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  • Writer's pictureMuscle Nation

Not All Proteins And Amino Acids Are Created Equal

The amount of protein in one’s diet is certainly a factor, but so is the biological value (BV) of the protein. The BV is just a term used to describe the benefits of proteins to the body.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are thousands of amino acids, some of which are readily available in the food we eat, some are able to be synthesized by the human body and some can only be found in the proteins of certain types of foods. Of these thousands of amino acids, there are 20 types that can be combined to make proteins. The way in which the amino acids are arranged (their sequence) is determined by our DNA and specifies the use and function. Some functions include the formation of antibodies, enzymes, messengers, structural component and transportation/storage.

Conceivably, you can take amino acids instead of protein so long as you’re getting all the types of amino acids needed for all of your biological requirements. The most common amino acid supplements advertised are BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids); unfortunately, these alone won’t cut it. BCAA’s are great but are limited in type. In addition to the BCAA’s, there are nine EA’s (essential amino acids) that are crucial to our health and muscle growth, and cannot be created in the human body. If you take a combination of the BCAA’s and EA’s you will help achieve the required amounts of amino acids needed to increase your body’s muscle synthesis.

The 9 essential amino acids are:

- Histidine

- Isoleucine

- Leucine, lysine

- Methionine

- Phenylalanine

- Threonine

- Tryptophan

- Valine

So should I just take amino acids instead of worrying about proteins?

No. It is true that our digestive system breaks down proteins into amino acids, but there are also small amounts that aren't fully digested: peptides including bi-, tri- and poly- peptides. These peptides include messengers the body uses to stimulate reactions including repairing or protecting other types of cells. Most importantly for muscle growth, signaling peptides are used to stimulate the body’s formation, activation and release of insulin and various types of growth factors. Yes, your body is able to create these peptides itself, but why limit these peptides that are crucial to achieve hypertrophy (the over-growth of muscles, a.k.a. “being muscular”).

So what type of protein should I take?

My recommendation is to eat/drink as many types of proteins as possible on a regular basis. No, not all sources of protein are created equal. The BV (remember that term from the start of this article?) is a factor. Our ability to fully digest one food versus another is not equal; the amount of proteins in one food versus another is not equal; the amount of amino acids from the digestion of each protein is not equal; not all of the protein is broken down into amino acids and the resulting polypeptides from each source of protein isn't equal.

For instance, legumin found in peas and casein found in dairy break down into similar amino acids, but their polypeptides are different, the amount of legumin and casein found in each source are different and their glycemic index differs.

So I'm sorry to say to the herbivores out there: this is the reason why vegans and vegetarians can build muscle but you’d be hard pressed to find one who achieves hypertrophy the way an omnivore can.

To sum up: consume diverse sources of protein and take both BCAA’s and EA’s in order to stay healthy and grow muscle!

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