Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Protein Breakdown: Amino Acids

   Protein, you need more protein. You need ALL the protein. Dr. Atkins said so. Then he died of a heart attack. Ok, so maybe you need some other things along with all that protein. Protein is extremely important though. To clarify, all the macronutrients (Carbs, Fats, and Proteins) are important, and so are your micronutrients (vitamins, water, minerals) to keep the body in perfect working order. It can all be extremely overwhelming though and I feel like you hear about protein SO MUCH. So I wanted to break it down a bit for you. Mind you, I knew the basics and had a general understanding, but I spent a solid few days on researching this to bring all of you the most accurate information. I'll be leaving the really super-duper big words out and chemistry behind it all, because my job is to help it make sense, not make you want to crawl into a hole of despair.
    I'm sure you've heard about whey isolate protein, protein powder, BCAA's, glutamine, etc. If you haven't, you are living under a rock and we aren't friends because I'm over here putting Slap Nutrition Protein Powder in EVERYTHING. We will return to that topic though. For the longest time I was very anti- any supplement of any kind and said just eat a balanced diet. A balanced diet is still very important, the most important actually, but sometimes you just can't get all of your daily nutritional needs from food when you have very specific goals. Before I start anything though, I research. I ask questions. I learn. I understand. I try. I bring the information to you.

    Protein Basics: Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They build muscle, enzymes, help in hormone production, they do a lot. They are a Macro for a reason. Proteins are the building blocks of many bodily functions. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein.

   Amino Acids: There are 20 total; essential and non- essential (sometimes called dispensable), and there are conditionally essential. Essential amino acids CANNOT be made by the body, therefore they have to be ingested. There are 9 of these. Ready for some big words? You don't need to remember these, but I will go over some of them in more detail.

   Essential Amino Acids: Phenylalanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Methionine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine, and Histidine. I know, I know. You have probably now lost interest. Keep reading. Many of these are precursors to building hormones and neurotransmitters. Some interesting facts: Methionine helps to fight stress and decrease the chance of your hair graying.
    Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine make up your BCAA's (Branched Chain Amino Acids; how many of you have been popping those pills not even knowing??). Leucine is the ONLY amino acid that can stimulate muscle protein synthesis and regulate cell growth, which is why it's huge among body builders and the like. Want a BCAA, look for a 4:1:1 ratio of Leucine, isolucine, and valine. Keep in mind, to break down and be able to use leucine and isoleucine you need Biotin/ vitamin B7 or it's just floating around in the body, not building your biceps for flex Friday. Biotin can be found in intestinal bacteria and is produced plentifully, so put down that bottle the guy at GNC is telling you that you need. Unless your doctor has told you are Biotin deficient, you have enough. 
   Lysine is important in surgery and injury recovery (I ate a lot of protein while recovering from ACL surgery for this very reason!) and increases your Calcium absorption, elastin and collagen, and assists in hormone, enzyme, and antioxidant production. Histidine can also be converted to an antioxidant. Antioxidants fight free radicals that can often cause signs of aging and sometimes breakdown DNA and lead to cancer and disease.

   Non-Essential: There are 11 proteins your body can manufacture all on it's own magical self. A few of these can be considered "conditionally essential", such as in premature babies or people undergoing severe catabolic stress (disease, cancer, etc.) and need to be ingested. The conditionally essential are: arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, proline, and tyrosine. The ones your body will make no matter the circumstances are: serine, alanine, aspartic acid, asparagine, and glutamic acid.
   Arginine is important because it is involved in cell division, wound healing, hormone release, immune function, and removing ammonia from the body. Glycine can help improve the quality of your sleep. Tyrosine is a precursor to the creator of your Thyroid hormone, which can influence your weight and other aspects of your health.
   Alanine helps create ATP (energy to pick things up and put things down!). Asparagine does a lot for brain development and function.

   All of the amino acids are important. But before you run to your nearest supplement store and buy a bottle of each, sit back down. Protein is plentiful in so many foods. Complete proteins are considered protein sources that have all the essential amino acids and are almost always found in animal protein but also in Quinoa and Soy. Incomplete proteins often need to be paired with others to create a complete protein. Feeling overwhelmed? I know. Moral of the story; eat a variety of foods. Beans, turkey, chicken, eggs, milk legumes, etc and you will be all set. Whey protein is an abundant mixture of BCAA's so you don't necessarily need to be taking BCAA supplements and washing it down with your protein shake. There is also such a thing as protein toxicity. Protein has a Nitrogen attached to it (I know, I promised no Chemistry!) and the body breaks this off and it goes through a chemical process and creates ketones and urea. The body rids itself of urea and ammonia but if you become dehydrated or are just consuming way too much protein, ketones can build up. Ketones can be extremely harmful to the body, they are a waste product for a reason. Always aim for a balanced diet full of variety to ensure you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs for optimal performance.

   I hope this helped! I know I enjoyed researching it. But I'm a nerd. Looking for a protein to supplement with? Try Slap Nutrition; They don't use artificial flavors, and only have 4 ingredients with really yummy flavors. They are also lactose, gluten, and soy free for those of you with allergies. And I represent them so you get a discount! LTIPFIT gets you 10% off your whole order. I have every single thing they offer and I love it all. Want more? Check out for a wider selection of nutritional supplements. I work with them too; LTIPOFF10 for 10% off your order with them. I'm all about the good stuff, and would never represent a company I don't trust or believe in and they all get heavily researched by yours truly :)
   If you have more questions, feel free to email me,!


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