You probably know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When you eat a protein food, it gets digested in the stomach and intestine into individual amino acids and short chains of amino acids that are small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream. These amino acids have far reaching effects in the body from building tissues, to producing chemicals that enable our brains to function optimally.*
What Is The Difference Between Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids?
Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body. You must get them from complete protein foods or combinations of incomplete vegetable foods. There are 9 essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and valine. Your body can make non-essential amino acids by itself from vitamins and other amino acids.
The term “non-essential” can be misleading since all amino acids are essential for proper metabolism and certain non-essential amino acids, such as glutamine, become very essential. The 13 non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, hydroxyproline, proline, serine, & tyrosine.
The essential branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are of special importance for athletes because they are metabolized in the muscle, rather than in the liver. Here’s how this works: After digestion once protein is broken down into individual amino acids these aminos can either be used to build new proteins or be burned as fuel to produce energy.*