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What Are Essential Amino Acids?

What Are Essential Amino Acids?

Essential Amino Acids are deemed ‘essential’ since ultimately they can’t be synthesised or created by the body and the only way we can get them is through the foods we eat and supplements we take. Whilst experts believe a normal, healthy diet is sufficient to supply most people with all the amino acids they need, athletes and those involved in heavy training are believed to have an elevated need for Essential Amino Acids to help the growth and repair of cells within the body and to help with the creation of new tissue.

What Essential Amino Acids Do?
The main essential amino acids required by the body are L Valine, L Isoleucine, L Leucine, L Lysine, L Phenylalanine, L Threonine, L Tryptophan, L Methionine and L Histidine and as previously mentioned whilst these can be found in relatively small amounts in certain foods, supplementing your diet with them can help the muscles recover and repair far quicker. Specifically a study conducted at the Department of Surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Metabolism Unit it was found by researchers that an Essential Amino Acid and carbohydrate blend increased protein synthesis (the rebuilding of new muscle) when ingested 1 or 3 h after resistance exercise (Blake B. Rasmussen et al, 2000.)

Essential Amino Acids And Age Related Muscle Loss?
As well as more obviously benefiting athletes, Essential Amino Acid supplementation has also been shown to benefit those over the age of 50 who may suffer from sarcopenia, a condition that is defined as age-related loss of muscle mass. Sarcopenia usually develops over years or decades and is associated with a loss of strength, flexibility and the ability to repair after injury but Gregory C. Henderson et al (2009) concluded, in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, that ‘EAA’s may provide protection against sarcopenia in healthy aging adults’ and that EAA supplementation produced favourable changes in skeletal muscle protein synthesis, skeletal muscle mass, and ultimately functional outcomes (e.g. skeletal muscle strength and endurance).

Essential Amino Acids And Other Health Benefits
As well as sarcopenia, scientists also discovered Essential Amino Acid supplementation could benefit those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is more commonly known as the occurrence of chronic bronchitis or emphysema, a pair of commonly co-existing diseases of the lungs in which the airways become narrowed. Researchers R.W. Dal Negro et al (2010) stated that ‘a three-month EAAs supplementation may have comprehensive effects on nutritional status; muscle energy metabolism; blood oxygen tension, physical autonomy; cognitive function, and perception of health status in patients with severe COPD and secondary sarcopenia.’

Blake B. Rasmussen, Kevin D. Tipton, Sharon L. Miller, Steven E. Wolf, and Robert R. Wolfe (2000) ‘An oral essential amino acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise.’ Journal of Applied Physiology February 1, 2000 vol. 88 no. 2 386-392
Elena Volpi, Hisamine Kobayashi, Melinda Sheffield-Moore, Bettina Mittendorfer, and Robert R Wolfe (2003) ‘Essential amino acids are primarily responsible for the amino acid stimulation of muscle protein anabolism in healthy elderly adults’ The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, August 2003 vol. 78 no. 2 250-258
Ewan Ha and Michael B. Zemel (2003) ‘Functional properties of whey, whey components, and essential amino acids: mechanisms underlying health benefits for active people (review)’The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Volume 14, Issue 5, May 2003, Pages 251–258
Antonio, Jose PhD (2003) ‘Essential Amino Acids’ Strength & Conditioning Journal: June 2003 – Volume 25 – Issue 3 – page 48-49
Gregory C. Henderson, Brian A. Irving, and K. Sreekumaran Nair (2009) ‘Potential Application of Essential Amino Acid Supplementation to Treat Sarcopenia in Elderly People’ The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2009 May; 94(5): 1524–1526
Volpi E, Mittendorfer B, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR (1999) ‘Oral amino acids stimulate muscle protein anabolism in the elderly despite higher first-pass splanchnic extraction.’ American Journal Of Physiology, 1999, 277(3 Pt 1):E513–E520
Dal Negro RW, Aquilani R, Bertacco S, Boschi F, Micheletto C and Tognella S (2010) ‘Comprehensive effects of supplemented essential amino acids in patients with severe COPD and sarcopenia.’ Mondaldi Archives For Chest Disease, 2010 Mar;73(1):25-33

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