Amino acids are key precursors for synthesis of hormones and low molecular weight nitrogenous substances with each having enormous biological importance, both in nutrition and health.
--Dr. Guoya Wu,  Texas A & M University






Amino Acids: Beyond Muscle Growth & Repair

Amino acids are key precursors for synthesis of hormones and low molecular weight nitrogenous substances with each having enormous biological importance, both in nutrition and health.

Dr. Guoya Wu,  Texas A & M University

The plasma concentration of an amino acid is the result of its rates of appearance in and disappearance from plasma.

L.A. Cynober, Dieu Hospital – Paris, France

As an astute bodybuilder, it is a well-known fact that amino acids are the building blocks of protein and play a key role in both muscle repair and recovery.  Recently researchers at Texas A & M University reported that not only are amino acids signaling molecules but are regulators of gene expression and the physiological processes referred to as the protein phosphorylation cascade. As you know gene expression is the process by which information from a gene is used in the synthesis (forming or building of a more complex substance or compound from a variety of simpler compounds) of functional gene products which are often proteins.  Simply put, gene regulation gives the cell control over its structure and function. As a point of reference here, the protein phosphorylation cascade centers on how cells properly transform external stimuli into physiological intelligible signals via receptors knows as protein kinase signaling cascades. Researchers have speculated for some time that the abundance of phosphorus found in milk (caseins) and egg yolk were a result of normal metabolic reactions.  However, it is generally recognized that phosphorous transference to a protein is a key regulator of cellular life in which the high energy molecule ATP (adenosine-tri-phosphate) is transferred to proteins. However, over the last decade researchers discovered and have aggressively studied a evolutionarily group of proteins called mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPK’s).  These proteins have the ability to change the activity of target proteins more proficiently, thus correcting and initiating appropriate cellular responses at a faster rate.  This discovery has far reaching implications as many of today’s degenerative diseases are link to abnormal phosphoylation of cellular proteins.

Amino Acids Beyond Growth and Repair

It has been well documented that amino acids participate in many anabolic reactions such as the repair and the recover of muscle tissue, synthesis of hormones, blood sugar control, building proteins and polypeptides, to preventing excess storage of fat, to enhancing immune function.  While amino acids regulate and serve as precursors to many anabolic reactions, based on the mounting evidence, these anabolic activators appear to play a key role in jumpstarting and maintaining many of the physiological processes that also preserve and maintain life itself as expressed by Dr. Guoya Wu of Texas A & M University in the opening caption above.

Methylation: Body Buildings Newest Frontier

One of the emerging areas of study in reference to maintaining the anabolic environment surrounds sustaining the proper workings of what researchers refer to as the methlytation cycle. There is conclusive data that abnormal methylation patterns that occur along strands of DNA ( your genetic blueprint) can be altered by specific nutrients found in foods and various nutritional supplements. During the methylation process one molecule donates a four-atom appendage, a so-called methyl group to a neighboring molecule. Researchers now know that by improving inborn methylation donating processes negative gene expression patterns can be altered .By manipulating gene expression more efficiently, the cells ( including muscle cells) bind to specific molecules to manufacture or change to what cells need to perform when it needs them. This allows cells the flexibility to adjust and adapt to changing environments of catabolism (muscle wasting) and anabolism (growth).To accomplish this the body makes different neurotransmitters out of amino acids by attaching one or more methylation groups onto the amino acids. In practical terms here methylation is the body’s way of insuring the right chemical processes are maintained. While amino acids play a key role in this process, vitamin B-12, folic acid, SAMe and TMG (tri-methyl-gylcine ) must  also be present to sustain this life giving process. Additionally, as you know various neurotransmitters made from amino acids like dopamine, nor-epinephrine, epinephrine and serotonin, play a major role in accelerating and supporting  what sports nutrition physiologist  refer to as that no surrender/take no prisoners mentality that pushes one beyond generalized expectations. Known as natural uppers, these excitatory brain chemicals also stimulate growth hormone release, which promotes lean muscle development and repair. Methylation is also intermediately involved with regulating protein metabolism, glucose metabolism, internal detoxification protocols, as well modulating blood pressure and enhancing the bio-energetic functions that improves the hearts adaptation to stress.

Your Amino Acid Pool

There are 22 different amino acids that work much like the alphabet.  Although there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, millions of words and phrases can be strung together by combining various letters from the alphabet.  The body uses a combination of amino acids to make chains of amino acids that form what scientists refer to as peptide bonds.  Once these chemical bonds are formed, the unique sequence of amino acids that form the bond instructs proteins as to what exactly to do. This physiological process is what gives rise to the term building blocks of protein.  As a point of reference here these peptide bonds can be formed from a combination of two amino acids to several thousand.  This brings us full circle here and to the second comment at the beginning of this article which implies that in order to maintain your amino acid pool you have to constantly take in a adequate amount to maintain blood levels.  The second part of this equation centers on being able to carry out a proteins proper function. Again, the key however is maintaining na adequate supply of these anabolic activators. This is why it is important to space your meals out 6 to 8 times a day, as well as timing your nutrient and supplement intake.  Without this scenario the body would continuously break down existing muscle tissue to replenish waning amino acid pool levels.  This can of course have a negative impact on your efforts to build, as well as repair muscle tissue.

Suggested intake: Take a full amino acid formula between meals as directed by manufacture and immediately following your workout.  On non- training days take in between meals.

Last Words

Based on the mounting evidence, it is apparent that amino acid intake goes well beyond muscle growth and general recovery.  Emerging data indicates that these guys present in the right amounts act like keys fitting into or attaching themselves to or altering themselves to serve as precursors that are turned into the needed protein that not only act as anabolic activators, but also have a direct effect insuring that the delicate balance between physiologic reactions that sustain life are fine tuned.


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Dr. George Redmon