9 Essential Amino Acids

The 9 essential amino acids explained.

While protein intake is essential for muscle development, its the amino acids that are broken down from protein which your body uses to build that muscle.

The body is an amazing machine and can synthesise almost all of the amino acids it needs. However there are 9 amino acids considered essential for consumption, because the body does not make these.

When selecting a good protein source its important to consider including all of these essential amino acids.

1

Leucine

2

Isoleucine

3

Lysine

4

Methionine

5

Phenylalanine

6

Threonine

7

Tryptophan

8

Valine

9

Histidine

1. LEUCINE

Leucine is by far the highest percentage of whey protein. Its also the fourth most concentrated amino acid found in muscle tissue. This important amino acid stimulates muscle growth. Leucine is also the amino acid responsible for activating an essential compound in cells called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin). This regulates several cellular processes for growth and also includes nutrient transport. This makes Leucine essential for not just muscle development but energy synthesis by muscle cells. Leucine is essential for endurance. Leucine also helps to regulate your levels of blood sugar by moderating insulin in the body during and after exercise.

Foods rich in this amino acid: cheese, soybeans, meat and fish, dairy and eggs, pumpkin, lentils, chickpeas, corn, rice, almonds, peas, oats, whey protein, plant proteins, etc.

Leucine (mg/g)

2. ISOLEUCINE

Isoleucine helps with endurance and assists in the repair and building of muscle. Its an isolated form of leucine that helps the body produce haemoglobin. Haemoglobin carries iron in the blood and regulates blood sugar which is burned for energy in muscles. Isoleucine also mediates glucose uptake and its breakdown into energy within muscle cells.

Foods rich in this amino acid: soybeans, meat and fish, dairy and eggs, cashews, almonds, oats, lentils, brown rice, legumes, chia seeds.

Isoleucine (mg/g)

3. LYSINE

Lysine is an essential amino acid responsible for muscle repair and growth. It also plays an important role in building a healthy immune system, increasing appetite and digestion. Lysine is also used to produce hormones, enzymes and antibodies. Lysine also helps with the absorption of other minerals in the body including calcium. Lysine also aids in the synthesis of collagen that is needed for the creation of connective tissue and bones.

Foods rich in this amino acid: meat and fish, dairy and eggs, soybeans, peas, cheese, potatoes, chia seeds, parsley, avocados, almonds, cashews, whey protein.

Lycine (mg/g)

4. METHIONINE

Methionine is important for the growth of new blood vessels and muscle growth and a healthy heart. Methionine contains sulphur, which is essential for muscle and tissue health. Insufficient levels of sulphur can lead to tissue damage and difficulty healing. Methionine is important for muscle growth and the formation of creatine, which is needed for muscle energy. Methionine also helps dissolve fat within the body and its conversion to be used for energy.

Foods rich in this amino acid: meat and fish, dairy and eggs, beans, brazil nuts, oats, wheat, figs, whole grain rice, beans, onions.

Methionine (mg/g)

5. PHENYLALANINE

Phenylalanine is turned into the amino acid tyrosine within the body, which is needed to produce proteins and neurotransmitter chemicals such as epinephrine, L-dopa and norepinephrine. Phenylalanine can help with depression and lethargy. It is also important for pain control. It is also used to produce endorphins during exercise.

Foods rich in this amino acid: meat and fish, dairy and eggs, seaweed, pumpkin, beans, rice, peanuts, almonds, quinoa, avocado, figs, raisins, olives.

Phenylalanine (mg/g)

6. THREONINE

Threonine is used for the formation of cartilage, bones, hair, teeth and nails. Its also important in the growth of skeletal muscles, the heart, liver and intestine. Threonine helps produce antibodies which support the immune system.  Threonine is used to create glycine and serine which are necessary to produce elastin, collagen, and muscle tissue. Threonine helps to accelerate the healing of tissue damage for faster recovery.

Foods rich in this amino acid: meat and fish, dairy and eggs, watercress, pumpkin, avocados, hemp seeds, soybeans, almonds, figs, raisins, quinoa.

Threonine (mg/g)

7. TRYPTOPHAN

Tryptophan is used to make serotonin and melatonin which are neurotransmitters which help lower stress and reduce depression. Tryptophan also has a relaxing effect on your body and aids with healthy sleeping patterns. Tryptophan is also used to make vitamin B-3 (niacin).

Foods rich in this amino acid: meat and fish, dairy and eggs, chocolate, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seed, bananas, peanuts.

Tryptophan (mg/g)

8. VALINE

Valine works alongside leucine and isoleucine to repair tissues and promote muscle growth. Valine also helps with the supply of glucose to muscles for energy synthesis. This makes it essential for endurance during physical activity. Valine also helps with the delivery of nitrogen to all the organs of your body and is especially important for liver health. Valine is also important for your central nervous system and healthy mental function.

Foods rich in this amino acid: meat and fish, dairy and eggs, beans, broccoli, spinach,  chia seeds, avocado, figs,  blueberries, cranberries, apples, oranges, apricots.

Valine (mg/g)

9. HISTIDINE

Histidine is often described as both an essential and nonessential amino acid. The body can make this amino acid but generally needs to ingest the amino acid also and it is essential for children. Histidine is used to develop the myelin sheath that coats nervous cells to protect them. It is also used to create the neurotransmitter histamine. It also helps with the production of red and white blood cells which are needed for overall health and immunity.

Foods rich in this amino acid: meat and fish, dairy and eggs, soybeans, chia seeds, buckwheat, potatoes.

Histidine (mg/g)