Adaptation and the Anabolic State; Part 1 of the series: A-Z Fitness and Exercise

Adaptation and the Anabolic State; Part 1 of the series: A-Z Fitness and Exercise

All living things are capable of adaptation to some extent, but as humans we are absolute masters of it. We are amazingly capable of adjusting our behavior… which is a feat that many other creatures simply can’t or won’t do. It is incredible but we can even change our physiology and structure. Adaptation can involve conscious thought and distinguished efforts, but it is largely automatic, simply put: we just do it.  Adjusting, changing and fixing little things that the environment we live in has proved to be minor flaws are the basic ideas to adaptation.

Adapt or die is a grossly oversimplified explanation to the phenomenon/theory of evolution.

In fact our blob like state that we sometimes find ourselves in is actually an adaptation, “fat” is meant to improve our chances of survival. When we eat more than we need our body uses the excess to make itself a “rainy day fund” of stored adipose tissue (fat). When we do very little movement (not exercise at all) our body slowly loses muscle mass as a means to conserve resources and require less calories. This is a one-two punch for Mr. Couch Potato: when he over eats Mr. Potato gets fatter, when he does not exercise Mr. Potato loses muscle mass and it becomes easier for him to get even fatter. (As a general rule the more muscle mass you have the higher your Resting Metabolic Rate, RMR, will be; this means you can eat more and not gain weight.)

Adaptation can be the poison and the cure, your best friend and your worst enemy. It is, of course, much better to have friends than enemies. If we must have enemies or can’t escape having enemies, we should learn all we can about them to fight them. I am a visual thinker and I visualize two different images for adaptation. I envision little angles of eating right and exercise, who call themselves adaptation; in my mind they look like cherubs. I also envision tiny little goblin/imp looking creatures of sloth and gluttony (lazy and eating a lot) who also call themselves adaptation. Not everyone is as mentally capable of visualization as I am, but just the same the characterization of imps and angels should help with understanding. In this article I am going to focus on the good “angels” of adaptation… because we all know pretty well what those nasty little imps of sloth and gluttony will do to our bodies.

If we did not have such a high capacity for change, exercise and eating right would be utterly pointless. Thankfully we can adapt with relative ease. As a man of faith I feel that when I eat right and exercise I am honoring God, my Family, and Myself. When you look deep down at the amazing science of nutrition and exercise, it gets more and more miraculous as you learn more about the science. Regardless of faith, the science treats all of us the same or very near to the same.

It is pretty easy to see that exercise works out the muscles of the body, and it makes sense that the body would want to improve its muscles to make exercise easier. The body does this improvement through hormonal and physiological responses to exercise. For example, when we first start resistance training weights of 5, 10, or 15 pounds might be challenging enough but soon our bodies will adapt and it will be incredibly easy to lift this small amount of weight. The muscles are not the only thing that improve in response to exercise, indeed exercise gives us an entire body makeover.

The science of exercise, and how it improves the body through adaptation:

Blood Pressure:

Let’s start with the arteries and veins: when we exercise the arteries (and to a lesser extent the veins) constrict or relax in response to exercise. When we exercise the blood vessels (arteries and veins) of the muscles are told by our sympathetic nervous system to vasodilate, meaning they relax and become wider “pipes” for blood to flow through. (Our sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system, which is the parts of our nervous system that acts without conscious thought. We should be glad to have this system without it, we could not digest food and our hearts would not beat.) At the same time the blood vessels of many of the internal organs vasoconstrict: tighten and become smaller “pipes” for the blood to flow through. This most notably happens in the digestive tract (stomach and intestines). The actions described above primarily happen in the arteries and arterioles.

All of this expansion or contraction functions as a work out for the blood vessels, and improves their elasticity and general functionality. As the elasticity and general functionality of the blood vessels increases, our blood pressure regulates. This is primarily how exercise reduces high blood pressure. Those with high blood pressure have to be careful when they exercise because exercise causes a temporary raise in blood pressure.

Those with high blood pressure should avoid high intensity exercise, like lifting heavy weights and sprinting (and anything else that seems high intensity). If you want to do these types of exercises, for your safety you may have to wait a bit. Don’t worry; there is a good chance that your moderate/ light intensity exercise program will lower your blood pressure. Once your blood pressure is in a normal range your doctor might give you the go ahead to do the heavy lifting and sprinting that you wanted to do.

If one has a MEDICAL CONDITION, they should always get the go ahead from a doctor before starting or modifying an exercise program. Truthfully, all people should see a doctor before they start exercising. It is also fun to get a “before” physical.

Resting Heart Rate, and heart strength:

Resting heart rate is an excellent indicator of general health, one that people often overlook. A normal range is 60-90 beats per minute (BPM). A resting heart rate of 100 BPM is usually considered okay but anything over 100 is a bad sign and unless you are an athlete a heart rate of 40-50 BPM is also a bad sign. If your heart rate is less than 40 and you are not an elite athlete there is a good chance that you are going to experience a cardiac event (like a heart attack) in the very near future.  Bradycardia is the medical term used to describe a low heart rate (less than 60 beats per minute). If you are not a trained athlete or a healthy young adult, less than 60 BPM is often bad news especially when it is accompanied by palpitations.

Trained athletes typically have lower heart rates due to hypertrophy of the heart (muscle growth/ size and strength increase). Lance Armstrong and athletes like him often have a resting heart rate in the 30’s. (Most of us should probably talk to a doctor if we see our heart rates this low.) Lance’s heart is likely pretty darn big and is definitely very strong.

Cardio junkies (people who love aerobic exercise) are very thankful that there heart and lungs adapted. If they did not experience adaptation in the heart and lung department they would definitely not be able to do the amazing things they do. The tour de France is a 3 week long 2,200 mile bike race… this is a ton of biking. I have broken the 500 miles of cycling in a week marker, on an actual bike (it doesn’t count if you do this on a machine, my opinion)… it was really hard. All of the guys that manage to finish the tour are amazing to me.

If we take a look at these guys some of them are KINDA muscular but most are very lean. They do tend to have large quadriceps (a group of 4 different muscles on the front of the legs), but a body builder would have much larger quads. The reason they look the way they do is because the body does not get much stronger and the muscles do not grow much in response to aerobic exercise. There are three things that do grow tremendously due to aerobic exercise: metabolism (hardest to explain), Lungs (also hard to explain) and the Heart. Explaining how the heart adapts to exercise is simple. Resting heart rate is the best indicator of heart strength; in athletes a low resting heart rate indicates that the heart can pump a higher volume blood.

Exercise uses the heart; all exercise uses the heart from zumba to aquatic dance. All exercise increases heart rate, but only exercise of an aerobic nature significantly increases the heart’s stroke volume (how much blood is being pumped per beat). By asking the heart to pump more blood per beat the heart is physically stretched and it must physically contract over its full range of motion this is a great hypertrophy inducing exercise. In a weird way this is an example of how proper form produces more and better muscular growth.

It turns out weight lifting does little to stimulate hypertrophy of the heart. This is because while you are lifting, despite an increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure the volume of blood being pumped is not greatly increased and could potentially be less than average. Because the volume of blood per stroke is not higher (or not by much) the heart does not get to stretch out to its full range of motion. During a lift the muscles themselves engorge, you can see this: it is sometimes called “the pump”. This enlarged state of the muscles constricts the blood vessels that surround and intertwine with the muscles. The muscles elsewhere in the body, like in the digestive track, were already constricted (it naturally happens with most exercise), so basically during the “lift” the heart is frantically trying to pump blood through a kinked garden hose.

Doing this pumping blood through a body that is like a kinked garden hose is difficult for the heart, people with “weak” hearts should not weight lift. If you have a “weak” heart but want to weight lift you should for your safety, wait until your heart is stronger. There is good news: mild exercise, like walking, actually does improve the heart’s strength; most, as in nearly all people, can safely participate in mild exercise. Just the same ask your doctor what is and is not appropriate for you.

Weight lifting can strengthen the heart, but not my much. The good news is weight lifting while completely ignoring cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise is just plain silly. Doing some cardio as a warm-up prevents injury, and doing some cardio as a cool down helps clear away that nasty lactic acid. Being a cardio junkie that completely ignores weight lifting is also just plain silly… but more on that later.

A quick stretch immediately after a lift is a great way to open up the veins and get some much needed oxygen and nutrition to the muscles. Because stretching stimulates vasodilation, stretching is the best way to get the nutrition from our diets to muscles and joints. Note: some yogic stretches physically constrict blood vessels, but most do not. All the same you should never try to stay in a stretch of any kind for a long period of time (as a general rule not over 1-2 minutes, but some stretches like “child’s pose” are safe to do for much longer periods).           

Adaptation and Stretching/ Range of Motion      

Let us start with the bad news… tricky little imps of adaptation are out to get us; this thing can be out worst enemy. Bad posture, something that I often find myself guilty of, is just plain terrible for the body. Bad posture mostly refers to sitting posture but it can refer to posture in any position or even bad posture during exercise. When we have bad posture our spine is in an unhealthy position.

Sublaxation is a term argued over by medical doctors and chiropractors but if you have back problems chances are you have heard the term sublaxation. Vertebral Sublaxation in both communities (chiropractic and medical) is a nasty term used to describe an unnatural positioning associated with bad things like pinched nerves. There is a reason that the term sublaxation sounds like an awful way to poop your pants… because if things get real bad you might do just that (you might poop your pants). Indeed back problems can cause all kinds of incontinence.

So we all should sit up straight and stand tall no matter how uncomfortable it is right? WRONG VERY WRONG. Yes we should sit in a manner that is much closer to straight then slouch but we should not be over stressing our muscles to sit. The healthy middle ground that is perfect posture is actually easy to find. When you are standing breath in a deeply as you can… observe your posture: this about perfect and about perfect is perfectly fine. Most people when they inhale deeply have a slightly overly Lordotic (inward curvature) of the lumbar region, so be aware of this. The easiest way to good posture is to develop the habit of every once in a while taking a deep breath. If you develop this easy to develop habit of occasional deep breaths your posture will naturally and gradually improve.

When most of us envision someone sitting up straight what we actually are envisioning is someone sitting in a Lordotic state (lordosis)… this is bad and will cause lower back and other back pain. When we envision someone slouching we envision someone sitting in a kyphotic state (kyphosis)… this is also bad and will also cause all kinds of back pain.

Slouching is another adaptation… when we are slouching we are burning less calories then when we are sitting up straight. Anytime we are burning less calories it is an adaptation to conserve resources. When we slouch or lordotically “sit up straight” the ligaments, muscles and tendons of the back get stretched or constricted to unnatural lengths… causing pain.

All parts of the body have a functional range of motion; this is why how flexible we are is a huge marker of fitness. There are only three categories of fitness markers: flexibility, endurance and strength. One who loses sight of flexibility is doing their bodies a great disservice that will lead to INJURY and PAIN.

We don’t have to be able to do crazy yoga poses to be physically fit… but if you are all stiff and can’t touch your toes it is very bad: You do not have a functional range of motion. Those of us without a functional range of motion are, simply put, less functional but we could also be experiencing pain. (Of course there is the other extreme; overstretching and increasing the body well beyond its functional range of motion can also lead to chronic pain.) A functional range of motion (FROM) is just that: a range of motion which is functional.

Warning Science-y Stuff

The smallest functional unit in any muscle is the sarcomere; all muscles have these as their basic structure. The biceps alone might have as many as 100,000 sarcomeres. The sarcomere is composed of myofilaments. Each muscle cell is a tubular cell called a myocyte or myofiber. All in told, adding all the types of cells together, it is estimated that there are trillions of cells in the human body. 1,000,000,000,000 a thousand billions, a million millions… one trillion is a mind boggling number.

 All parts of the body are alive, excepting things like the water in blood and the dead cells of our hair. Bones = alive, muscles = alive, organs = alive, and what is truly amazing for most intents and purposes all of these living entities are functioning together harmoniously to produce one thing: the human body. No matter what your faith is the next time you find yourself questioning it, think about this: we are composed of a trillion + cells that must be in relative harmony for us to exist.     

Muscle cells contain contractile filaments which move using other muscle cells as anchors, this action physically changes the size of the muscle cell. If the contractile proteins, mostly actin and myosin, are relaxed they are not producing force (or at least not much). When the muscle is being either stretched or contracted a force is being generated. To produce a contraction ATP (adenosine triphosphate) must be used, calcium and plenty of other stuff is also involved it all gets very complicated.

The important concept to grab is that the muscle cells use each other as anchors and they in a weird way ratchet off of each other to produce power. STRETCHING can make you more powerful. It ups the power your muscle can produce in a neat way: it realigns disorganized muscular fibers.

Whenever our muscles are stretched the area of overlaying myofilaments of the individual sarcomeres is reduced, (when a muscle constricts this area increases). When all of the sarcomeres in a muscle are stretched to their limits, other connective tissue must then be stretched. In any and all muscles the sarcomeres are aligned in such a manner that their net efforts produce power. In organs the sarcomeres are supposed to be aligned in an omnidirectional manner such that they produce power in many directions, and this is a good thing. In skeletal muscles the sarcomeres are supposed to be aligned in a roughly parallel fashion to produce power in roughly one direction, and this is also a good thing. Unfortunately, organs will have some unnecessary levels of “parallel-ness” and skeletal muscles will have some unneeded “omnidirectional-ness.”

Most of the sarcomeres of skeletal muscle are roughly parallel so when we stretch them out in the direction that is roughly parallel to the sarcomere’s alignment; some of unneeded misaligned sarcomeres are dislodged from where they are anchored. If allowed to heal, these once misaligned sarcomeres will now be properly aligned. The more sarcomeres contracting in the same direction the more power that contraction produces. It is because of this fact that the weight lifter that never stretches is not as strong as they could be.

Sarcomere misalignment is both a naturally occurring phenomenon and an adaptation. A muscle that uses less of its sarcomeres to contract uses less energy to make the contraction. Indeed most adaptation that reduces the body’s functionality is about conversing resources.

Adaptation and Muscular Hypertrophy

                To become “muscular” you must overload the muscles. When you overload the muscles you are actually causing some damage to them, and to prevent future damage from the same load the body makes the muscles stronger. When a muscle cell is stretched or contracted beyond its ability little tears are made in the cell itself. Muscle cells are amazing little things; they are multinucleated cells, meaning they have many nucleuses. The nucleus is the organelle of a cell that contains the blueprints (DNA) of how the cell is made. Muscle cells being multinucleated translates into them having amazing abilities to heal themselves. The main reason aerobic exercise (cardio) does not tend to make a person bulky is because the actual load being placed on the muscles does ever exceed a person’s bodyweight.

(Performers of isometrics like flexing can achieve bulky because it is possible to exceed the load naturally provided by body weight alone.) 

At the end of the day all body healing is about filling gaps, muscles are really good at this. Envision a bridge that collapses in the middle because there was an earth quake that pulled the bridge apart. Now the span that must be crossed by this bridge is just a bit longer, and the bridge must be repaired to be just a bit longer. Or envision a weak little wooden bridge on a country road. Let’s say one day a big heavy truck drives over the bridge and it collapses. To prevent this in the future the wooden bridge must now get steel or concrete reinforcement and the bridge gets bigger and beefier.

The leading theory is that there are two kinds of muscular hypertrophy:  Myofibrillar and Sarcoplasmic. Mypfibrillar is characterized by the addition of extra contractile proteins resulting in massive gains in muscular strength but not much increase in overall volume. Sarcoplasmic is characterized by the addition of extra sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cell and huge gains in muscular volume, but not much gain in strength. According to this leading theory one type of hypertrophy cannot be had in isolation but differences in training can increase one type over another. (If you have not guessed by now hypertrophy is the fancy pants way of saying increased volume i.e. growing bigger and stronger.) Myofibrillar hypertrophy is most closely associated with Olympic weightlifters and power lifters. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is most closely associated with body builders.

Technically these two types of muscular hypertrophy thing is still theory: because there is not enough evidence to support it. The reason this is still theory is because when viewed under a microscope the difference between the biopsied muscle of powerlifters and body builders is actually hard to determine. The reason this theory is well supported is because when a protein analysis is done of biopsied muscle of different athletes it is often easy to guess which one is the powerlifter and which one is the bodybuilder: power lifters will USUALLY have more protein in their muscles. Other things can explain the difference in power between the extremely powerful “power” lifters/ Olympic weight lifters and the comparatively weak Bodybuilders. It should definitely be said that bodybuilders are usually extremely strong, they just happen to not be as strong as their smaller less muscular less well “defined” Olympic and power lifting counterparts.

Metabolic and neurological differences can be used to explain the disparity in strength between power lifters and bodybuilders.

Adaptation and the Metabolism Due to Exercise

Metabolic increases due to exercise are primarily due to muscular hypertrophy (bigger/stronger muscles burn more calories), but this is not the only way the body adapts to have a faster metabolism as a result of exercise. In response to exercise slowly over time our body’s slowly changes its hormonal balances, increasing the metabolism. The body also changes on the cell membrane level (the outside of a cell), by increasing or decreasing hormone receptors making the hormonal changes more effective. Inside of the cell changes in a number of ways. Often, in response to exercise, cells of the body increase the number mitochondria (the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell) in them because they need more energy. The cells of the body, most notably the muscles, also increase their glycogen stores.

This article is not really about the metabolism, and honestly… although it is interesting to some most people find the how it happens to be very dry and boring. There is a ton of chemicals and hormones and technical jargon that involved in the detailed explanation of how exercise increases the speed of the metabolism. Primarily these hormone and chemical changes have to do with the changes in our body’s insulin levels and insulin response system. Exercise has such a powerful blood sugar regulating effect that starting an exercise program has been shown to actually cure mild cases of diabetes: people have exercised the disease away. (Note: this is not possible very often, but exercise does consistently aide diabetics and mild exercise should be a part of any treatment plan.)

Muscles Adapt Faster and it is a Problem            

Exercise directly causes or indirectly stimulates adaptation on every level of the body. This is how we have the many benefits of exercise. With appropriate exercise every part of the body improves: the bones, the tendons/ligaments, joints, our organs, our BRAIN… all of it, everything gets better. Muscles get better and stronger very quickly in comparison to the rest of the body. This means that if we don’t wait for tendons/ ligaments/ joints to be strong we actually have our new found muscular strength to be a bad thing. This muscle hurting your tendons does not happen often with traditional weight training or most “classic” muscle building programs. However it is possible. When you are not in good shape trying to get into great shape too quickly brings a high risk of injury.

Good although vague news: it generally takes more time to go from bad shape to good shape than it does to go from good shape to great shape. This is because in the transition from good to great many of the metabolic and hormonal changes in the body have by in large already taken place. It is generally safe to quickly go from good to great shape because by the time the body gets into good shape the tendons, ligaments, joints and bones of the body are also in pretty good shape. If however one is in bad shape, meaning muscularly weak, then most likely the bones, tendons, ligaments and joints are also: WEAK.

Exercise makes all of the body stronger, but muscles adapt very quickly. This means that sometimes even when you can do the exercise or lift the weight, you shouldn’t. The best indicator of wither or not you shouldn’t be doing something is pain, basically if it hurts STOP. Exercise should never actually hurt, completely forget the old phrase: “no pain no gain.” Replace it with “No Strain, No Gain.” It is fine if exercise is difficult and mildly uncomfortable (it does not have to be many mild exercises are not in the slightest difficult or uncomfortable). Some exercise most notably weight lifting requires that you make yourself a bit sore to see the most gain. It is important and needs to be reiterated, even in the lifting of HEAVY weight there should NEVER be pain.

The best way to maximize gains is with proper nutrition.     

The body needs a ton of different things for nutrition to be proper: there are many different minerals and vitamins, we need water, we need electrolytes (like salt), and there are essential fatty acids and essential amino acids. We need “enough” of these many different nutrients. To maximize fitness gains we need more than we would need for a sedentary lifestyle. This bit of basic common sense eludes many people, most notably “dieters.” Regardless of actual calorie intake the basic needs of the body do not change. If we do not get our essential amino acids (protein) from our diet; our body will take it from our muscles. If we don’t get the vitamins and minerals we need our body will take them from our bones and other mineral/ vitamin rich places.

This breakdown of body tissue is called catabolism (catabolic state) and it is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it is often a good thing. We need some catabolism to keep the body in balance, replace old cells, and even help fight cancer. But, we want to prevent excessive catabolism because excessive catabolism leads to many bad things, most notably weakness. Excessive catabolism leads to weakness everywhere including but not limited to the bones, the organs, and of course the muscles.

The building of body tissue is called anabolism (anabolic state). At any given time the body is always in BOTH an anabolic and a catabolic state. The exerciser is often interested in making muscular and other fitness gains. To maximize gains one should try and stimulate the body into being in a state that is mainly anabolic. If properly fed the average person’s body will try and be in a state that is mainly anabolic, this is obvious as the average person is not wasting away into nothing.

To maintain an increased level of anabolism; the vitamin and mineral requirements of the exerciser are higher than that of the average person, but often not by much. It is important to try and avoid over consumption/ supplementation of vitamins. I personally never recommend that a person exceed the recommended upper limit/range of a particular vitamin or mineral. For example: the exerciser needs additional calcium, but it is not recommended that ANYONE gets more than 2000mg of calcium a day (don’t worry if you do this every once and a while just don’t make a habit of it). A common recommendation for women over 50 is 1200mg of calcium a day, this demographic needs additional calcium. It is not well established how much calcium is needed for exercisers but I use 1200mg as a target for myself.

Fat recommendations vary wildly; I have never seen it recommended that saturated fat intake be increased. Recommended saturated fat levels are between as close to nothing as possible to about 30 grams a day. Those on an extremely high calorie diet, like many body-builders and elite athletes often have much higher saturated fat intake levels (often as high as 70 grams with 5000+ Cal diets). These elite athletes manage to maintain good cholesterol levels. If most of us ate this much saturated fat in a day we would have a crappy blood lipid profile.

The outer part of a cell, the cell membrane is a fat based structure, and indeed many parts of the body are fat based structures: the skin, cartilage, collagen, and many hormones. We need fat, exercisers need more fat if they are going to expect that their bodies build and repair these fat based structures. I have seen recommendations from just slightly over average to double. Regardless of actual calorie intake it has been found that a minimum of 10% of the calories should be from fat. So if you are going to eat more you are going to have to eat more fat as well. As you eat less and less it becomes increasingly important that the fat that you do get be predominantly healthy fats. Fat that is not trans-fat or saturated fat is healthy.

The big buzzword when it comes to exercise and nutrition is: protein intake, a subject that is constantly studied and debated. Most of us do not need a ton of protein from our diet to maximize our personal fitness gains. However if you happen to be a body-builder of about 100 kilograms (~220 pounds) who is in the gym 3-4 hours a day you could benefit from getting 180 to as much as 252 grams of protein.

Three basic protein recommendations:

All of these are based on lean body mass measurements; LBM is a person’s mass minus the fat. Most research is preformed and reported using the metric system. To be honest I do not feel like converting the following numbers for users of U.S. customary units. In the U.S. we actually use metric all the time… in fact metric is what is on the back of nutrition labels. So when you convert your body weight to kilograms by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2 you will eventually be using metric anyway when you go to eat the food.

Mild and Flexibility Exercises (Tai-Chi, Yoga) = .8 grams per kilogram LBM

Endurance Exercise (running, aerobics) = 1.2 – 1.4 grams per kilogram LBM

Strength and Anaerobic exercise (weight lifting, sprinting) = 1.4 – 1.8 grams per kilogram LBM

Four Duration Multipliers:

1 for an hour or less

1.1 for 1-2 hours (10%)

1.25 for 2-3 hours  (25%)

1.4 for 3-4 + hours (40%)

Rendering the following ranges

Mild .8 g/kg – 1.12 g/kg LBM

Endurance 1.2 g/kg – 1.68 g/kg LBM

Endurance High Intake 1.4 g/kg – 1.96 g/kg LBM

Strength 1.4 g/kg – 1.96 g/kg LBM

Strength High Intake 1.8 g/kg – 2.52 g/kg LBM

Amino Acids that Start with the Letter A

There are 22 standard amino acids 8-10 of them are considered essential depending who you ask. In truth most of the non-essential amino acids can be conditionally essential if a person has a medical issue. Aside from the standard amino acids there are many more non-standard amino acids. None of the amino acids that start with the letter A are consistently considered essential, but sometimes Arginine is considered an essential amino acid.

Alanine: Is a non-essential amino acid and can be manufactured by the body using pyruvate and branched chain amino acids. Alanine plays a key role in the glucose-alanine cycle: when we exercise in addition to pyruvate we generate alanine. The alanine then goes to the liver to make glucose, this allows for more of a cell’s ATP to be used for muscle contraction. The alanine cycle also transports ammonium to the liver to be converted to urea.

Arginine: Is a conditionally essential non-essential amino acid, meaning the body can make it but may not make enough of it. Primarily (can be biosynthesis in other ways) it is made like this: Our body makes citrulline in the epithelial cells of the small intestines from glutamine and glutamate… then citrulline is converted to Arginine in the proximal tubule cells of the kidney. Arginine is a pretty darn important amino acid, it does a ton of stuff for the body it helps with: cell division, wound healing, ammonia removal, immune function and the release of hormones. Arginine is a precursor for nitric oxide. Arginine has been used in the treatment of ED… if you don’t know what ED is it does not apply to you. L-Arginine is a fairly common supplement that has been attributed to reduced blood pressure, increased healing and while some claim supplementation increases Human Growth Hormone secretion this has been proven to be insignificant.

Asparagine: Is a non-essential amino acid. To make asparagine the whole process starts with a transaminase enzyme transfers an amino group glutamate to oxaloacetate which produces alpha-ketoglutarate and aspartate (aspartic acid). Then the enzyme asparagine synthetase from aspartate, glutamine, and ATP makes AMP, glutamate, pyrophosphate and asparagine. We need this amino acid for our nervous system and it plays an important role in the production of ammonia (yes the same type of ammonia that is used for cleaning).

Aspartic Acid: Is a non-essential amino acid. To make it: a transaminase enzyme transfers an amino group glutamate to oxaloacetate which produces alpha-ketoglutarate and aspartate (aspartic acid). (<- This is also the first step in making Asparagine.) Aspartic acid can also be made in the Urea Cycle. Aspartic Acid is participates in gluconeogenesis which is the incredibly important process by which our body gets glucose from non-carbohydrate sources. Aspartic Acid is used to make inosine, a precursor to purine bases (our body does need some purines). Aspartic acid also functions as a neurotransmitter.

We don’t really need to worry too much about any amino acids that start with the letter A. But it is a good idea to get some extra Arginine when you accidently get injured, because it can speed up the healing process. How we manage to make the non-essential amino acids is another example of adaptation, can you imagine if every nutrient was essential; having a balanced diet would be very difficult. Adaptation can be found in every part of the human body from the hair on our heads to thickened skin on the soles of our feet.

Happy exercising and make sure to get enough protein!

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