Protein is extremely important for nearly all biological processes, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Plants use nitrogen to form amino acids, which in turn create protein. There are hundreds of protein types which are vital for growing, developing and sustaining life, so amino acids are essential. Protein exists in food, and is broken down during the digestion process into amino acids. The body must then make its own protein from these absorbed amino acids. The human body requires new protein daily for building and replacing structures such as skin, bones, muscle, hair and cells of all kinds. Protein is also needed to make enzymes (digestive and other), hormones (growth hormone, insulin) and other life-sustaining fluids.
At All Star Health, we offer a wide range of high-quality amino acid vitamins and supplements, and we feature detailed information about the benefits of these amino acids. Vitamins can be used along with a healthy diet and exercise to provide the body with what it needs for optimal health. Are there 8 or 9 essential amino acids? See our listing of the 9 essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids. Amino acids are used as dietary supplements for many purposes.
Which Amino Acids Are Required by the Human Body?
There are approximately 80 amino acids that are naturally occurring. The human body needs 20 of them for proper function. There are 9 essential amino acids.
Types of Amino Acids
- Essential – The body is not able to manufacture them, so they must be included in one's diet (the same is true of vitamins).
- Non-Essential – They can be produced by the body if there isn't enough in the diet.
- Conditionally Essential – Supplemental amounts of these amino acids may be needed in certain conditions (for example, glutamine and arginine).
Types of Protein
- Complete – Contain all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids (animal sources such as meat, fish, eggs and whey)
- Incomplete – Lacks one of more of the essential amino acids (most vegetable sources, except for hemp and soy)
Health Benefits of Amino Acids
Amino acids can correct deficiencies in the body, whether known or suspected. What causes amino acid deficiencies? It may be an illness, injury, recovery, inadequate protein in diet, medication or a digestive or genetic disorder. These deficiencies can be detected by a blood test from a physician, and it may be addressed with an amino acid supplement.
Important Amino Acid Information for Athletes
If the body does not get the essential amino acids it needs from the diet when they're required, its last resort is to immediately break down muscle tissue protein. Athletes and strength trainers must consume complete proteins with every meal, and they should eat 4 to 6 meals a day to support heightened muscle production.
Recommended Protein Consumption
- General recommendation for healthy non-athletes – 0.4 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight
- Bodybuilders and athletes – 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of actual body weight
How to Use Amino Acid Supplements
Amino acid supplements should be taken within 30 minutes of a meal or as directed by your physician or the manufacturer. Amino acid supplements are available individually and in combinations. These products can be purchased in capsule, tablet, powder or liquid form.
Amino Acid Side Effects and Cautions
- If you are pregnant, nursing or have a serious illness, consult your physician before taking amino acid supplements.
- Take only recommended doses. Certain amino acids can be toxic if ingested in large amounts.
- Do not take individual amino acid supplements for an extended period, except on your physician's advice.
- High doses of arginine may cause cold sore outbreaks and/or herpes in individuals prone to these conditions.
- 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)
- Aspartic acid
- Cysteine* (antioxidant, supports healthy hair)
- Glutamic acid (muscle, immune and intestinal health)
- Glutamine* (muscle, immune and intestinal health)
- Proline (collagen production)
- Tyrosine* (mood support, brain booster)