Proteins are made up of amino acids and play an important role in bodily functions. They are required for important processes such as cell building and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). They are also available as supplements. The body needs 20 different amino acids to function properly, nine of which are considered essential. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained externally through diet or supplements. Non-essential amino acids are synthesized by the body. When protein is consumed, it is broken down into amino acids in the gut and used in various bodily processes such as providing energy to the body, building muscle, tissue repair, enhancing the immune system, hormone synthesis, neurotransmitter and enzyme function, and other biological processes. The best sources of essential amino acids are animal proteins such as meat, eggs and poultry.
The nine essential amino acids perform several important and diverse jobs in your body:
Phenylalanine: The amino acid phenylalanine is a precursor to brain chemicals such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are the messengers of the brain. It also aids in the formation of proteins, the structure and function of enzymes, and the synthesis of other amino acids.
Valine: Valine contributes to muscle growth, tissue regeneration and is required for energy production.
Threonine: Threonine amino acid is an important building block of structural proteins such as collagen and elastin, providing structure to the skin and connective tissue, helping to form blood clots and thus preventing bleeding. Threonine also helps in fat metabolism and boosts immune function.
Tryptophan: Tryptophan helps maintain proper nitrogen balance. It helps synthesize serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Serotonin regulates mood, appetite and sleep.
Methionine: Methionine helps the body's tissue growth, metabolism and detoxification, as well as the absorption of essential minerals like zinc and selenium.
Leucine: Leucine amino acid is helpful in protein synthesis, muscle repair, muscle growth, wound healing, blood sugar level regulation and growth hormone synthesis.
Isoleucine: Isoleucine aids in muscle metabolism, immune function, hemoglobin synthesis and energy regulation.
Lysine: Lysine helps synthesize proteins, enzymes, hormones (collagen and elastin), calcium absorption, energy production, and immune function.
Histidine: The amino acid histidine is involved in the synthesis of histamine, a neurotransmitter that aids in immune function, digestion, sleep regulation, and sexual function. It also helps maintain myelin (the protective barrier around nerve cells).