digestive system wasn't thrilled about this new addition to the diet, turning my typically zen yoga sessions into a game of ‘Will I or Won't I?.

It was a humbling reminder that the body doesn't appreciate being bombarded with large doses of anything, even something as essential as amino acids. So, I swapped the handful of capsules for a balanced intake through wholesome foods: Greek yogurt for breakfast, grilled chicken for lunch, and a hearty lentil soup for dinner.

The result? A happier gut, sustained energy levels, and a fresh appreciation for the power of whole foods. So, before you get lured by the glossy promise of quick results, remember – there's no substitute for balance and patience.


An assortment of high-protein foods

Time to tantalize your taste buds with an amino acid feast, darling! Don't worry; you don't need a fancy chef. With a little culinary flair, you can whip up gourmet delights that'll have your body dancing with joy.

The High-Protein Extravaganza:

  1. Lean Meats: Think tender chicken, succulent turkey, and juicy beef.
  2. Fishy Fantasies: From omega-3-rich salmon to flaky tuna, seafood is a treasure trove.
  3. Egg-cellent Choices: Eggs, darling! Whether you prefer them scrambled, poached, or sunny-side-up, eggs deliver an array of AA's.
  4. Dairy Delights: Cheese, Greek yogurt, and milk – embrace the dairy divas that grace your meals with their protein prowess.

The Plant-Power Medley:

  1. Legume Love: Embrace beans, lentils, and chickpeas, providing plant-based protein and essential amino acids.
  2. Seeds of Strength: Chia, flax, hemp – tiny wonders rich in protein and amino acids to sprinkle on your dishes.
  3. Nutty Nibbles: Almonds, walnuts, and cashews – your nutty companions on this amino acid journey.
  4. Grains with Gain: Quinoa, buckwheat, and oats – grains that offer a complete set of amino acids to keep you going strong.

The Leafy Ensemble:

  1. Popeye's Pal: Spinach, a nutrient-rich green with amino acids, vitamins, and iron to nourish you to the core.
  2. Kaleidoscope of Nutrients: Kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard – a symphony of greens delivering healthful amino acids.
  3. Broccoli Brilliance: Embrace those little green trees that bring essential amino acids and a boost to your immune system.

The Fruity Serenade:

  1. Berry Bliss: Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries – nature's sweet treats offering a touch of protein and amino acid delight.
  2. Banana Bonanza: Rich in amino acids, potassium, and natural sugars – your go-to for a pre or post-workout boost.
Amino AcidDescription
LeucineThe muscle maestro, orchestrating protein synthesis and muscle growth like a seasoned conductor.
IsoleucineLeucine's trusty sidekick, promoting muscle repair and fueling your workouts with enthusiasm.
ValineCompleting the trio of BCAAs, Valine steps in to regulate energy and keep the muscles in harmony.
MethionineThe detox diva, purifying your cells with its sulfuric charm.
PhenylalanineA mood maestro, producing dopamine and norepinephrine, painting a canvas of blissful emotions.
TryptophanKnown for its calming influence, it lights up the path to serene slumbers by producing melatonin.
ThreonineThe team player, supporting the immune system and fostering collagen for healthy skin.
LysineThe guardian of your precious calcium, ensuring strong bones and protecting against cold sores.
HistidineThe true hero behind histamine, essential for immunity and aiding in digestion.
ArginineThe circulation champion, widening blood vessels and pumping vitality into your cardiovascular system.
CysteineA beauty agent, contributing to healthy hair, skin, and nails with its keratin support.
AlanineThe glucose provider, furnishing energy to muscles when you're in high-performance mode.
AsparagineA cellular courier, ferrying nitrogen where it's needed and maintaining balance in the nervous system.
Aspartic AcidThe memory maestro, supporting cognitive function and neural communication.
Glutamic AcidThe learning enthusiast, enhancing memory and cognition like a mental acrobat.
GlutamineA cellular multitasker, providing fuel for various cells and promoting gut health.
GlycineThe sleep savior, soothing the nervous system and ensuring restful nights.
ProlineThe collagen builder, giving structure and strength to tendons and cartilage.
SerineA neurotransmitter's confidante, regulating mood and promoting mental alertness.
TyrosineThe stress-buster, supporting adrenaline and dopamine production, and enhancing resilience.