Andrea Wonders: What the heck are Aminos? Part II – Non-Essentials

In Part I – Essentials, I told you all about essential amino acids and why supplementing them just isn’t necessary for your average Joe or Jody.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Non-essential amino acids aren’t quite as present as essential amino acids in food, so these non-essentials may be more beneficial to supplement. Even so, intake should be limited to times when your body’s reserve is at risk of being used for less useful purposes, such as when you train hard. Magazines will have you believe that you should take these supplements all the time, regardless of need, but sometimes those magazines are owned by the same companies as the supplements they’re pushing.

  • Glutamine – already in the body in large amounts and passes easily through the blood-brain barrier to aid memory recall and concentration. Converts to glutamic acid once inside the brain which is essential for brain function and mental activities. Helps regular nitrogen in the body and is one of the main genetic building blocks. Helps reduce lactic acid, which is important for athletes. But the body is already FULL of it, so unless you’re in a competition-level cut phase, it’s simply not necessary. Found in all high-protein foods.
  • Arginine – used as an addition to many supplements for aiding nitrogen-retention, thus facilitating muscle protein synthesis. AKA, it helps build muscle. It boosts the immune system and the activity of the thymus gland, which produces T-cells, which makes it a good supplement choice for anyone recovering from a major injury or for those with HIV. Helps muscle mass gain while limiting fat storage, so great for those trying to bulk. Found naturally in whole-wheat, nuts and seeds, rice, chocolate, raisins, soy.
  • Carnitine – not technically an amino acid, but thrown in because it has similar structure. Not involved in protein synthesis, unlike other aminos, but instead transports long-chain fatty acids. Improves the antioxidizing effect of vitamins C and E. Can aid in staying lean by minimizing fat buildup around the muscle. Found in fish, chicken, red meat and milk.
  • Cysteine – contains sulfur, which makes it a favorite as an antioxidant. Required for healthy skin and the production of collagen. Manufactures taurine, a component of glutathione which protects the brain and liver from harmful substances such as drugs, alcohol and other harmful substances. Metabolizes B-vitamins and potentiates insulin. Can protect the body from damaging effects of other supplements. Found in poultry, wheat, broccoli, eggs, garlic, onion, and peppers.
  • HMB (Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methyl Butyrate) – made from the BCAA leucine to help carry out some of its functions. Increases the rate of protein usage which means less fat storage. Minimizes protein breakdown and prevents the protein stored in the cell from being used for alternate means in times of glucose-deprivation by strengthening cell membrances. Beneficial only in high doses, which can be costly. Present in many foods but found in the highest quantities in catfish, grapefruit and alfalfa.



Just like my previous entry on Essential Amino Acids, the facts remain the same: unless you’re a competition-level bodybuilder who’s overtraining or on a strict cut phase, you don’t need to supplement aminos except for maybe BCAAs. Since my last entry, I decided to purchase some BCAA supplements. I take half a serving only on the days I do my harder kettlebell workouts. I’ve only used it twice, but I think I have noticed a decrease in soreness and an easier recovery afterward. We’ll see how that goes over time!



I hope some of this information is useful to you and will make you think twice before trying something just because you saw it in a magazine or at a health food store. Keep on truckin’, readers!



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