Bring on the Protein: What Students in Nutrition and Health Programs Should Know About Amino Acids


Good nutrition is about finding the right balance between different food groups and nutrients. Protein is a particularly vital part of the diet. It constitutes 20 per cent of the human body and is involved in the majority of biological processes. Protein needs can vary between age groups, and it’s particularly important for athletes who are expending lots of energy and building up muscle mass.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, but only some of them are naturally produced by the body. Retaining the correct level of amino acids can be a challenge, but it’s an important part of staying in physical shape. Nutrition and health professionals often field questions about the intake of amino acids, so here’s a guide on what to look out for:

The Importance of Amino Acids in Maintaining a Healthy Body

Amino acids are a critical part of a healthy body, and can be found in everything from muscles and ligaments to hair and nails. ‘Non-essential’ amino acids are naturally created by the body, so ‘essential’ types are often the focus during nutrition and health programs. These include Lysine, Tryptophan, and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). An inadequate balance of amino acids will lead to a slowdown in protein production and the body’s metabolism. Problems arising from an amino acid deficiency include weight and skin problems, sleep disorders, mood swings, arthritis, diabetes and much more.

A healthy intake of essential amino acids helps to increase insulin levels and control blood sugar levels. It also protects against infection by boosting the white blood cell count, and helps the body adapt to challenges by triggering the release of hormones. Consequently, amino acids are seen as an integral part of an athletic diet.

The Pros and Cons of Amino Acid Supplements in Health and Sport Training

The protein shake container has become a necessity in the kitbag of almost any athlete. Many people consume these drinks, and take amino acid supplements in health and sport training, without really knowing what it’s contributing to their body. Nutrition and health professionals are able to enlighten clients about the advantages and disadvantages of this growing trend.



Amino acids are important in muscle recovery

Whey, casein, and egg white protein are commonly used in shakes, and a wide variety of flavours make them quite tasty to consume before, during, or after a workout. They all contain the complete range of essential amino acids, but some supplements focus on a specific few. BCAAs and Leucine are used for muscle recovery, and are seen as effective in weight loss and muscle building.

However, there are some important considerations to take into account. Too much protein causes health problems, particularly if it contributes at least 35 per cent of the daily calorie intake. Nausea, cramps, and headaches could arise, while dehydration should also be closely monitored.

Many of the Most Popular Foods in the World Are Rich in Amino Acids

The life of a successful athlete may seem like it’s full of joy and excitement, but many restrictions are put on their diet. Most of this is down to the need for consumption of high-protein foods. Fish is seen as very beneficial, and many professionals will recommend salmon, sardines, prawns, and scallops. Lean cuts of chicken, beef, and lamb are also quite common, while vegetarians can also benefit through the consumption of eggs or dairy.

Plant-based protein products, such as tofu and nuts, don’t generally contain the full range of essential amino acids. However, they can still be an important part of any diet, especially among vegan and vegetarian athletes.



A selection of high-protein natural foods

Find out much more during a nutrition diploma program in Ontario.

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