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Amino Acids

Amino Acids: Information

Amino acids are nitrogen-containing nutrients that form the building blocks of protein. Hundreds of different types of protein are vital for growth, development and sustaining life and therefore, amino acids are vital. The human body must make its own proteins "from scratch" since protein in food is broken down into amino acids during digestion. The body absorbs then uses these amino acids to make the new protein it needs. New protein is required on a constant basis to build and replace body structures (hair, skin, muscle, bone, cells of every kind) and to make hormones (insulin, growth hormone), enzymes (digestive, etc) and other fluids that sustain life.

Of the roughly 80 amino acids that occur in nature, the human body requires 20. Of these 20, 9 are known as essential amino acids; they are essential in the sense that, like vitamins, the body cannot manufacture them and therefore they must come from the diet. The other non-essential amino acids can be produced if the diet provides insufficient amounts. Some amino acids like arginine and glutamine have been termed conditionally essential, meaning supplemental amounts are needed only in certain conditions.

Most vegetable protein, except for soy and hemp, is considered incomplete protein, meaning it lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. Protein from animal sources such as meat, fish, egg, and whey are complete proteins, meaning they contain all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids.

Amino Acids: Health Benefits

Individual amino acids are used as dietary supplements for a wide range of purposes. See the list at the end of this article.

Occasionally, individual amino acids are used to correct known or suspected deficiencies. Common causes of amino acid deficiencies are inadequate amounts of dietary protein, injuries, illness, recovery, medications and some genetic and digestive disorders. Deficiencies can be diagnosed by a physician with a blood test, and may be remedied by taking an amino acid supplement.

If the body lacks sufficient essential amino acids from the diet when needed, it immediately breaks down muscle tissue protein as a last-resort. So strength trainers or athletes should be sure to consume high-quality complete proteins with each meal, and eat 4 to 6 meals per day to support increased muscle production. Recommendations on protein consumption vary based upon individual differences and goals. A general recommendation for healthy non-athletes is to consume about 0.4 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight, while athletes and bodybuilders may need from 0.8 up to 1.5 g of protein per pound of actual body weight.

Using Amino Acid Supplements

Take amino acid supplements within 30 minutes of a meal or as directed by the manufacturer or by your physician.
Amino acid supplements are available as individual amino acids and in various combinations. Products are available in tablet, capsule, powder, and liquid form.

Side Effects and Cautions:

High doses of arginine may cause herpes and/or cold sore outbreaks in prone individuals. Consult your physician if you are pregnant/nursing or have a serious illness before taking amino acid supplements. Be sure to take only recommended doses, as some amino acids may be toxic if taken in large amounts. Do not take individual amino acid supplements on a long term basis except on the advice of a physician. Do not take lysine supplements with milk.

The 9 essential amino acids:

The 11 non-essential amino acids:

  • Alanine (cellular energy production)
  • Arginine* (NO production, circulation, growth hormone, ED)
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Cysteine* (antioxidant, supports healthy hair)
  • Glutamic acid (muscle, immune and intestinal health)
  • Glutamine* (muscle, immune and intestinal health)
  • Glycine*
  • Proline (collagen production)
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine* (mood support, brain booster)


  • *Conditionally-essential amino acid
 

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