Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Protein

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

I’ve decided to do a series on little nuances of a diet. There is a large difference between the terms dieting and diet. One is often represented by a caloric deficit and the other is what you consume. We’re going to focus on the latter and how the intake affects our performance.

“A calorie is a calorie.” We hear this all the time. While it is true (a calorie is a unit of measure for energy), it is still only half of the story. Let’s look at the other half for a protein.

What is a protein? Well, it is a macronutrient that is built from differing amino acid (AA) chains. These AAs are connected through peptide bonds. When a protein is synthesized, water is released and a bond has formed connecting the aminos. This is another reason why water is so important.

So why does this matter? Well there are twenty amino acids that matter to human biology. We have continued to split them into three groups; Non-Essential (NEAA), Conditionally Non-Essential (CNEAA), and Essential (EAA). The names are pretty self-explanatory, but basically the level of “essentialness” is derived from whether or not the body can come up with these AAs on its own without a direct consumption of it. The nine essential are the ones most commonly needed to be concerned about, because these are what your body cannot convert:

Of the nine EAAs, we are left with a very special subgroup; Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three account for 35% of the EAAs in muscle proteins and 40% of the preformed amino acids required by mammals. [1]

A protein is only a complete protein if it holds all twenty of these amino acids. That is to say, it holds a “complete profile of amino acids”. Incomplete proteins lack at least one amino acid. That is neither good nor bad because we have to just consume varying profiles to fill in the gaps.

This leads us to why we need protein. It is for muscle and ultimately body repair. I can dive further into what each amino will do (and I certainly plan on doing that with leucine), but this is a very general overview. You, all of you, need this macronutrient in your diet. Training is very stressful on the body.

This leads to a necessitated consumption to repair. Don’t neglect your intake. We can get into a discussion about absorption, synthesis, acidosis, renal issues (My personal concerns are not much, pretty discerned, very little, and next to none respectively), but it is undeniable that any  individual that desires to perform at a high level needs to not neglect this valuable macronutrient.


1. Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Naoya Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA (2004). “Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise”. J. Nutr. 134 (6): 1583S–1587S. Retrieved 22 March 2011


One thought on “Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Protein

  1. Pingback: Podcast #9 – Meet Your Macros: Protein |

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