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What to Know About Amino Acids and Why You Need Them

Amino acids and proteins go hand-in-hand. The latter are often described as the building blocks of the body or life. This statement underscores their immense importance to the body. It also indicates, indirectly, how crucial amino acids are to your body. What are these compounds and what do they have to offer you? Read on to learn about these and more, including groups, types and sources.

Amino Acids Chart?


What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are compounds that are to proteins what the latter substances are to the body. These organic compounds come together to make proteins. Conversely, they are what are left when proteins are broken down in your body. Muscles and other tissues rely heavily on amino acids to be in a good state.

Structurally, they feature amine and carboxyl functional groups. They also have a side chain described as R group, which is specific to individual amino acid. The major elements of amino acids are oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. They differ from other popular sources of energy, such as carbohydrates and fats, mainly due to the presence of nitrogen.

Amino acids are important precursors to many enzymes and brain chemicals. This makes them highly crucial for promoting good health and feeling of wellness. In addition, the compounds are the only ones thought capable of growing muscles, tissues and organs.

The organic compounds have a wide variety of industrial uses. They are widely used in the food industry – be it for their health benefits, as a sweetener (aspartame) or as a flavor enhancer. They are also available as supplements.

Amino acids are popularly used to enhance animal feed. In agriculture, they are used to improve delivery of minerals to plants. Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and biodegradable plastics are other things the compounds are also used for.

Groups of Amino Acids

There are between 200 and 500 types of amino acids that are known, depending on sources of information. Of these, 22 are more popular. These are known as natural or proteinogenic amino acids.

The term "proteinogenic" refers to compounds that build proteins – not all amino acids do that. These combine into peptide chains that form proteins. Only 20 of these compounds appear in the universal genetic code – these ones may be described as the "standard amino acids."

There are different criteria for classifying amino acids into groups. The most commonly used method is categorization based on the basis of health needs in human. The more popular amino acids have been grouped into three based on this consideration, namely: essential, non-essential and conditional.

Essential amino acids

These ones are termed "essential" principally because your body does not produce them naturally. You have to get this group of amino acids from the foods you eat. There are nine of them, which, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Non-essential amino acids

These compounds are so described because your body is able to make them from other compounds. So, you may be covered if you do not get them from your diet. They are:

  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Glutamic acid

Conditional amino acids

You need some of these organic compounds when battling with some medical conditions. Stress may also increase your need for them. Such are called conditional amino acids. Age is another factor that may also determine need. They include:

Another method of classifying amino acids is based on their chemical properties. It is from this perspective that there are branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which you might have heard about. These ones have aliphatic side chains, which are non-linear. They are isoleucine, leucine and valine.

Of the 20 common amino acids, asparagine was the first to be discovered, in 1806. Threonine was the last – discovered in 1935. Glutamic acid and glutamine are the more occurring ones in an average diet. But alanine, glutamine and glycine have the highest levels in the blood.

All of these common amino acids are "left-handed" isomers, or L-stereoisomers. This explains why they often have letter "L" added, as in L-Arginine.

There are also several notable non-proteinogenic amino acids, including gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), carnitine, and levothyroxine. They are usually not present in protein, except when formed through post translational modification.

Benefits of Amino Acids

It is fairly obvious that amino acids can improve your health in numerous ways, considering their link to proteins. But the question is how exactly do they help? Let's take a brief look at some of the benefits they promise.

Blood glucose control

Excessive amounts of sugar in the blood make a person more vulnerable to diabetes. Amino acids can help to guard against this problem. Leucine is one of those known to help in this regard. It regulates the amount of insulin during and after workouts, thus keeping blood glucose in check.

L-Arginine and L-Carnitine also help lower the risk of insulin resistance. The efficacy of amino acids in reducing blood sugar improves when combined with omega-3 fatty acid, zinc and magnesium.

Muscle growth

Professional bodybuilders know a lot about how amino acids can improve muscle gain. This is because products commonly used by them include the compounds. Muscle building depends heavily on proteins, which, in turn, relies on amino acids.

BCAAs are particularly known to help in this regard. Leucine not only assists in enhancing muscle growth, but also in increasing strength. It also facilitates muscle maintenance and recovery. Isoleucine improves nitrogen levels in muscle cells.

Other amino acids thought to help promote muscle growth and repair include valine, tryptophan and methionine.

Stronger bones

Amino acids offer help against osteoporosis and other issues affecting bone health. Lysine improves absorption of calcium to ensure more robust bones. Methionine, the only amino acid containing sulfur, is crucial to formation of bone cartilage.

Mental boost

You can look towards amino acids for enhancing your mental health and capacity. L-Tryptophan seems to be especially helpful here. You need this for efficient nervous system and great overall neurotransmitter function. The amino acid produces a relaxing effect on the brain. Its effect on the levels of serotonin suggests it can assist in fighting stress and promoting good mood.

L-Leucine, L-Phenylalanine, and L-Histidine also produce effects on the brain. They impact on chemicals in the organ in one way or the other. For this reason, having adequate amounts of these amino acids may protect against brain fog and depression.

Restful sleep

Are you finding it difficult getting restful sleep? A boost in the right amino acids may help with that. Tryptophan again comes to the fore in this regard. The relaxing effect that it produces is helpful for quality sleep. This is a reason foods containing it often make people feel sleepy.

Hair health support

Help can come from amino acids in your drive to have great looking hair. A number of these compounds have been found to safeguard hair follicles or help in some other ways.

L-Arginine, L-Methionine, and L-Cysteine are useful for the production of keratin. This fibrous structural protein protects epithelial cells of the hair from damage. It is a secret to shiny, frizz-free hair.

In addition, arginine guards your hair from the harmful effects of bleaching and coloring, while also protecting against hair loss due to medical disorders. Lysine promotes hair follicle health as well as repair of damaged hair. Cysteine and methionine are among the amino acids that shield your hair follicles from damaging effects of oxidative stress.

Arthritis prevention

You may be at a higher risk of suffering arthritis if you lack sufficient amounts of amino acids in your body. If you do not consume enough foods containing sulfur, you may have low levels of methionine. This compound is highly crucial to bone health, as previously noted.

Histidine and arginine can also help to keep arthritis at bay. You can not only prevent this debilitating condition, but also treat it with amino acids. For this purpose, you can improve chances of getting desired results by using the compounds with other substances such as glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fatty acids.

Sexual function enhancement

It is possible for men, in particular, to receive a boost in their sexual function with these organic compounds. Some people suggest there is a link between sexual dysfunction and low levels of histidine, for example. This hints that having sufficient amount may improve your sexual health.

L-Arginine, when used together with pine bark, has been found to improve circulation. Men with erection issues may benefit from having more of the amino acid. It works on the walls of the arteries and may enhance the flow of blood to the penis.

Also, arginine, cysteine and carnitine are thought to improve the quality of sperm. Men who are having fertility issues may want to consider getting more of them.


Do you feel a little uneasy whenever you cast your mind to changes taking place in your body? Amino acids such as cysteine, carnitine and gluthanione can help put you at ease. These boast potent antioxidant properties. As you may be aware, free radicals causes you to age faster. They cause oxidative damage to body cells.

By dealing with these harmful agents, amino acids may help you look younger than your age. You will better appreciate the usefulness of these antioxidants when you realize that free radicals are linked to numerous conditions affecting older individuals. These include atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

There are, of course, several other possible benefits of these compounds. Among these other ones are:

  • Control of inflammation
  • Increase of energy levels
  • Promotion of healthy weight loss
  • Lowering of cholesterol levels
  • Treatment of rectal disorders
  • Management of menopause symptoms
  • Support of healthy nails
  • Prevention of cancer

Optimal Amino Acid Pool Crucial

The amino acid pool refers to the total amount of free amino acids in the body. This needs to be in the right quantity to enjoy the different benefits. Your feeling of wellness depends to a large extent on your metabolism. This, in turn, relies on the amino acid pool available. Some experts even argue that poor metabolism is to be blamed for virtually all diseases affecting humans.

It then becomes more obvious that you need to have the right balance of amino acids. The pool of these compounds is not static – it changes. In the body, amino acid becomes new protein for use by the body. More amounts are, therefore, needed on a regular basis. This means you have to consume more foods offering them to make up.

The sad reality is that several factors militate against adequate supply of amino acids and other important substances these days. These include modern agricultural practices, pollution, and unhealthy lifestyle choices, most notably alcohol intake and smoking. Processing is another factor that lowers the amount of the organic compounds you get from your diet. Care is therefore needed when looking to maintain healthy amino acid pool.

Sources of Amino Acids

When it comes to maintaining an optimal balance of amino acids in the body, foods from animal sources come top. They offer practically all essential amino acids. You can also get the compounds from plant-based foods, but some may be missing. However, an argument that has been offered in support of the latter group is that foods from animal origin may cause inflammation in certain cases.

The following are some good animal sources of amino acids:

  • Lean Beef
  • Tilapia
  • Chicken Breast
  • Turkey
  • Halibut
  • Lean Lamb
  • Cod
  • Egg Whites
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

As for foods of plant origin, here are some examples:

  • Soybeans
  • Beans
  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Peas
  • Chia seeds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Sesame seeds
  • Raisins
  • Brazil nut
  • Cacao

There are numerous other animal and plant sources of amino acids. Consumption of just the foods listed above in proper amounts may suffice for your needs.

Amino Acids and Growth Hormone

You may have heard about human growth hormone, also known as HGH. This controversial substance is popularly known to be an anti-aging secret of many celebrities and the wealthy. Professional bodybuilders also make use of it to produce intimidating, ripped body. It may interest you to note that HGH has a relationship with amino acids.

Growth hormone, which originates from the pituitary gland in the head, depends on these compounds for its production. It is a polypeptide, a peptide chain that results from the joining up of amino acids. More precisely, the chain comprises 191 of these organic compounds.

Clinical studies have found that amino acids can increase natural growth hormone production in the body. This makes them a decent, safer alternative to costly HGH injections. For instance, concurrent use of arginine and lysine resulted in significant rise in the amount of natural hGH in one study.

Glycine was also shown in one of several studies to be potentially beneficial for growth hormone production. There was significant increase in HGH levels hours after oral administration of glycine to non-obese subjects. Researchers found that only diabetic patients did not seem to experience this effect.

Glutamine and GABA are among the amino acids that have been clinically shown to boost growth hormone release. The relationship between hGH and these compounds shows why you are likely to find them in top HGH Supplements. For example, the highly popular GenF20 Plus and HGF Max feature a good number of these natural ingredients.

Amino acids are certainly highly important for good health. You could be exposing yourself to debilitating medical conditions if you do not make effort to maintain sufficient supply. They are especially vital for older individuals, whose need for them is typically greater. Growth hormone production is among the awesome effects of the organic compounds. This substance promotes good health, great body and graceful aging.


Amino acid - Wikipedia (
Amino acids: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia (
WHAT ARE AMINO ACIDS? Benefits | Dosages | Side-effects | Studies (
What are amino acids? 2 | — Your information portal on amino acids (
Need Protein? Here are 9 Amino Acids Found Abundantly in Plants | One Green Planet (
Use of amino acids as growth hormone-releasing agents by athletes. - PubMed - NCBI (
Growth Hormone: Amino Acids as GH Secretagogues - A Review of the Literature | Ward Dean, MD (
List of Foods That Contain the Most Amino Acids | LIVESTRONG.COM (

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