From protein to amino acids

For every gram of whole protein your body takes in, only10-33% of the amino acids contained within are used by your body. As we learned in our primer on amino acids, protein is only usable to our body after it is broken down into the amino acids.

The human body vs. the Kjeldahl method

amino acid anatomy

Protein content of food is determined by a process known as the Kjeldahl method. Pioneered by the chemist Johan Kjedahl in 1883, the process uses sulfuric acid to decompose food and measures the nitrogen released. This number is reverse engineered to indicate the amount of protein that was present in the material decomposed. This leaves us with the amount of total protein with limited insight into what happens to that protein once it enters the body.

However, like most processes in biology, the process of protein digestion is less than 100% efficient. What is happening to the amino acids that aren’t being used by the body? Let’s take a look at the structure of an amino acid to find out:

As you can see, any amino acid is comprised of a carbohydrate (specifically COOH, carboxylic acid) as well attached to two nitrogen groups, an amine and a specific R group depending on which amino acid it is.

What happens to the rest of the amino acids?

The answer is simple, they are converted to energy – specifically for the carbohydrate they contain. It’s no coincidence that both carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories of energy each. The nitrogen, separated from the amino acid that made it useful, is now a waste product. This can take many forms, the most common being uric acid within the blood. This is why protein produces a dietary acid load.

Amino Acid Uptake of various forms of protein

The Amino Acid Uptake (or AAU) is the percentage of amino acids from a protein that are used instead of being converted into carbohydrate and waste. Here are the values for some common forms of protein:

Breast Milk 49%
Meat, fish, poultry 32%
Consumer grade amino acids 20%
Soy 17%
Casein 16%
Whey 16%
Spirulina 6%

Your body is not a chemistry set

The numbers represented on the back of a nutritional label represent estimates arrived at using the Kjeldahl method. The usefulness of any protein is determined by the amount of amino acids that are utilized by your body. Factors ranging from stress to heat to temperature can all have an effect on how efficiently protein is utilized by your body. The less digestion that has to occur, the more likely an amino acid is to be utilized instead of digested as carbohydrate.

The Vitality Sciences Difference

The Essential Amino Acid formulas in Myothon was specifically formulated to maximize AAU.  Owing to careful design, as well as quality sourcing of components, they boast an outstanding 99% AAU. What this means for you is more amino acids driving the functions your body needs to perform, and less nitrogenous waste to deal with. In addition, these formulas boast a 300-500% efficiency advantage on a gram for gram basis with most commonly available proteins.

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