What Are Essential Amino Acids?
What are essential amino acids (EAAs)?
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Like constructing a house, building and maintaining a healthy, fit, lean and muscular body requires building blocks. In the human body, these are the amino acids, organic compounds composed of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which combine to form the various proteins needed by the body for numerous important functions, including tissue growth and repair, immune function and energy production.
There are 20 amino acids that make up the estimated 2 million different types of proteins. Of these 20, 9 are referred to as ‘essential’ because they cannot be produced by the body and so must be obtained from dietary sources, such as meat, eggs, fish, dairy products and plant-based proteins (e.g., soy, buckwheat and quinoa).
Although they often work together, each EAA performs specific roles. For example:
- Leucine is important for muscle protein synthesis and many other functions including the regulation of blood-sugar levels, growth and repair of muscle and bone tissue, growth hormone production, and wound healing. It also prevents the breakdown of muscle proteins after trauma or severe stress. It is leucine which provides the signal to switch from a catabolic state, in which muscle tissue is being broken down, to an anabolic state in which it begins to rebuild. The quicker your body receives this signal after training, the sooner it switches from breaking muscle down to building and repairing it to ensure a full and speedy recovery.
- Isoleucine is concentrated in muscle tissue in humans and has a range of functions including regulating blood sugar and energy levels, assisting wound healing, stimulating immune function, promoting the secretion of several hormones, and haemoglobin production. It may also help to prevent the breakdown of muscle during exercise, and so enhance recovery.
- Valine plays a role in muscle growth, tissue repair, and energy It also maintains mental vigour, muscle coordination, and emotional calm.
- Phenylalanine plays an important role in the structure and function of proteins and enzymes and the production of other amino acids. It is also a precursor for various neurotransmitters such as dopamine, and the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine.
- Threonine plays an important role in fat metabolism and immune function. It is an important component of many proteins, such as collagen and elastin.
- Tryptophan is the least plentiful of all 22 amino acids. It plays an important role in nitrogen balance and is a precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is essential in regulating appetite, sleep, mood, and pain, and melatonin, a hormone, which regulates sleep and wakefulness.
- Methionine plays an important role in tissue growth, metabolism and detoxification. It also slows cell ageing, prevents the build-up of excess fat in the liver, and is necessary for the absorption of various minerals essential for good health.
- Lysine plays an important role in protein synthesis, calcium absorption, and hormone and enzyme production. It is also involved in energy production, immune function and the production of collagen and elastin.
- Histidine is essential for growth and tissue repair, and for maintenance of myelin sheaths, a protective barrier that surrounds nerve cells. It is used to produce histamine, a neurotransmitter that is vital to immune response, digestion, sexual function and sleep-wake cycles. Histidine is also required for blood cell manufacture and protects tissues against damage caused by radiation and heavy metals.
Essential amino acid supplements are a mixture of the 9 essential amino acids provided in a convenient and easy to consume format. They can help to boost the amino acid content of an individual’s diet without significantly increasing the energy content and are fat free and virtually carbohydrate free, making them ideal when the aim is to reduce body fat levels while maintaining muscle mass. They can be taken in the morning on an empty stomach prior to performing fasted cardio to provide a dose of muscle building amino acids without making you feel full or bloated. Supplementation with essential amino acids can be particularly beneficial for those consuming a plant-based diet who may find it challenging to obtain sufficient high-quality protein from plant sources, or for those individuals who are intolerant to certain sources of protein, such as dairy.
What are the benefits of EAA supplementation?
Supplementation with essential amino acids has been shown scientifically to provide a number of potential benefits for health and performance. These include, but are not limited to:
- Increasing muscle protein synthesis (1,4, 6,8,9,10,11,13,14,16,17)
- Increasing muscle mass (4,7,17)
- Reducing exercise induced muscle damage (3)
- Enhancing post-exercise recovery (3,15,16)
- Reducing exercise induced fatigue (2)
- Enhancing the effect of mTOR (5)
Why Time 4 Essential Amino Acids?
Time 4 Essential Amino Acids is a potent, specially blended formula of all 9 essential amino acids needed by the body to optimise muscle growth, repair and recovery. We have also added glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the human body. It makes up approximately 60 percent of our skeletal muscle and plays an important role in protein synthesis. Muscle tissue is a major site of glutamine production, where it forms the anabolic precursor for muscle growth.
In addition to glutamine, we have added vitamins B6 and B12, due to their important role in amino acid metabolism, and vitamin D.
A number of recent studies have highlighted vitamin D’s role in building and maintaining muscle, particularly when used in conjunction with amino acid supplementation and resistance exercise (18,19, 20). This is because the exposure of skeletal muscles to vitamin D influences the genetic processes that enhance muscle cell type, function and growth. At the same time, vitamin D suppresses the expression of myostatin, a protein that regulates muscle size by inhibiting growth.
In addition, vitamin D increases the number of type II or fast twitch muscle fibres and in particular that of type IIA cells, resulting in an increase in muscular power output, while its deficiency causes type IIA cell atrophy and a loss of strength (21). The importance of vitamin D supplementation becomes evident when we consider that 50% of the population are vitamin D deficient.
To help to ensure that you get the maximum benefit from the product we have included AstraGin, a 100% natural plant-based compound that increases absorption of many vital nutrients including amino acids.
Time 4 Essential Amino acids are derived from corn and do not contain any animal by-products making them suitable for those consuming a plant-based diet. They are also sugar, fat, gluten, GMO and dairy free.