Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It's can be tricky for most of us to eat a balanced diet, but for vegans and vegetarians, it's even more of a challenge. Because of the restrictions involved in such lifestyles, it can be easy to miss out on all of the nutrients needed be healthy.

One are in particular where vegans and vegetarians often find their diets lacking is amino acids.

What are amino acids and why are they so important? I'm going to answer all of those questions and more. Read on to learn everything you need to know when selecting the best amino acids for vegans and vegetarians.

What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When protein is broken down into its most simple form, it is composed of a long string of amino acids (source).

Without amino acids, your body would be unable to create muscle and tissues, because these parts of the body are primarily made of protein.

Amino acids are also used to maintain the structure of cells.

What Else Does Your Body Do with Amino Acids?

Production of Neurotransmitters

Amino acids are not just used to build protein within the body. They also play a role in the production of neurotransmitters. For example, the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine go on to produce serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters which produce feelings of pleasure, alertness, and relaxation. It follows that there will be an effect on a person's mood if he/she does not consume enough tryptophan and tyrosine.

Metabolism

Amino acids are also used to create energy in your body's cells. Your cells require energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to carry out their regular functions.

Your body usually uses carbohydrates and fats to create this energy, because sugar readily breaks down. However, when carbohydrates and fats are not present, your body begins to metabolise amino acids.

This pathway is known as the citric acid cycle. You may have heard of it as the extremely popular "keto diet" takes advantage of the citric acid cycle (source).

Cardiovascular Health

You may not realise it, but amino acids can improve your cardiovascular health. One amino acid called arginine has been found to potentially improve heart health, because it converts to nitric oxide within the body.

Nitric oxide has been thought to improve circulation, because dilates blood vessels. As blood vessels dilate, it is easier for blood to flow throughout the body. A heart attack results from clogged arteries and veins within the heart. Nitric oxide may be used to relieve symptoms of clogged arteries and coronary artery disease (source).

Why Should Vegans and Vegetarians Consume Amino Acids?

Vegans and vegetarians, by definition, do not consume meat or, in the case of vegans, any animal products at all. The human body can only create 11 of the 19 essential amino acids. The remainder must come from your diet.

A diet that is lacking in meat and animal products may not contain all of the amino acids that your body needs to function. This is why vegans and vegetarians must be extra careful with their food intake and ensure that they are consuming a broad spectrum of amino acids.

Vegans and vegetarians commonly use supplements because it can be difficult to consume enough amino acids from their diet alone.

What Should You Look for When Choosing an Amino Acid Supplement?

There has been a large boom in the supplement industry, so there is a huge variety of amino acid supplements to choose from. The good news is that you don't need to break the bank to find the best amino acids for vegans and vegetarians. Since those with a restricted diet will most likely need to take these supplements daily, the price can add up fast.

As with any product you're going to consume, you should be cautious and read the labels of the supplement you are considering. You want a supplement that contains all of the amino acids that you are missing in your diet.

Are there any disadvantages to taking amino acid supplements?

You may be wondering what will happen if you consume more amino acids than your body needs?

Generally speaking, there are no side effects to consuming a large quantity of amino acids. The human body doesn't store amino acids for later use, as it does with other compounds.

Any amino acids that your body does not use will be broken down by your kidneys, and flushed out within your urine.

However, studies have found that consuming large amounts of amino acids over a long period of time may increase your chances of having kidney stones (source). If you have a history of kidney stones, you may want to consult your doctor before starting amino acid supplements.

The Best Amino Acids for Vegans and Vegetarians

Naturally Fermented Pure Instant BCAA 2:1:1 Powder

This naturally fermented pure instant powder is made of all natural ingredients. The amino acids found in this product include leucine, isoleucine, and valine in a ratio of 2:1:1. This product is not derived from human hair or duck feathers, and all of the amino acids originate from plants.

If you are worried about additives or preservatives, product is free from both.

The manufacturer recommends taking 1 to 3 doses of the powder daily, so you can adjust the dose levels as needed.

Pros


  • Easy to mix within a drink
  • Dissolves readily and does not clump
  • Free of soy

Cons


  • Bad tasting powder
  • Poor smell to the powder
  • Does not come with a scoop

BulkSupplements Pure Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder

This amino acid supplement is derived from creatine rather than being a by-product of plant fermentation. It contains the following amino acids: glycine, methionine, and arginine.

This supplement is sold as 99.9% micronized creatine. What this means is the supplement will be finer, and less grainy than regular creatine. This helps when you are attempting to mix it with a drink. It mixes more readily and become less clumpy than the thicker creatine.

Pros


  • Reasonable price
  • No aftertaste
  • Will not upset your stomach or cause bloating
  • Compact, resealable pouch
  • Dissolves readily in water or milk

Cons


  • Contains less product less than advertised
  • Difficult to reseal the packaging
  • Does not come with a scooper

Doctor's Best SAM-e 400

Our next product comes straight from Italy. SAM-e is composed of s-adenosylmethionine. There are 400 mg of active SAM-e within each tablet, and it is recommended to take 1 tablet daily. You are not supposed to chew or crush the tablet, or take it with food.

This amino acid supplement is also safe for vegans and vegetarians, because it does not add any additives, preservatives, or animal products.

Pros


  • Easy to punch out foil sheets prevent contamination
  • Hard coating delays release into the body
  • Some individuals report positive effect on mood

Cons


  • May cause an increase in anxiety
  • May cause an increase in sweating
  • Some individuals have reported stomach pains
  • May cause dizzy spells in some individuals

ALR Industries Humapro Tabs, Protein Matrix

This protein powder uses fermented lentils as it's source of amino acids. This powder is advertised to be 100% absorbed and 99% utilized by the body, so it may be a great deal if you are looking to bulk up. The product claims that other protein powders do not have as high a level of absorption.

Although this product is advertised as vegan and vegetarian safe, it does contain a handful of additives. Namely, it contains coffee bean extract, vitamins, and minerals.

Pros


  • serving is less than 1 calorie
  • Easy to swallow tablets
  • Ideal for individuals with food allergies
  • Does not create bloating

Cons


  • Tastes like beef bouillon
  • Pill container may produce an unpleasant odor
  • Recommended dose is 5 pills
  • May be overpoweringly sweet for some individuals

BRI Nutrition Acetyl l-Carnitine

Our last product is an amino acid supplement for acetyl l-carnitine. This product comes in two small tablets, 500 mg each, that constitute one serving.

The supplement is meant to be taken with a full meal and an 8 ounce glass of water. In addition, this product contains no animal products and only uses organic materials, so it is safe for vegans and vegetarians.

Pros


  • Small tablets, easy to swallow
  • Little to no aftertaste
  • May increase alertness and energy
  • Some report that it helps weight loss

Cons


  • May cause a rash on your skin
  • May not be suitable for people with a hypothyroid condition
  • Bottle may not arrive with an expiration date

Final Thoughts on the Best Amino Acids for Vegans and Vegetarians

Out of the five products listed, BulkSupplements Pure Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder is the clear front runner. This product triumphs over the other products, because it contains a wide variety of amino acids. As mentioned earlier in the article, vegans and vegetarians may be concerned with their nutritional deficiencies so this product covers all of your protein bases.

The other products, with the exception of Naturally Fermented Pure Instant BCAA 2:1:1 Powder, only contained one type of amino acid. If you are looking for an amino acid supplement to fill any holes in your diet, you should find a supplement that contains more than one amino acid.



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