What’s the connection between amino acids and brain function? Aminos are best known as the building blocks of protein and building muscle. However, there are other key functions of aminos including the function of signal-sending “neurotransmitters” in the brain. These are related to various body/brain functions like mood, energy, and appetite. These and other factors are important for the human body to function properly. For example, when doing workouts neurotransmitters are related to fatigue and energy so blocking certain neurotransmitters can give you energy boosts for more weight, reps, and sets. Meanwhile, other signal-senders can help boost focus and prevent brain fog during workouts.
It’s important to know how different aminos affect brain function. Fun Fact: There are technically 22 amino acids in the human body but two are in small amounts. The human body produces about half of them naturally and we have to get the other 9 from food/supplements. However, there are times when you might have to boost non-essential amino acids (NEAAs) also for reasons like the body doesn’t produce enough of them due to the diet, disease, genetics, etc. It’s always good to know how certain aminos affect the function of your body/brain to make sure your body has enough of all 20.
What Exactly Are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are often known as the building blocks of protein. They form peptides, while peptide chains form proteins. There are technically 22 amino acids in the body but scientists/health experts usually go with figure 20 since a few are quite rare.
There are two main kinds of amino acids. The body produces 11 non-essential amino acids (NEAAs) naturally. So in most cases, the human body has enough of them automatically. It’s just a matter of taking steps like eating healthy so you’ll have enough of each of the NEAAs.
Then there are 9 essential amino acids (EAAs). Since the body doesn’t produce them we have to get them from foods/supplements. Leucine is the EAA with the highest amount needed daily at about 40mg.
In recent years branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) supplements have been trending. This makeup one-third of the EAAs. Studies show that BCAAs might help with building lean muscle mass, post-workout recovery, and so on.
There’s some debate among health/fitness experts about the importance of just taking BCAA supplements. One thing to keep in mind is you can’t build muscle if your body doesn’t have enough of all 20 aminos you can’t build muscle.
As always the best source of nutrients is real food. For example, some foods are “complete proteins” including:
- Quinoa (cereal/grain)
If you eat any of these foods you get all the essential amino acids (EAAs) you need for the whole day. You can also get complete proteins by combining 2+ incomplete proteins like brown rice & red beans, whole wheat naan & hummus dip, and buckwheat noodles & peas.
Amino acids can provide the body/brain with a wide range of benefits. For example, it can help fuel the brain’s neurotransmitters. They’re linked to various body functions like mood, appetite, and energy/fatigue.
Amino Acids and Brain Function
Humans must get enough protein/aminos for good brain function. There are different sources of amino acids. They include real food and dietary supplements. For example, you can eat either complete proteins or 2+ incomplete proteins to get all the aminos you need.
Another option is dietary supplements. For example, you can take BCAAs, which contain three amino acids. These supplements provide one-third of the 9 EAAs. It’s also important to get certain amino acids to boost certain brain functions. They include ones like:
These aminos are often linked to certain neurotransmitters/hormones. They include ones like the so-called feel-good hormones. For example, some help to create a “runner’s high” during physical exercise like jogging, bicycling, and swimming.
When you take certain dietary supplements or eat foods with particular amino acids then you can get these benefits. They can even help to boost moods if you’re experiencing the Monday blues, for example.
The feel-good neurotransmitters are critical when you’re experiencing certain mood-related situations like fatigue, low-energy, and depression. If you want a natural high then certain amino acids can help by triggering neurotransmitters.
Amino acids that boost energy can also affect other body functions. They include blood sugar, anti-inflammation, nervous system/brain. These are just some of the ways amino acids can affect your brain/neurotransmitters.
These aminos not only can help in your everyday life but also help to prevent serious brain disorders including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The reason is brain cells don’t get fed the nutrients they need then they die.
These neurotransmitters are also triggered by various prescription drugs. They include ones like anti-depressants and cocaine. However, the problem with these substances is they can cause dependency, which can cause a world of trouble for people who develop a dependency.
Top Nutrients for Brain Function
This amino acid is needed for making various neurotransmitters. It teams up with other substances to help manage stress. For example, L-Tyrosine is important to fight brain fog when you’re dealing with stressful situations.
This amino acid can provide several benefits for organs like the brain and eyes. L-Taurine can help control the electrical activity of nerve cells. It also helps to protect from calcium overload, which can destroy brain cells.
Yet another key feature of taurine is to maintain healthy mitochondria. These are small energy creators for all human cells. They also help various neurotransmitters to work properly including glutamate and GABA.
This is a modified amino acid that can be converted into the feel-good hormone serotonin. 5-HTP is critical for mental/emotional wellbeing. It can also help to reduce anxiety, boost calm/relaxation, and help improve sleep quality.
This amino acid is key for the processing of the neurotransmitter glutamate. It’s also important for the neurotransmitter GABA that’s critical for calming moods. Glutamate is critical for brain function since it’s found in 80% of human brains’ nerve cells. This amino acid is critical to memory and learning, and also helps with mood management.
This stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid. This amino acid helps to control the brain’s nerve circuits. It also helps people to stay calm. Another plus of GABA is to promote nerve cell growth. Meanwhile, low GABA levels are linked to behavioral issues, mood problems, and brain function issues, which you can try to avoid through amino acids and brain function.