Lysine, also called L–lysine is a building block for proteins. It is an essential, positively charged amino acid. Our bodies cannot synthesize it so we must obtain it through dietary sources.
Lysine plays many important roles: not only does it help the body absorb calcium, it also plays an important part in the formation of collagen, a key substance for bones and connective tissues. Moreover, it contributes to the production of carnitine, a nutrient responsible for converting fatty acids into energy and for lowering cholesterol. It also helps produce enzymes, antibodies and hormones and is involved in immune function and wound healing. Furthermore, it may reduce blood pressure, anxiety and stress.
Lysine deficiency can cause many physical and mental side effects. Some studies suggest that taking lysine supplements on a regular basis may help prevent outbreaks of cold sores. Lysine also reduces anxiety by blocking receptors involved in stress response and is associated with a decrease in insulin resistance. In extreme cases, lysine deficiency may even lead to fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, loss of appetite, agitation and anemia. While consuming lysine is considered safe and healthy, excessive doses may cause unwanted secondary effects. There have been reports of gallstones, renal dysfunction, diarrhea and abdominal pains.
There are numerous ways to increase our lysine levels naturally. High concentrations of lysine can be found in the following foods: meat (e.g. beef, lamb, veal, game meat, pork), poultry, seafood (e.g. whelk, cuttlefish), fish, egg, dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk), soy products (e.g. tofu, tempeh), legumes (e.g. soybeans, kidney beans, lentils), nuts (e.g. pistachio, cashew), quinoa, oat, buckwheat, pumpkin seeds, avocados, wheat germ and seaweed (e.g. spirulina).
Note that proteins of animal origin contain all the essential amino acids, unlike most plant origin proteins. It is therefore interesting to combine legumes (which are methionine-limiting) and cereals (which are lysine-limiting) in order to compensate for the lack of amino acids and therefore improve the quality of the proteins.
In sports, supplementing with lysine is commonly thought to help release human growth hormone and therefore enhance overall performance, but recent research doesn’t support this. It is also said to help prevent mental fatigue. Because lysine is mostly derived from skeletal muscle, it builds and maintains that muscle tissue. It also works with other vitamins to create other amino acids such as carnitine, promotes the absorption of fats and has a favorable effect on recovery. Athletes have higher needs in protein than sedentary people and both quality and quantity of protein is important. Athletes’ intake of essential amino acids, including lysine, need to be adequate along with sufficient energy intake and exercise, to support muscle growth, maintenance and repair.
In conclusion, our lysine levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your lysine levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.