Protein is made up of 20 amino acids. Every type of protein is made of a different combination of amino acids and all of them are necessary to human life. Of those 20 amino acids, half are known as non-essential amino acids and the other half are called essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids are produced in the body, therefore we do not need to worry about getting those nutrients in our food sources. Essential amino acids, however, are not produced by the body and therefore we must get them through our food. Since amino acids are not stored in the body, we must consume enough of them through our diet every single day.
Lysine is one of the essential amino acids so it is very important to our health to eat foods that contain lysine on a daily basis. The nutrient is found in proteins such as those in beef, pork and poultry as well as animal by-products such as eggs and dairy. While almost all proteins contain lysine, the body doesn’t process it from plants as readily as animal sources. That’s why vegetarians, in particular, should ensure they take a lysine supplement in order to maintain the level of this crucial amino acid in their bodies.
Lysine is necessary for building muscle, recovering from injuries and surgical procedures and for the production of many things like hormones and enzymes. Research has shown that lysine plays a role in calcium absorption and may help the body retain more calcium. Lysine also produces a derivative in the body, allysine, that aids in producing elastin and collagen, both important in strong connective tissue cells like skin, bone and cartilage.
This essential amino acid has recently been discovered to play a role in the treatment of Herpes simplex infections – cold sores and genital herpes. Almost 80% of the patients who participated in the research found that taking a lysine supplement daily reduced outbreaks of cold sores and eased symptoms. Treatment of genital herpes was not as universally successful but did help a number of patients, though further research is needed.
Your body uses more lysine during times of physical stress. That’s why athletes in training or during intense workout stages can benefit greatly from a lysine supplement along with eating more of the lysine rich foods such as eggs and meat. If you don’t replenish the body’s supply of the nutrient, it can end up cannibalizing its own muscle tissues in order to access more of the substance. Symptoms of a lysine deficiency can include appetite loss, lack of concentration, hair loss, bloodshot eyes and a loss of energy. Severe deficiencies can also lead to anemia, delayed or stunted growth and even reproductive disorders.
If you are deficient in lysine due to not eating enough lysine rich foods or because you are using more than you can ingest, a lysine supplement may be necessary. You don’t want to overdose on lysine, however, as that can lead to some annoying and painful side effects. Taking more than 15 grams daily can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, higher cholesterol levels in the blood and gallstone formation. The normal requirement of lysine is only 1 to 1.5 grams daily so supplements should not be more than double to triple of the recommended dosage to avoid any unpleasant side effects.
Lysine is an essential amino acid, necessary for good muscle health and a host of other benefits. Eating lysine rich foods such as beef, pork, poultry, eggs and dairy products every day will be enough for the average person. If you are an athlete or trying to recover from an injury, you body may need a boost from a lysine supplement.