There are approximately 20 or so amino acids that can make up a protein. Eight of them are considered essential and the body cannot make them on its own (the definition of an essential-nutrient) thus they are required from our diet. Technically, the non-essential aminos can be made from the essential aminos. There are also amino acids considered "conditionally" essential under certain conditions and or populations.

If you link several aminos together you get a peptide. Keep linking peptides together and you get a protein. The shape of the individual amino acids and resulting proteins is quite unique and highly specific, so I won't go into great detail here. Suffice it to say, amino acids are the structural unit of a protein molecule.

Proteins have many different roles in the body besides simple muscle. Protein, or more appropriately amino acids, is the only macro-nutrient that supplies nitrogen to drive lean tissue growth (anabolism). Although athletes usually focus on the effect that protein has on skeletal muscle, it is equally important for people to understand that there are other disposal sites of amino acid nitrogen in the human body.

In simple terms, these include structural proteins, DNA, RNA, phospholipids, enzymes, immune function and bile acids to name a few. Bottom line? There are many uses for protein in the body unrelated to just building muscle.

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