What are amino acids?
Essentially Amino Acids are the chemical building blocks of life. They band together in your body to form peptides and polypeptides which create proteins. They are involved in many functions throughout the body. They are crucial to life and without them you would not survive. An Amino acid is made up of a group of molecules. These molecules are an amine group, a carboxylic acid group, a hydrogen atom and varying side chains or R groups depending on which amino acid it is. Amino acids make up about 75% of your body. There are 20 different types of amino acids that make proteins in your body and they are classified into the following groups:
- Aliphatic Amino Acids
- A Cyclic Amino Acids
- Amino Acids with Hydroxyl or Sulfur side chains
- Aromatic Amino Acids
- Basic Amino Acids
- Acidic Amino Acids
Of the 20 Amino acids that create protein there are 8 that are known as the essential Amino Acids. These are the amino acids that cannot be produced by the human body. These amino acids are called isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, threonine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and valine.
Where do amino acids come from?
Where an amino acid comes from depends on whether it is one of the 12 non-essential amino acids or one of the 8 essential amino acids. The 12 non-essential amino acids are made by the human body. There is no exact place in your body that produces amino acids. It takes place in your cells as they bind the smaller molecules needed together to make the amino acid chain. The 8 essential amino acids need to be ingested in the food that we eat. These are the amino acids that cannot be “built” as such by our bodies. The reason for this is that they require nitrogen and humans do not have the digestive pathways to synthesize them. The 8 essential amino acids are found in all types of food except oil. Some foods have higher amounts of amino acids and meat has the highest concentration of all foods. A balanced diet is still needed however because meat does not contain all 8 amino acids needed by the body.