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?
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.
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).
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
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.