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Consider this: Aside from teeth and bones, most of your body is made up of protein. In fact, it is the second most abundant substance in your body, trailing only water. But without amino acids, there’d be no protein to build the “meat” of the human body (blood, muscles, organs, skin, hair, etc.)—you’d have a frame but no guts!
Protein molecules are made up of a combination of amino acids, which are linked end to end to form long chains, helixes, spheres or branched structures. While there are numerous amino acids found throughout nature, only 20 are used in your body to build protein. About half of these are synthesized naturally by your body (non-essential), while the rest are considered essential amino acids that need to be derived from the foods you eat. The type of protein produced by your body is determined by the number (hundreds to thousands), variety and order of amino acids that are linked together.
Hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and antibodies are also made from amino acids. In fact, there are over 1,600 basic proteins in the body, and all of them are created from unique combinations of amino acids. Thus, the availability of amino acids to your body has a great deal of influence on the state of your overall health and wellness. So how do you choose the right amino acid supplement for your health? Below are several of our most popular amino acid supplements and a brief overview of the role each amino plays in your body.
What It Does: Carnitine converts fatty acids in the cell into energy that the heart, muscles and other body parts can use. Choose L-Carnitine to support natural energy levels, cardiovascular health, weight management, cognitive function and healthy aging.
What It Does: The amino acid cysteine supports the liver’s natural production of the immune-boosting antioxidant glutathione, which is another non-essential amino acid. Cysteine is also used to help naturally detoxify the liver. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is more bioavailable than L-cysteine. In fact, taking supplemental NAC appears to be more efficient than supplemental glutathione in supporting production of this important antioxidant.
What It Does: Tryptophan promotes the management of healthy levels of serotonin—the feel-good hormone—in the brain, helping to support positive moods and emotional health. It is also used to support healthy, natural sleep, as well as healthy weight management. You might be more familiar with 5-HTP, a natural derivative of tryptophan that offers good bioavailability.
Type: Non-essential compound
What It Does: Theanine is found in green tea, a natural source of antioxidant support and a popular herbal in its own right. One cup of green tea will provide roughly 25 to 50 mg of theanine. Theanine closely resembles another amino acid: glutamic acid, a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is best known for its anti-stress benefits.
What It Does: Tyrosine is a precursor of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which regulate mood and the feeling of satisfaction. Choose L-Tyrosine to build the body’s supply of adrenaline and thyroid hormones, and help control the appetite. Tyrosine can also rapidly metabolize as an antioxidant.
What It Does: Lysine works with the immune system to keep the body healthy. During times of high stress and emotional fatigue, the body can use more of this essential amino acid. Lysine works to provide overall immune system support, but it also plays a role in building muscle and repairing tissue.
Type: Combination supplement of 18 amino acids
What It Does: This combination supplement delivers a boost to bodybuilders trying to maximize muscle mass. It features high-grade dairy protein supplying 18 different amino acids, including all of those deemed essential to human nutrition. Commonly used to support healthy muscle building, it also provides a good overall amino acid profile for general health and wellness.
What It Does: Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the retina of the eye, and it is vital for healthy vision. It also helps the body maintain a healthy water balance. Overall, taurine is utilized for cardiovascular health support and maintenance of healthy vision.
Type: Compound of histidine and alanine
What It Does: Carnosine is an organic compound composed of the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine. It's highly concentrated in important tissues like those of the brain, the heart, and the muscles. Carnosine functions as a broad-spectrum antioxidant and supports the healthy functioning of enzyme systems. Many scientists suspect that carnosine plays a role in supporting longevity in some of our most vital organs.
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