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Default WHAT DOES PROTEIN/AMINO ACIDS DO? HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED? (article) - 06-03-2007, 06:16 AM

this is taken from another forum i have got permission from the poster of the article to post it here. there is also a link to a site that the very last paragraph was taken from if the link is not suitable for this site then please remove the link. the start of the article is below the line enjoy.
no credit was given in the origianal post but i am giving credit to zara leoni the posters screen name
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Firstly one must understand that proteins are formed by the chemical bonding (condensation) of amino-acids. Amino acids are the building blocks we require to form the many different proteins within our body. The number, type and ratio of amino acids within a sequence governs which protein is made. For example, the contractile proteins actin and myocin found in human skeletal muscle tissue have a specific ‘sequence' of amino acids. However this sequence is very different to the amino acid sequence found in the fibrous protein keratin, which is found in your hair. Again, this differs considerably from the 191 amino acid sequence found in human growth hormone (somatotropin). Besides building cells and repairing tissue, amino acids form antibodies to combat invading bacteria & viruses, they are part of the enzyme & hormonal system, they build nucleoproteins (RNA & DNA), they carry oxygen throughout the body and participate in muscle activity. So, one can start to see if we want to grow muscle, we must provide our bodys with the correct amino acids that our found in our skeletal muscle tissue. There are a number of articles which quote figures between 20 and 23 amino acids used by the body to construct the many proteins we need. We can assure you that there is at least 20 and they are named below. This might not be useful to every reader but but some may have come across three-letter and single letter representations for amino acids and wondered what they meant. Well here they are,

The Amino Acids
Name, Three-letter code, Single-letter code
Alanine, Ala, A
Arginine, Arg, R
Asparagine, Asn, N
Aspartic acid, Asp, D
Cysteine, Cys, C
Glutamic acid, Glu, E
Glutamine, Gln, Q
Glycine, Gly, G
Histidine, His, H
Isoleucine, Ile, I
Leucine, Leu, L
Lysine, Lys, K
Methionine, Met, M
Phenylalanine, Phe, F
Proline, Pro, P
Serine, Ser, S
Threonine, Thr, T
Tryptophan, Trp, W
Tyrosine, Tyr, Y
Valine, Val, V

Adults must include adequate amounts of 9 specific amino acids in their diet. These are called "essential" amino acids as they cannot be synthesised (made) from other precursors and so must be obtained from your food. However, cysteine can partially meet the need for methionine (they both contain sulfur), and tyrosine can partially substitute for phenylalanine.

The Essential Amino Acids

A natural relaxant, helps alleviate insomnia by inducing normal sleep, reduces anxiety & depression, helps in the treatment of migraine headaches, helps the immune system, helps reduce the risk of artery & heart spasms, works with Lysine in reducing cholesterol levels.

Insures the adequate absorption of calcium, helps form collagen (which makes up bone cartilage & connective tissues), aids in the production of antibodies, hormones & enzymes. Recent studies have shown that Lysine may be effective against herpes by improving the balance of nutrients that reduce viral growth. A deficiency may result in tiredness, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, retarded growth, hair loss, anaemia & reproductive problems.

Is a principle supplier of sulfur which prevents disorders of the hair, skin and nails, helps lower cholesterol levels by increasing the liver's production of lecithin, reduces liver fat and protects the kidneys, a natural chelating agent for heavy metals, regulates the formation of ammonia and creates ammonia-free urine which reduces bladder irritation, influences hair follicles and promotes hair growth.

Used by the brain to produce Norepinephrine (noradrenalin), a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells and the brain, keeps you awake & alert, reduces hunger pains, functions as an antidepressant and helps improve memory.

Is an important constituent of collagen, elastin, and enamel protein, helps prevents fat build-up in the liver, helps the digestive and intestinal tracts function more smoothly, assists metabolism and assimilation.

Promotes mental vigour, muscle coordination and calm emotions. This amino acid is one of the BCAA's (See later).

They provide ingredients for the manufacturing of other essential biochemical components in the body, some of which are utilised for the production of energy, stimulants to the upper brain and helping you to be more alert. These two amino acids make up the other BCAA's.

Is found abundantly in haemoglobin, has been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, allergic diseases, ulcers & anaemia. A deficiency can cause poor hearing. We have added Histidine in for completeness, as some say this is not considered to be an essential amino acid.

Two of the essential amino acids, lysine and tryptophan , are poorly represented in most plant proteins. Thus strict vegetarians should ensure that their diet contains sufficient amounts of these two amino acids.

When protein from food is broken down by digestion the result is amino acids. As said, nine are “essential” the rest are non-essential and make up the remaining amino acids used. These non-essential AA's are listed below,

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Studies have shown that is has improved immune responses to bacteria, viruses & tumour cells, promotes wound healing and regeneration of the liver, causes the release of growth hormones, considered crucial for optimal muscle growth and tissue repair.

Transmits nerve impulses to the brain, helps overcome depression, Improves memory, increases mental alertness, promotes the healthy functioning of the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands.

Helps trigger the release of oxygen to the energy requiring cell-making process, Important in the manufacturing of hormones responsible for a strong immune system.

A storage source of glucose by the liver and muscles, helps strengthen the immune system by providing antibodies, synthesises fatty acid sheath around nerve fibres.

Considered to be nature's "Brain food" by improving mental capacities, helps speed the healing of ulcers, gives a "lift" from fatigue, helps control alcoholism, schizophrenia and the craving for sugar. Glutamic Acid is a precursor to Glutamine and GABA. Excesses Glutamic acid in brain tissue can cause cell damage. This is thought to be one of the mechanisms by which strokes kill brain cells, that is through the release of large amounts of Glutamic Acid. Also worth a mention is the fact that it detoxifies ammonia in the brain by forming glutamine, which can cross the blood-brain barrier, which Glutamic Acid cannot do.

A huge 60% of your skeletal muscle is Glutamine and so Glutamine has the highest blood concentration of all the amino acids. Glutamine is the precursor to the neurotransmitters GABA and Glutamate (Glutamic Acid). This is a vital function, as GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that produces serenity and relaxation. Glutamine is an important glycogenic (“generates glucose”) amino acid, meaning that it is essential for helping maintain normal and steady blood sugar levels. It is also an anabolic and anti-catabloic amino acid which is obviously very useful properties when trying to build new muscle. Glutamine is essential for gastrointestinal function as it provides energy to the small intestines. The intestines are the only organ in the body that uses Glutamine as its primary source of energy. Look for L-Glutamine which is the body's preferred form. The other form is D-Glutamine, the L (Levo = left) and D (Dextro = right) notation is used by chemists who use light to differentiate the two forms (enantiomers). This notation is used widely within the food and drug industry. Most drugs are made as a 50:50 mix (racemic D,L mixture) and must be separated as some forms of a drug can be toxic to the body.

Aids in the expulsion of harmful ammonia from the body. When ammonia enters the circulatory system it acts as a highly toxic substance which can be harmful to the central nervous system. Recent studies have shown that Aspartic Acid may increase resistance to fatigue and increase endurance.

Helps stabilise the excitability of membranes which is very important in the control of epileptic seizures. Taurine and sulfur are considered to be factors necessary for the control of many biochemical changes that take place in the aging process, aids in the clearing of free radical wastes.

Functions as an antioxidant and is a powerful aid to the body in protecting against radiation and pollution. It can help slow down the aging process, deactivate free radicals, neutralise toxins, aids in protein synthesis and presents cellular change. It is necessary for the formation of the skin, which aids in the recovery from burns and surgical operations. Hair and skin are made up 10-14% Cystine.

Is extremely important for the proper functioning of joints and tendons, also helps maintain and strengthen heart muscles.

Is an important source of energy for muscle tissue, the brain and central nervous system, strengthens the immune system by producing antibodies, helps in the metabolism of sugars and organic acids.

Branch-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
Branched Chain Amino acids comprise an Estimated 35% of Muscle Tissue. The term BCAA refers to the amino acids L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine. Its their particular molecular structure that gives them their name (branched chain amino acids). The BCAA's, particularly L-Leucine, help increase work capacity by stimulating the anabolism and prevent muscle breakdown during exercise. BCAAs are needed for the maintenance of muscle tissue and appear to preserve muscle stores of glycogen. BCAA's are also essential amino acids.

Protein Assessment
So how do we measure protein quality? There are a number of methods used and they are listed below. Please note that depending on which method you choose, you may find the answer to the question “which protein source is best” will differ.

Amino Acid Score (A.A.S)
This method simply evaluates quality as a comparison of amino acid composition to a reference protein.

Biological Value (B.V)
This is a common method used to evaluate the amount of protein kept by the body as absorbed nitrogen. The B.V. of some foods are listed below:

Protein B.V
Whey Isolates 110-159
Whey Concentrates 104
Casein 77
Soy 74
Whole Egg 100
Cow Milk 91
Albumin (Egg White) 88
Fish 83
Beef 80
Chicken 79
Wheat 54
Beans 49

Net Protein Utilisation (N.P.U)
Simply a measure of retained nitrogen from your food.

Protein Efficiency Ratio (P.E.R)
This ratio is basically a comparison of weight gain to protein intake.

Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS)
Bit of a mouthful but this method compares the amino acid score of food protein with the amino acid requirements of pre-school kids and is then corrected for what is required for true digestibility.

So that covers amino acids. We will move on to protein supplements. From what was said above one can start to appreciate that the best protein powders on the market should reflect, in composition, what our muscles are made up of (listed at the very end of this section). There is a hierarchy of amino acids and in our muscles and 60% is glutamine, which is why the biggest portion of your protein will (or should) contain glutamine, or glutamic acid and then descend down the hierarchy. Obviously, a real easy way to ensure you have all the correct amino acids in the exact amounts we require to build our muscles is to eat another human's muscles! This is somewhat unethical (unless your surname is Lecter) and so we advise you to stick to protein powders and basic foodstuffs!

Other terms one might come across are Whey Isolate, Whey Concentrate, Soy Protein and Micellar Caseinated Protein. After you read the following paragraphs we hope you will be in a more informed position and will be able to decide more confidently what protein is best for you to meet your requirements.

Firstly, it is recommended when training to gain muscle to have anywhere from 1 - 3 grams of protein per lb of body weight on a daily basis, depending on your physical goals and requirements. However, your body can only ‘absorb' (assimilate) a certain amount of protein at any one time. The rest is excreted and urea (waste product) levels can get high, hence why we need to drink a good amount of water and also need to replenish protein supplies frequently with good protein sources at each meal; this way there is always a steady supply of amino's available for the body to use in growth/repair cycles. We do not store protein like other nutrients, the body happily stores up fat and carbohydrates in our bodies for such times as there is a calorie deficit.

So what about the protein we consume? Well make no mistake about it, that 150g chicken breast you just ate by no means supplies your body with 150g of useful protein. Chicken is good for building Chickens, Steak for building Cows and Tuna for building Tuna. As said above, only by eating other humans can we be sure of getting the correct protein in one serving. That is why we must mix our protein sources to ensure the correct abundance of all amino acids we require. The closest food to our own protein profile is a whole egg. You may find the following paragraph useful, it was taken from a friends website at

“You may look at your protein powder or can of tuna and read that it contains "75% Protein", this may well be the case but if that protein only has 14 out of the 22 Amino Acids present in the human body, it means our highly resourceful body must manufacture the missing aminos from the ones we have ingested. The problem being, it is done so at the expense of these already eaten aminos. So that 50 gram serving of tuna gave you 32.5 grams of protein, but it only had 14 amino acids present, so by the time your body has chopped and rebuilt the aminos you supplied it with back into the aminos we really need, you've only ended up with about 20 grams of relevantly proportioned protein making it through to the bloodstream, which in turn takes it to your muscles.”

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Last edited by ashley willcox; 06-03-2007 at 06:23 AM.
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