Amino Acids for men form a critical part of your nutrition strategy.
It’s pretty well understood that protein is needed for building muscle tissue, which is why proteins are a vital component of your daily nutrition.
When you are focused on building muscle, recovering from injury and general maintenance for a healthy body, you should be sure your protein intake is adequate. As we age our body’s ability to adequately use protein is diminished and therefore it shouldn’t be neglected
Your meals tend to be built around your protein source: the steak, the chicken breast, the eggs, the fish, etc.
But have you ever stopped to ask WHY protein is so important? Or how protein is turned into muscle in the first place? We’ve always taken for granted that “protein is needed for muscle”, but do you know the mechanisms by which protein is turned into muscle tissue and why it is so important for men over 40?
How the Body Uses Protein
“Protein” is the name given to a specific food type, foods that contain a lot of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of your body, as they are needed for the production of muscle tissue and fibers. They are needed for the structural processes of the body’s cells. They help to regulate and build cells, meaning they are vital for the growth of new muscle.
When you exercise, you do microscopic damage to the muscles, essentially tearing the muscle fibers. Your body responds to this damage by first repairing the torn muscle then increasing the amount of storage space in the muscle. A large muscle is just a muscle that has the capacity to store a lot of energy. The more your muscles grow, the more energy they can store, and thus the more they can lift.
Amino acids are needed to increase your muscle size and energy capacity. They provide the body with the building blocks that are used to create those new and enlarged muscle fibers. Without amino acids, your body is unable to expand your muscles.
Types of Amino Acids
There are 20 different types of amino acids, but there are only ten that are considered “essential”. The reason for this is that the human body can produce 10 of them, but the other 10 need to come from the food you eat. They’re called “essential” because it’s essential you eat foods that contain these amino acids because your body cannot produce them.
For muscular development in adults, the nine important amino acids for men over 40 are:
For teenagers and children, the amino acid arginine is also important for muscular and physical development which makes 10. Having said that, I use arginine as part of my supplement regimen.
Note: The three amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the most important of the nine essential amino acids. They are the branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) that comprise roughly 66% of your protein requirements for muscle growth.
Now, it may sound like a lot to get all nine of these essential amino acids. After all, imagine if you had to eat nine different foods, one for each amino acid. That would be A LOT of food to eat, right?
Thankfully, most of the protein sources on the planet come with multiple amino acids. Soy, for example, contains leucine, isoleucine, valine, and lysine. Red meat contains all nine amino acids on the list. Finding the right protein foods can deliver all the amino acids your body needs in one fell swoop!
Essential Amino Acids For Men
The good news is that there are a lot of protein sources that deliver all nine of the essential amino acids in one delicious package. Most animal proteins contain a hefty dose of protein, so you can get everything you need for muscle building by eating more:
Eggs — Eggs are, without a doubt, the best of the protein sources overall. They may not contain as much protein per serving as red meat, but they’re lower in fat and have far more vitamins and minerals. You get 6 grams of protein per (large) egg, and the protein is highly bioavailable (meaning it’s easy for your body to absorb and use). The egg also contains a broad selection of minerals your body needs for muscle-building, bone health, faster metabolism, better hormone production, and the list goes on. There’s no need to worry about cholesterol—the myth of egg yolks being bad for you has been debunked, making them the healthiest of the protein sources!
Protein Powder – Protein powder isn’t just for athletes! In fact, anyone who wants to increase their protein intake should consider whey protein. It’s appetite-suppressing, highly filling, and fairly low in calories. It makes an excellent meal alternative and delivers a staggering 20 to 30 grams of protein per serving. Whey protein is easy on your digestive system and quick-acting, so it makes the perfect source of post-workout nutrition (both calories and amino acids). Whey protein has amazing anabolic (muscle-building) effects!
Red Meat – Red meat (beef and pork) is the ultimate muscle-building food. Not only does it have 23 grams of all nine proteins per 3 ounces, but it’s loaded with B vitamins and nutrients you won’t find anywhere else. Leaner cuts of steak have more protein per calorie, but even the richer, more marbled cuts (like rib-eye) can deliver all the protein you need without overdoing it on the calories. The myth of “meat giving you heart attacks” has been debunked, so you can eat 2-4 meals of red meat per week without worrying about your health.
Chicken – Chicken is another of the top-rated proteins on the planet, thanks mainly to the fact that they are low in unnecessary fats and rich in amino acids. You get 24 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving of chicken breast, and the protein content of chicken legs and thighs isn’t much lower. The lower fat content of chicken breast means your body gets a direct infusion of amino acids without struggling to break down fatty acids.
Fish – The right fish can be better for your muscle-building efforts than both red meat and poultry, thanks to the high protein and low fat content. Halibut and sockeye salmon, for example, have 23 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, while yellowfin tuna has 25 grams. What makes fish so awesome is the fact that it’s low in saturated fat and high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is one of the best heart-smart foods on the planet, thanks to its high selenium (antioxidant) and mineral content.
Turkey – Turkey contains 24 grams of amino acids per 3 ounces of meat, and there’s an especially high amount of the amino acid tryptophan in the turkey meat. Turkey is leaner than red meat, so it’s easier on your digestive system and less likely to increase your BMI.
Pork – Pork is another red meat that is high in protein (26 grams per 3 ounces of meat). However, you’ll find that it’s also a bit higher in fat, making it a food that’s good but not great. And remember: this is talking about actual pork—chops, ribs, steaks, etc.—not meat products like bacon, hot dogs, or sausages made from pork meat. You’re only going to get a hefty dose of protein if you eat proper pork.
Greek Yogurt – Greek yogurt is probably the best of the dairy products. It contains all nine of the essential amino acids, with 23 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving. There is also a bit of fat to encourage better calcium intake and boost your metabolism, plus all the great probiotic bacteria to improve your digestive function. If you’re looking for a quick, easy source of protein, try Greek yogurt.
Cottage Cheese – Cottage cheese may only contain 14 grams of protein per ½ cup serving, but it’s also lower in calories and fats than other dairy products. The cheese contains all nine amino acids in the form of casein protein, a slow-acting protein that will deliver a steady stream of amino acids into your bloodstream. It makes an EXCELLENT evening snack, as the casein will last all night long to make the repairs to your muscles after an intense workout.
Milk – Milk is an excellent source of amino acids, and it contains 8 grams of complete protein per cup. The biological value of milk is almost on par with eggs, and there are no sources of calcium more effective than milk. However, you NEED the fat content of whole milk (or, at least 2%) in order for your body to absorb and utilize the calcium and the Vitamin D. Milk from free range cows also have a higher Omega-3 fatty acid content, which is both heart-smart and anti-inflammatory. A cup of milk a day is an excellent addition to your diet.
Tuna – We’ve all seen those pictures of bodybuilders chowing down on a massive pile of canned tuna with rice. Tuna, even in a can, is still loaded with protein: 22 grams per 3 ounces of fish. Tuna is also a very inexpensive source of protein, and one that delivers Omega-3 fatty acids and A LOT of minerals.
Sardines – We always think of eating sardines for the higher Omega-3 fatty acid content, but did you know that it’s also an amazing source of protein? You can get 21 grams of protein in every 3 ounce serving, and the fish is loaded with Vitamin D (which is needed to absorb calcium for your bones). Sardines may also help to increase your testosterone production, which will lead to better muscle growth overall.
Quinoa – Quinoa is the ONLY one of the grains to deliver all nine essential amino acids, making it the best of the whole grains. It can be eaten alone or paired with legumes (beans and lentils) to increase your intake of plant-based proteins. Each serving (1 cup) of quinoa contains 8 grams of protein. Quinoa makes an excellent addition to your meals, and is one of the best vegan and vegetarian proteins around.
If you want to get all nine essential amino acids in your diet, these are the foods for you.
Note: If you’re a vegan or vegetarian and CANNOT eat meat, fish, eggs, or dairy product, don’t fret! There are many plant-based proteins you can mix and match to ensure you get all the amino acids required for muscle building. One Green Planet has an excellent breakdown of all nine amino acids and what foods to eat to get them.
Remember how we mentioned that there are TEN essential amino acids? The foods above all provide the nine amino acids essential for muscle-building among adults, but what about arginine, the tenth amino acid needed for child and teenage development? Where can you get that amino acid?
- Turkey contains a lot of arginine, with 16 grams of the amino acid per cooked breast.
- Chicken is loaded with arginine, delivering 9 grams of the amino acid in a single chicken breast.
- Pork loin is another great arginine food, with 14 grams of arginine per rack of ribs.
- Soybeans deliver all ten essential amino acids, with 4.6 grams of arginine in every cup of roasted soybeans.
- Pumpkin seeds may not have all the amino acids required for muscle building, but you do get 7 grams of arginine per cup.
- Peanuts deliver 4.6 grams of arginine per cup, though you will want to stick with ¼ cup to avoid overdoing it on calories and fats.
- Dairy products like milk and cheese can provide you with arginine as well; roughly 0.2 grams per cup of milk or 0.25 grams per 4 ounces of cheese.
- Lentils give you 1.3 grams of arginine in each cup, plus a whole lot of other essential amino acids (though not all nine).
Want to get more of the essential amino acids in your diet? Add these foods to your menu and enhance your muscle-building efforts! Your body will benefit from an increase in protein intake, and you’ll see results in terms of fitness, muscle growth, and even testosterone production.
I cover this in much more detail in my TCycle Nutrition manual. Proper nutrition plays an important role in your hormonal health, building muscle and eliminating unwanted fat.
You can get a copy of the TCycle manual for free by clicking this link