You’ve probably heard of the term “amino acids” before. They’re known as the building blocks of protein and they serve hugely important functions in the body. Some amino acids can be produced by your body, whereas others need to come from your diet. The ones that need to come from your diet are known as “essential amino acids.” Lysine is one of them.
What is Lysine Good For?
What is lysine used for in the body? Well for starters, it plays an important role in protein synthesis. That’s the primary reason why gym goers sometimes take it as a supplement. Not only does it help aid in muscle recovery after a workout, but it’s also involved in the creation of collagen, the uptake of nutrients, and in the production of carnitine[i]. Carnitine plays a key role in the metabolism of fatty acids and is another popular supplement in the fitness world. Lysine supplementation is popular in gym circles, however, there are a number of foods high in lysine. Get enough of these in your diet and it could either reduce or negate the need for lysine supplementation. We’ll get to the best foods sources for lysine soon.
Health Benefits of Lysine
Lysine Cold Sore Treatment
Lysine has been used to effectively treat cold sores both orally and topically [ii]. In one six-month study with 27 participants, lysine was found to reduce the severity of cold sore symptoms. It also promoted faster healing of cold sores[iii]. Although lysine may not prevent cold sores [iv], it appears to be a useful treatment option when they do pop up.
Increases the Uptake of Calcium
As previously mentioned, lysine can assist with the uptake of certain nutrients. One of the notable ones is the mineral calcium[v]. This could be another possible reason that it’s a popular supplement for athletes since calcium plays an important role in bone health. Additionally, it’s an important amino acid in the prevention and management of osteoporosis.
Exercise caution around taking both calcium and lysine supplements, as an overload of calcium may not be desirable. Check with your health care practitioner to determine what’s right for you.
Lysine May Improve Anxiety
A study was created on the hypothesis that a diet low in lysine may worsen anxiety symptoms. This was based on studies that have shown an increase in stress-induced anxiety in rats that were fed a lysine-deficient diet. Lysine has been shown to improve anxiety in rats[vi], so it was proposed that the same effect could be observed in humans.
In societies depending on wheat as their primary protein source, lysine deficiency can be problematic. A Syrian community who consumes wheat as a staple food was the basis for a study that investigated the effects of lysine-fortified wheat on anxiety and stress responses. The results suggested that both short-term stress responses, as well as chronic anxiety issues, can be lessened with lysine fortification[vii].
May Help to Improve Blood Pressure
A study on 180 subjects found that lysine supplementation helped reduce blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. Specifically, it was determined that lysine supplementation could help normalize blood pressure in people who have dietary intakes low in lysine[viii].
Offers Potential in the Treatment of Cancer
Current research shows good potential for lysine to assist in the treatment of cancer. Research on tumor cells has shown that lysine is an effective anti-cancer agent for the treatment of solid tumors in vivo[ix]. Studies on rats have also highlighted lysine to be protective against genotoxicity[x].
Current research and knowledge suggests that it offers many benefits for human health. As we mentioned, it’s one of the essential amino acids. This means it must be obtained through food sources or supplementation. The good news is that it should be easy take on sufficient levels of lysine with a well-planned and varied diet. Varied diets likely provide enough so that supplementation isn’t needed.
Foods High in Lysine
Certain meats and dairy products are especially high in lysine. However, there are some very good plant-based sources too. Therefore, if you’re on a vegan diet you should be able to get enough lysine from intake alone, providing you are careful and consume a wide variety of protein sources.
Lysine deficiencies are most likely to occur in societies that rely on one main protein source that doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids. Examples include communities that rely on grain-based protein sources such as rice or wheat with little other protein variation. Similarly, if you have little variation in your plant based diet or are taking in low levels of protein overall, you could be as risk for lysine deficiency.
The recommendation for daily lysine intake is 13.6mg for every pound of body weight. So if you weigh 120lb for example, then your recommended intake of lysine is about 1632mg per day. If you weigh 155lb the recommended intake would be about 2108mg. A person weighing 198lb requires approximately 2993mg of lysine per day.
Lean beef and lamb
Per three ounce serving, roast beef contains around 145% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for lysine for a person weighing 154lb.
Chicken and turkey
A three ounce serving of turkey or chicken contains enough lysine for most people over the course of a day.
Fish and seafood
One serving of fish or seafood is likely to cover your daily lysine requirements. Examples include: tuna, salmon, snapper, mackerel, crab, halibut, Pollock, shrimp, sea bass, haddock and cod.
Game meats such as moose, elk, bison and boar contain plenty of lysine to cover your daily requirements. If you’re a meat lover, there are plenty of food choices high in lysine!
One ounce of parmesan cheese contains close to 1000mg of lysine. Other cheeses include: Romano, Gruyere, Edam and Gouda, Swiss cheese and hard goat’s cheese. These are good sources of lysine if you follow a vegetarian diet.
If you follow a vegan diet your daily lysine requirement can be more or less covered with a cup of soybeans (depending on your body size). Other soy-based foods include: tofu, soy flour, natto and tempeh. If you’re not keen on taking on a whole cup of soybeans, read on for other vegan options that cover your daily requirements.
Nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds
An ounce of nuts or seeds cover between 8% and 18% of your daily lysine needs if you weigh 154lb. If you weigh more you’d need more than an ounce to reach these percentages, and if you weigh less, you’ll need less to reach them. It might be too much to take on eating a full cup of nuts or seeds to cover your lysine requirements if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Therefore, your best bet as a vegetarian or vegan is to include a good variety of lysine sources into your day (i.e. planned out sources of soy, pulses, nuts and seeds for vegans. Vegetarians can also include eggs and cheese).
One egg will cover around 20% of your daily lysine requirement, depending on your exact body size. So with a three egg omelet you should be more than halfway to covering your daily needs.
Pulses, especially white beans
Finally, a range of pulses can be a great source of lysine. For example, one cup of cooked pulses is going to cover around half of your daily needs (again, this will vary a bit depending on your body size). White beans, lentils, split peas, yellow beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans and chick peas are great sources.
Are you getting enough foods high in lysine on a daily basis? What do you think after reading the list above? If not, what are you going to adjust in your diet? Let us know in the comments below!