Understanding Proteins & Amino Acids

Understanding Proteins & Amino Acids

Proteins are diverse compounds with over 10,000 different varieties found in the human body, they serve so many different physical, chemical & functional roles. 

Amino Acids

The building blocks of proteins, are used to maintain bodily homeostasis through mechanisms & pathways. 

There are 10 essential amino acids (EAA) when including arginine which is only included during youth. 

Essential Amino Acids; must be consumed in the diet to limit related deficiencies as the body cannot produce them internally at sufficient levels.

Non Essential Amino Acids; can be produced by the body & do not need to be consumed in the body.

Conditional Amino Acids; need to be consumed at specific times during your life in response to additional stresses. Such as during infancy, or disease. These are considered conditional under circumstances.

Functional Amino Acids; are a mixture of essential & non essential amino acids known to optimize health, performance & function. These include arginine, glutamine, leucine, tryptophan, cysteine, glutamate, and proline. 

Protein Turnover

Protein turnover refers to the continual process of protein synthesis & degradation that occurs in the body to maintain homeostasis & healthy bodily tissue.

Example: Skeletal muscle is completely renewed via protein turnover every 3-4 months. 

Protein Synthesis: refers to new protein creation or building of tissues in response to signaling stimuli. 

Exercise greatly stimulates protein synthesis in muscle cells with timely intake of protein or amino acids immediately after the workout. The protein source should be rich in branch chained amino acids, especially leucine to maximize synthesis. As leucine is a primary signalers for the protein synthesis process. 

Protein Degradation: refers to the breakdown of amino acids to create energy, product a different type of amino acid based on needs, limit unhealthy tissue decay, or serve another homeostatic function.

Transamination: is the term used to describe conversion of one amino acid to another following breakdown to serve your body's needs. This plays a part in creating the non essential amino acids you need.

Amino acids are broken down into ammonia, which the liver converts into urea. This urea is mobilized by the kidneys in urine, to help clear toxic nitrogen from the body which is created as a byproduct during protein turnover. 

Protein Sources

Complete: contain all essential amino acids & are optimal for reducing the risk of deficiencies. These include animal products such as; meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, quinoa, and seafood. 

Incomplete: Do not contain all the essential amino acids, and must be combined to minimize deficiencies. These include plant products such as; veggies, grains, legumes/beans, nuts/seeds. 

Incomplete proteins tie in as complimentary proteins which I mentioned earlier. They have to be combined with complete proteins to avoid deficiencies. 

Vegetarians clearly need to make informed food combination choices to limit protein deficiencies or at least embrace complete protein staples such as soy.

Protein Quality

Not all proteins are created equal, vary in quality, and are dictated by their essential amino acid content, rate of digestibility and bioavailability. 

Bioavailability; refers to the body's ability to breakdown & actually use the protein source. 

Milk Protein; including whey & casein are an excellent choice as they are complete, rich in leucine & possess high bioavailability.

Whey is quicker to digest & may be optimal for pre & post exercise. While casein breaks down slower and is useful before sleep to limit overnight catabolism. 

Egg protein; known as albumen, is rich in digestible amino acids including leucine & valine. Eggs also have the highest bioavailability among whole foods.

Meat Protein; beef, or pork are rich in essential amino acids & are high in leucine, iron, creatine & vitamins. Useful for inducing anabolism and hypertrophy, but saturated fat content must be considered. 

Soy Protein; from soybeans, is an attractive alternative to animal proteins, but contains less leucine than milk. It is rich in BCAA's & useful for vegetarians & people who are lactose intolerant. Soy also contains phytochemicals & lots of fiber. 

So, when considering your next diet make sure you take this information into consideration in order to avoid deficiencies! Thanks for reading❤️

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1 comment

…and thank YOU For this article, especially the protein breakdowns!

Request: Can you elaborate further in plant based proteins other than soy?

Seeds like: Chia, Pumkin and (Hulled) Hemp for example.

Your excellent level of care in detail is allways exciting!


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