Essential Amino Acids for Optimal Health

by Sara Banta | May 24, 2024 | AHP News, Protein

There is much debate about low carb versus low fat diets, but one macronutrient that the majority of experts agree on is protein.

Protein intake has been connected to longevity, a stronger immune system, increased energy, and better overall health. It really isn’t about the protein, but what’s IN the protein: amino acids.

What are Amino Acids

what are amino acids
Image ©️ Wikipedia

Imagine tiny Lego bricks, but instead of just fitting together in one way, they can link up in many different combinations. These Lego bricks are amino acids, and you build them with proteins.

Your body uses 20 different types of amino acids to make things like hair, muscles and even aid in digestion. There are many more than 20 types of amino acids, but certain ones are essential for optimal health.

Why Amino Acids are Essential

Amino acids serve several vital functions in the body, including:

Protein Synthesis: Essential amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They are necessary for the synthesis of new proteins in the body, including those involved in muscle growth and repair, enzyme production, and structural components of cells and tissues.

Cellular Maintenance and Repair: Essential amino acids are required for the repair and maintenance of cells and tissues throughout the body. They contribute to the regeneration of damaged tissues, helping to maintain overall tissue integrity and function.

Enzyme Activity: Many enzymes, which are biological catalysts that facilitate chemical reactions in the body, are composed of amino acids. Essential amino acids are essential components of these enzymes, allowing them to carry out their specific biochemical functions.

Hormone Production: Some essential amino acids are precursors for the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. For example, phenylalanine is a precursor for the neurotransmitter dopamine, while tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation.

Thyroid Function: Tyrosine is a precursor for the production of thyroid hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These hormones are synthesized in the thyroid gland by combining tyrosine with iodine.

    • Tyrosine is essential for the formation of the thyroglobulin molecule, which serves as the scaffold for thyroid hormone synthesis. 
    • Arginine is an amino acid that has been shown to support thyroid function by enhancing the activity of thyroid hormones. It may help improve thyroid hormone responsiveness in tissues and promote overall thyroid health.
    • Taurine, an amino acid with antioxidant properties, has been found to protect the thyroid gland from oxidative stress and inflammation. It may help prevent damage to thyroid cells and support optimal thyroid function.

Immune Function: Essential amino acids play a crucial role in supporting immune function. They are needed for the production of antibodies, which are proteins that help the body defend against infections and foreign invaders.

Transport and Storage of Nutrients: Certain essential amino acids are involved in the transport and storage of nutrients throughout the body. For example, leucine plays a role in insulin signaling and the uptake of glucose by cells, while methionine is involved in the synthesis of compounds like glutathione, which acts as an antioxidant and detoxifier.

Energy Production: In times of need, essential amino acids can be broken down and used as a source of energy. They can be converted into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis or used directly as fuel by certain tissues, such as the muscles, during exercise or periods of fasting.

Improving Insulin Resistance: Amino acids play a role in reducing insulin resistance, primarily through their effects on muscle metabolism and glucose uptake. Insulin Resistance is connected to obesity, heart disease, fatty liver, and all metabolic disease. Here’s how amino acids contribute to this:

    • Muscle Protein Synthesis: Amino acids, especially branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are crucial for muscle protein synthesis. Increasing muscle mass through protein synthesis can enhance insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by muscle cells, thereby reducing insulin resistance.
    • Glucose Uptake: Certain amino acids, such as arginine and glutamine, have been shown to stimulate glucose uptake into muscle cells. By increasing the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into muscle tissue, amino acids can help lower blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
    • Insulin Signaling: Amino acids can also modulate insulin signaling pathways in muscle cells. For example, leucine has been found to activate the mTOR pathway, which plays a role in insulin signaling and glucose metabolism. By enhancing insulin signaling, amino acids can improve glucose uptake and utilization in muscle cells, reducing insulin resistance.
    • Satiation and Weight Management: Some amino acids, such as tryptophan and phenylalanine, have been associated with increased satiety and reduced appetite. By promoting feelings of fullness and satiety, amino acids may help with weight management and insulin sensitivity, as excess body weight is a risk factor for insulin resistance.
    • Gut Health: Amino acids are essential for maintaining gut health and integrity. A healthy gut microbiome and intestinal barrier function are crucial for preventing metabolic endotoxemia, which can contribute to insulin resistance. Amino acids like glutamine support gut barrier function and may help reduce inflammation and insulin resistance associated with gut dysbiosis.

Minimizes Menopausal Symptoms in Women: Amino acids help alleviate hormonal symptoms through many ways:

    • L-tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation. Menopausal women often experience mood swings, anxiety, and depression, and increasing serotonin levels through L-tryptophan supplementation may help alleviate these symptoms.
    • L-arginine is involved in nitric oxide production, which helps regulate blood flow. Some menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, may be influenced by changes in blood flow. L-arginine supplementation may support cardiovascular health and improve blood flow, potentially reducing these symptoms.
    • L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves that has calming effects on the nervous system. Menopausal women may experience sleep disturbances and anxiety, and L-theanine supplementation may help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
    • L-carnitine plays a role in energy metabolism and may help alleviate fatigue, a common symptom experienced by menopausal women. Additionally, L-carnitine has antioxidant properties that may support overall health during menopause.
    • L-tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation and stress response. Supplementing with L-tyrosine may help improve mood and alleviate stress-related symptoms commonly experienced during menopause.

Supports Testosterone Level in Men: Amino acids help support healthy testosterone levels in multiple ways:

    • L-arginine is known to promote nitric oxide which can enhance blood flow, and helps support testosterone. Furthermore, it increases growth hormone which can indirectly increase testosterone levels.
    • L-carnitine is involved in energy metabolism and supports testosterone levels, especially in men with low sperm quality.
    • L-tyrosine is a precursor to neurotransmitters and thyroid hormones, which play roles in regulating testosterone levels.
    • L-lysine is involved in protein synthesis and may help increase testosterone levels in athletes.

Essential Versus Non-Essential Amino Acids

There are essential and non-essential amino acids in the body. 

Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot produce on its own and must be obtained from dietary sources. They play vital roles in protein synthesis, immune function, and overall health. 

Non-essential amino acids, on the other hand, are synthesized by the body and do not need to be obtained from the diet. While they are still important for various physiological processes, they are not considered essential because the body can produce them internally.

Essential Amino Acids

a to z of essential amino acids_sara banta health
Image ©️ Accelerated Health Products

Each amino acid plays a certain role, and they can’t replace each other. Here are the essential amino acids and their role in the body:

    • TRYPTOPHAN – Facilitates the release of vital neurotransmitters and hormones crucial for mood and sleep, such as serotonin and melatonin.
    • LYSINE – Deficiency may lead to niacin deficiency (Vitamin B) and inhibit connective tissue repair.
    • METHIONINE – Provides sulfur and other necessary compounds for optimal metabolism and growth.
    • VALINE – Essential for muscle fiber activation, tissue repair, and maintaining proper nitrogen balance.
    • LEUCINE – Promotes muscle protein synthesis and serves as a primary fuel in anabolic (tissue building) reactions.
    • ISOLEUCINE – Vital for blood sugar regulation, muscle growth and repair, and energy balance.
    • THREONINE – Critical for antibody production, immune system function, and can be converted into glycine and serine.
    • PHENYLALANINE – Triggers the release of neurotransmitters and hormones essential for central and peripheral nervous system activity.
    • HISTADINE – Histadine plays various roles in the body, including helping to form proteins and acting as a precursor for histamine, a compound involved in immune responses, digestion, and neurotransmission.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

There are 11 non-essential amino acids:

    • Alanine
    • Arginine
    • Asparagine
    • Aspartic Acid
    • Cysteine
    • Glutamine
    • Glutamic Acid
    • Glycine
    • Proline
    • Serine
    • Tyrosine

While these amino acids are considered non-essential because the body can produce them, their availability can still be influenced by factors such as overall health, diet, and specific metabolic conditions. 

Additionally, some non-essential amino acids may become conditionally essential under certain circumstances, such as illness or stress, where the body’s demand for them exceeds its ability to produce them. Therefore, ensuring an adequate intake of both essential and non-essential amino acids is important for maintaining overall health and supporting various physiological functions in the body.

What Causes Amino Acid Deficiency?

With our modern food supply, most people are amino acid deficient due to the following reasons:

  • Low Consumption of Protein. Most people struggle to consume enough protein to meet their daily needs. Aim for 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of desired lean body mass. However, with diets like veganism or vegetarianism, intermittent fasting, and the prevalence of processed foods, it can be challenging to reach this target.
  • Age. As we age, our ability to metabolize protein decreases, making it harder for the body to break down protein into usable amino acids. Additionally, many older adults tend to consume less protein due to digestive issues.
  • Backed Up Livers. Due to the excess toxins, radiation, GMOs, glyphosate, and processed foods, our livers are overburdened and functioning suboptimally. The liver is where protein is broken down into usable amino acids, and without the liver working, amino acid assimilation is hindered.
  • Amyloid Proteins. Many of the proteins consumed are now full of amyloids, which are misfolded proteins that cannot be broken down into usable amino acids.  What’s worse, these amyloids then become deposited in the brain and tissues, leading to chronic health issues, in addition to triggering gut pathogens to flare up causing digestive issues.

Where It Can Go Wrong

When the body receives all essential amino acids from an external source, it can use them to synthesize any of the other “non-essential” amino acids it needs.

However, it’s crucial that these amino acids are in the correct ratio. It’s not just about having one of each. Some amino acids are needed in larger quantities than others. 

To illustrate, think of a bicycle, which requires 2 tires, 1 frame, 1 handlebar, 1 chain, 2 brakes, and 1 seat to function properly. Having an excess of tires or handlebars won’t create another complete bike. Similarly, if you start with 3 wheels, you’ll end up with one leftover that serves no purpose. This analogy underscores the importance of balance in amino acid intake.

Having an excess of one amino acid renders it unusable. Excessive non-essential amino acids are largely unused by the body. Only the amount required by the body is utilized.

Since the body cannot store amino acids for later use, it must decide how to handle surplus amino acids when new ones are ingested. It has two options: converting them into immediate energy, specifically glucose (blood sugar), and then excreting them via the kidneys and urine, or storing them as fat.

Metabolism plays a key role in this decision-making process. A slower metabolism, such as that experienced with aging or hypothyroidism, reduces the body’s ability to burn excess sugar. Consequently, it becomes easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. With low-utilization proteins like whey, a greater proportion of amino acids is converted to fats, while less is metabolized into sugars for energy expenditure.

Worst Sources of Essential Amino Acids

protein powders and amino acids

Protein Powders: Many protein powders undergo an approximate 80% conversion into sugars, potentially leading to both fat accumulation and muscle gain. While the common understanding is that 1 gram of protein equals 4 calories, this is a broad simplification.

Different protein sources yield varying calorie amounts based on how much protein is utilized for building new protein versus being converted to sugar. Protein powders, being easily digested, lack the “thermic” effect found in animal protein, where 25% of protein calories are used for digestion, thereby elevating body temperature.

BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids): Despite being only three of the Essential Amino Acids required for protein synthesis, BCAAs are primarily converted straight into sugar. This not only fails to support muscle building but also promotes fat storage.

Whey, Pea, and Soy Protein: These protein sources provide essential amino acids but only achieve about 18% utilization for protein synthesis, with the remaining 82% being converted to sugar. Additionally, these proteins can potentially trigger inflammation, elevate estrogen levels, contribute to leaky gut, induce high histamine reactions, or cause allergies, depending on the specific powder consumed.

Soy is especially concerning due to its estrogenic properties and GMO content, which may lead to estrogen dominance, toxicity, and disease. Whey, derived from dairy, is a common allergen that can induce inflammation and exacerbate leaky gut. Pea protein, susceptible to mold contamination, may also trigger allergies and inflammation in certain individuals.

Chicken, Conventional Beef, Turkey, and Pork: These meats contain high levels of omega-6 inflammatory fats, especially linoleic acid, leading to inflammation and fat storage. Additionally, they contain amyloid proteins linked to various diseases, leaky gut, dementia, and autoimmune conditions. 

Amyloids, misfolded protein structures typically produced in the bone marrow, are now also found in the food supply due to poor food practices. These proteins fail to break down into usable amino acids and instead accumulate in tissues or organs, such as the brain.

Amyloid deposition has been associated with approximately 50 conditions, including infertility, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, autoimmune diseases, and Alzheimer’s. Current livestock farming practices, characterized by crowded spaces for the animals, contribute to amyloid buildup in animal tissues. 

Furthermore, consuming these amyloids feed gut pathogens and disrupt the microbiome. Recent research indicates a connection between amyloids and the reactivation of other viruses in the body, further exacerbating gut disturbances, pathogen proliferation, inflammation, and autoimmunity.

Best Sources of Essential Amino Acids

After many years as a health coach, supplement expert and having the privilege of interviewing industry experts on my podcast, the following is my list of the VERY BEST sources of essential amino acids for optimal health.

BodyHealth PerfectAmino - Amino Acid Capsules

PerfectAmino is a pure, vegan supplement containing 8 essential amino acids with 99 percent absorption.

1 capsule of PerfectAmino is precisely 1 gram of pure protein, which is the equivalent to 6 grams of whey protein, 3 grams of meat protein, or 2 grams of egg protein, without the calories, fillers, GMOs, or carbs.

It is the perfect supplement to provide sufficient amino acids for those unable to consume adequate amounts through diet.

Wild Animal Protein

While wild animal proteins may offer only 32% of usable amino acids, they are rich sources of essential nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and others crucial for protein synthesis and overall health. 

Additionally, during digestion, the body experiences a “thermic” effect, burning 25% of the calories consumed as heat. The natural balance of amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids in wild animal proteins stimulates the release of a hormone called CCK, which helps curb sugar cravings and suppresses appetite. Examples include bison, elk, deer, lamb, grass fed or grass finished beef, and wild fish.

Organic Eggs

Eggs provide a substantial 48% usable protein content along with a healthy dose of choline, essential for optimal liver detoxification. They offer a spectrum of nutrients beyond just protein, supporting muscle building, strength, and longevity. Moreover, eggs trigger the thermic effect and stimulate the release of the appetite-suppressing hormone CCK.

Supplements to Enhance Essential Amino Acids

To make sure your body uses all its nutrients well, especially essential amino acids, it’s key to keep your mitochondria healthy and produce plenty of ATP. These supplements can help to enhance essential amino acids.

Acceleradine® Iodine

Acceleradine® Iodine is a cornerstone solution to combat iodine deficiency, which impacts over half of the United States population. This deficiency leads to a stark reduction in mitochondrial energy production, dropping from the necessary 36 ATP to a mere 2 ATP, consequently contributing to mitochondrial dysfunction, slowed metabolism, and weight gain. When the mitochondria suffer, the benefits of amino acids decline.

Insufficient iodine intake compromises thyroid function, a vital regulator of metabolism and mitochondrial function. Iodine is essential for synthesizing critical thyroid hormones T2, T3, and T4, which involves the amino acid L-tyrosine.

Iodine optimizes metabolism and aids in improving overall health for many reasons including:

  • Increased ATP Production: Iodine significantly enhances ATP production within mitochondria, elevating it by 18 times from 2 ATP to the necessary 36. ATP serves as the fundamental energy source for metabolism.
  • Cellular Detoxification: By facilitating the detoxification of cells from heavy metals, toxins, and radiation that hinder metabolism and amino acid utilization, iodine promotes cellular health and vitality.
  • Displacement of Harmful Substances: Iodine displaces detrimental substances like fluoride, chlorine, and bromide from cells, which are known contributors to hypothyroidism, sluggish metabolism, and chronic ailments.
  • Prevention of Toxic Overload: Through high-dose administration, iodine efficiently displaces toxins, preventing new toxins from attaching to cells’ receptor sites, thus shielding against adverse effects.
  • Blood Cleansing and Hormonal Balance: Iodine aids in blood cleansing, facilitating liver detoxification and eliminating toxins linked to weight gain. Additionally, it helps regulate estrogen production, mitigating estrogen dominance and promoting hormonal balance.

Acceleradine® Iodine is unique as it is the only iodine enhanced with proprietary scalar technology.

Accelerated Ancient Salt®

The salts in Accelerated Ancient Salt® play a pivotal role in improving mitochondrial health, protein metabolism and amino acid utilization. Containing over 62 essential minerals obtained from its unique hand-mining process devoid of explosives, the combination of salts in Accelerated Ancient Salt® help with:

  • Liver Cleansing: the salts in Accelerated Ancient Salt® help with liver detoxification by promoting bile production and aiding in fat breakdown, thus improving liver health and detoxification pathways for better amino acid utilization.
  • Apoptosis Promotion: This specialized salt supports apoptosis, the regulated cell death crucial for maintaining cellular equilibrium and eliminating damaged or unwanted cells.
  • DNA Repair Stimulation: the salts in Accelerated Ancient Salt® play a role in stimulating DNA repair mechanisms, thereby safeguarding genomic integrity and mitigating the risk of DNA damage.
  • Detoxification of Excess Estrogen: the salts in Accelerated Ancient Salt® aid in the elimination of excess estrogen from the body, improving hormonal balance and overall health.
  • Intracellular Hydration: By supplying essential sodium and potassium, the salts in Accelerated Ancient Salt® optimize the sodium-potassium pump, facilitating nutrient transport into cells and the removal of toxins from cells.
  • Improvement of Digestive Health: By enhancing bile production and aiding in fat breakdown, the salts in Accelerated Ancient Salt® help with digestive health and nutrient absorption.
  • Negative Charge: Utilizing scalar frequencies, the salt carries a negative charge, enabling it to attract and eliminate positively charged parasites, undigested fats, and toxins from the body.

Sara Banta’s Liver Flush Detox Cleanse

When the liver operates below optimal levels, both mitochondrial health, protein utilization, and metabolism suffer. The liver plays a crucial role in converting the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active T3, essential for a strong metabolism. 

Alongside improving thyroid health and metabolic function, the Liver Flush Detox Cleanse offers numerous potential advantages:

  • Boosting metabolism and fat burning
  • Increasing protein and amino acid utilization
  • Lowering insulin resistance and uric acid levels
  • Optimizing protein and fat metabolism
  • Alleviating inflammation throughout the body
  • Enhancing the production and function of thyroid hormones
  • Detoxifying the body of radiation, toxins, and excess estrogens that impair mitochondrial health
  • Reducing fatty liver and promoting liver health
  • Mitigating the adverse effects associated with the Spike Protein

By improving liver function and detoxification processes, the Liver Flush Detox Cleanse plays a pivotal role in fostering overall health, optimizing mitochondrial function, and enhancing metabolic efficiency.

Sara Banta

Sara Banta is a Stanford University Graduate with a Degree in Economics and Psychology, and a certified Natural Supplement Expert & Graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Sara is the Founder of Accelerated Health Products and host of the health & wellness podcast, Accelerated Health Radio.

sara banta blog

Hi, I’m Sara Banta!
I’m a certified natural supplement expert, podcaster, Health Coach, and natural wellness expert. Each week I publish articles on the latest in cutting-edge health supplements and natural health solutions. I also interview leading experts across a wide range of health topics to transform your body, mind & spirit. I’m also the Founder of Accelerated Health Products. Join my mailing list and receive 10% off your first order.