Healthy eating can feel complicated. There is always so much to learn. You know you need to get the right amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and while that's a solid start, there are finer points to healthy eating that can be easy to miss. For example, have you spent much time thinking about amino acids? We're guessing not!
Luckily, we're here to give you a hand and tell you everything you need to know about amino acids!
1. Protein is made of amino acids
There are no two ways about it, protein is essential to life. Protein is contained in every living cell in our bodies and it helps us to build and repair, bone, muscle and skin. The food based proteins we eat, like nuts, poultry, fish, red meat, beans, and dairy are basically long chains of amino acids. When our body digests and breaks down these protein sources, what's left are amino acids. Amino acids are broken down into 3 categories: essential, non-essential, and conditional. Essential amino acids are the kind that cannot be produced by our bodies but are essential for survival. Non-essential are the amino acids that can be produced by your body. Conditional are the amino acids you generally only need if you are ill.
2. Your body can't produce all amino acids
There are 20 amino acids in total. Of that 20, there are 9 that your body cannot produce on its own. These amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. You must get these ones in your diet. If you don't get these aminos in your food, your body's cells will start to use their own proteins to make up the difference, which leads to degradation in the muscles and organs. Your body uses these essential amino acids to do everything from digesting food to repairing tissue. For example, tryptophan, which you may like to blame for your post-Thanksgiving dinner coma, actually helps the body produce serotonin, a mood regulating hormone that helps keep you feeling happy.
3. Eating a wide variety of food should be enough but if it isn't, you can supplement.
You will drive yourself crazy trying to figure out and keep track of what foods contain what amino acids. If you eat a variety of protein sources every single day, you should be covered. Think about it, if you have Greek yogurt, whole grain cereal and some pistachios for breakfast, you're getting a dose of all essential aminos. Keep up that sort of variety throughout the day and you're set. If you need a sense of what it looks like to balance your meals, have a look at the BodyRock Meal Plan. It is no only a 30 day menu plan, but it is a nutrition guide and a recipe book with over 70 recipes! It has everything you'd ever want to know about healthy eating and then some!
While whole foods are always the best choice, it isn't always possible to get it all done. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, for example, it can be hard to get all essential amino acids when saying 'no' to meat and dairy. There are a handful of plant-based proteins that will give you what you need, either on their own of in combination with other plant-based proteins. Peanut butter and whole wheat bread, will give you all 9 essential aminos, for example.
Adding plant-based protein powders to your diet can also help. Branch Chain Amino Acids, or BCAA's, are another popular supplement. These particular aminos are essential to muscle recovery and repair. So if you are smashing your way through the BodyRock Advanced Bootcamp, you might want to give them a closer look. But, as always, before you start to supplement, have a talk with a health care professional to determine if taking that sort of action is right for you.
4. Don't worry about combining incomplete proteins
As we mentioned before, when you eat certain foods in combination, you can complete their protein profile, meaning you get all 9 essential amino acids in one go. On their own, these foods are incomplete proteins. Take rice and beans. Together, they are a complete protein, on their own, they are both incomplete. It was, at one time, a widely held belief that you needed to eat complimentary proteins in the same meal in order to use them properly. Fortunately, that is not actually the case. It is important to complete these proteins, sure, but as long as you are include a high quality protein at every meal, you should be good. If you are focused on eating a balance of protein, healthy fats, and whole grains, you are likely getting all the essential aminos. Do you supplement your proteins or balance them through your diet?
Have You Taken The BodyRock 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge?
We’ve put together a 7 Day Guide that helps you to buy the right foods and prepare the meals that are going to help you eat well and create healthy habits in your lifestyle. Learn More about the Clean Eating Challenge
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