A Complete Guide to Peptides
Peptides are a huge buzzword in the fitness and anti-aging communities lately. What exactly are peptides? And can they actually reverse the effects of aging and improve your physique? Here’s our complete guide to peptides.
What Are Peptides?
Peptides are compounds where two or more amino acids have joined together, with the carboxyl group of one joining together with the amino group of the other. When a molecule of water is eliminated from this bond, it leads to a peptide bond.
If you’ve forgotten your high school chemistry: here’s a more basic definition: peptides are basically just small proteins.
In general, anything with 50 or fewer amino acids is considered a peptide. However, that’s not a strict definition.
There are dipeptides, for example, which consists of two amino acids joined by a single peptide bond. And there are tripeptides, which are three amino acids with two peptide bonds. This naming system goes on and on and on.
In general, peptides with more than two peptide bonds are called polypeptides. A polypeptide can be defined as a long, un-branched chain of amino acids joined by peptide bonds. At the same time, this polypeptide is not complex enough to be referred to as a protein.
Proteins, you see, are made of multiple polypeptides.
Our Bodies Make Peptides from Amino Acids
Have you ever wondered why you take amino acid supplements?
The reason, as you probably know, is because amino acids are the building blocks for protein.
But in order to become protein, those amino acids first need to form into peptides.
With that in mind, your body needs to take in or produce amino acids in order to form the peptides your body needs to work efficiently.
As your body ages, and as it experiences different levels of stress, amino acids and peptide production can drop. This is one reason why the body starts to become weaker as we get older, why we gain fat instead of muscle, and why our skin starts to sag. It’s similar to the reason why our insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) production naturally drops as we age and experience more environmental stressors.
What Do Peptides Do?
Peptides play a variety of roles throughout the body. You can’t just say “peptides always build muscle” or “peptides always fight against wrinkles” because that’s not true: they perform all sorts of different roles.
Some peptides act like neurotransmitters, for example, while others act like hormones.
Some peptides will change the way your body reacts to diet and physical exercise. Some amino acids will also contribute to your body’s natural production of human growth hormone (HGH).
Put simply, when your body isn’t absorbing or producing enough of these amino acids, it can’t produce enough peptides. And when it can’t produce enough peptides, your production of vital compounds like HGH will be lowered.
So Should I Take an Amino Acid Supplement or a Peptide Supplement?
We’ve learned so far that amino acids link up and turn into peptides within the body. That’s why taking an amino acid supplement is so important.
So why are so many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts beginning to take peptide supplements?
The idea is that peptides are digested and used more immediately by the body. Your body doesn’t have to take the time and effort to form up amino acids. It also doesn’t have to spend energy breaking down larger protein molecules.
Basically, peptides are small enough to be easily utilized throughout the body, but not so small they’re not utilized effectively.
Peptides are also thought to be more stable than amino acids after they enter the body. Amino acids are un-bonded and thought to be unstable, which means many of them break down before reaching their intended destination.
So while amino acids might break down within the body, peptides retain their chemical structure, which means you get better “bang for your buck” with peptide supplements – or at least that’s the idea.
Glutamine and Creatine Peptide Supplements
Today, you can find a variety of peptide supplements on the market.
Two types of peptide supplements, however, are particularly popular. Those supplements are glutamine and creatine peptide supplements.
These supplements promise to offer faster absorption, fewer side effects, and better efficiency than the standard (non-peptide) version of creatine or glutamine.
There’s also a darker side to the world of peptide supplements in the athletic community: some peptides come in injectable form. These peptides are banned by most athletic government bodies.
Injectable peptide supplements promise powerful benefits. Many of them center around your body’s production of HGH.
You’ve probably noticed that human growth hormone has been in the news a lot lately. Peyton Manning allegedly took HGH to speed up his recovery from injury, for example. Other athletes have also been rumored to use HGH for all sorts of different purposes because they offer benefits like:
— Faster Recovery
— Greater Lean Muscle Mass Growth
— Stronger Injury Recovery
Of course, human growth hormone isn’t some crazy synthetic substance: it’s a compound naturally produced by the body. Certain peptides just encourage the body’s production of HGH more than others.
Nevertheless, by raising levels of HGH in your body, you can enjoy an unfair athletic advantage over your competitors, which is why peptides that raise levels of HGH are banned.
IGF-1, GHRP,-6, and Ipamorelin are three popular examples of these injectable peptides.
There are also injectable peptides like Melanotan, which actually tans the skin (I told you that different peptides have different effects on the body, didn’t I?).
There’s also SNAP-8, which is a popular anti-aging peptide used to fight back against wrinkles in the skin. We’ll talk about using peptides for anti-aging below.
These peptides aren’t strictly illegal in most countries. They’re just illegal if you’re involved in most collegiate or professional sports. Many of the above peptides can legally be ordered online “for research purposes”. Of course, you don’t have to prove your research purposes when you buy the supplements, so it’s a bit of an honor system.
Peptides for Anti-Aging
We mentioned that peptides can play a variety of roles within the body. Some peptides can help you build muscle, for example, while others raise melanin levels within the skin.
But there are a certain group of peptides purported to reduce the effects of aging on the skin. These peptides fight back against the effects of aging, making your skin appear less wrinkled and lined.
Peptides like SNAP-8, for example, are popular formulas for reducing the effects of aging.
When you see peptides used in anti-aging formulas, it’s typically one of the following five types of peptides:
— Pentapeptides: Your skin begins to lose its powers of regeneration as it grows older. One popular pentapeptide, palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, is trademarked under the name Matrixyl and can be found in a variety of anti-aging supplements on the market today. This peptide purportedly stimulates collagen production in the lower layers of the skin, increasing skin firmness.
— Hexapeptides: Hexapeptides are chains of six amino acids. This chain, especially one chain called acetyl hexapeptide-3, has been marketed for its ability to relax facial muscles. This can lead to a diminished appearance of fine lines. Some advertisements even claim that the results are similar to Botox. In anti-aging supplements, acetyl hexapeptide-3 is marketed under the name Argireline.
— Pamitoyl Oligopeptide: Palmitoyl oligopeptide promotes the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid in the deepest layers of your skin. It works in a slightly superior way to other peptides listed here because it also purportedly protects the skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation.
— Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7: Previously referred to as palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3, this compound consists of a chain of four amino acids bonded with palmitic acid. Palmitic acid is a fatty acid that binds with the skin, allowing the peptides in the formula to easily slip past the skin’s defenses. This is thought to reduce inflammation and stimulate the regeneration of new skin molecules.
— Copper Peptides: The most unique member of this list is the copper peptide. Copper peptides are small fragments of protein bonded with copper. They’re thought to expedite wound healing in the skin and enhance skin regeneration. The weird thing about copper is that it’s a toxic metal: the only safe way to use it on your skin is to combine it with a peptide chain. You’ll also see copper peptides sometimes marketed as copper gluconate.
Conclusion: The Bottom Line on Peptides
Ultimately, peptides are another buzzword in the fitness community that few people seem to understand. Peptides are simply a chain of two or more amino acids linked together. You get peptides from the foods you eat. You get them from your BCAA supplements. You get them from red meat, dairy, and other common ingredients. And you get them in anti-aging skin creams.
With all of these things in mind, peptides are just a generic term for a bunch of amino acids that aren’t big enough to be labeled as protein. They’re certainly nothing you should be worried about.