What Are Amino Acids and How Many Are There? – The Amino Acids Guide

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amino acids complete guide

The term “amino acids” is one that you’ll often hear around the gym. It's certainly a popular topic because amino acids are crucial to building and retaining muscle. However, with so many different terms being used in the weight lifting circuits, it’s understandably difficult to keep all the terms straight.

Amino acids are very important to help maintain optimal levels of health. When properly leveled, amino acids provide impactful nutrients and help our bodies grow. They are a pretty big deal.

Are amino acids already in my protein powder? Does my body make them or do I need to supply my body with them through supplementation? These are just a few of the questions we’ll cover in this guide, and more.

What Are Amino Acids?

In a simple description, amino acids become proteins when combined into organic compounds. Amino acids are in foods that contain protein. When your body ingests those foods that contain protein, the protein is broken down into those independent amino acids.

After being broken down by the body into unique amino acids, they are then in a usable form. The body uses those amino acids where it deems fit. Sure, amino acids are key in helping to grow muscle, but other parts of the body are maintained by amino acids as well, such as your skin, bones, eyes and organ tissue.

When balanced correctly, amino acids can make a significant difference to your gains at the gym. A balance with other vitamins and minerals is key to ensure your body is prepared to break protein down into amino acids.

Out of over 500 amino acids, there are 20 to 22 unique amino acids that are important to protein production. This 20 to 22 range is because opinions vary on the specific types of amino acids. Further, from that large group of unique amino acids (20 - 22), there are 8 to 10 of them that are defined as “essential.” The word essential is used because your body needs a supply of those “essential” amino acids to work optimally, and our bodies cannot make them on their own. Of those “essential” amino acids, 3 of them are called BCAAs or Branched Chain Amino Acids. BCAAs are the amino acids that are most significant to muscle maintenance.

Proteinogenic & Non-Proteingenic Amino Acids

There are many amino acids. All amino acids can be grouped into two categories, Proteinogenic and Non-Proteinogenic

Proteinogenic

When discussing amino acids that help with workouts and muscular growth, those are Proteinogenic amino acids. There are twenty of these Proteinogenic amino acids that make up what's called our "whole proteins." Typically when you’re looking into amino acids for muscular benefits (or pretty much any amino acid nutritional supplement), those are defined as Proteinogenic amino acids. Any amino acids that impact protein are called Proteinogenic (as the name suggests).

Non-Proteinogenic

Any amino acids that don’t impact proteins are called Non-Proteinogenic. Whereas there are 10 Proteinogenic amino acids, there are hundreds of Non-Proteinogenic amino acids. Non-Proteinogenic amino acids are important as they can play a role in cognitive function. Keep in mind, Non-Proteinogenic amino acids are just as important as Proteinogenic, though in terms of relevancy to nutritional supplements, Proteinogenic are key.

Types of Amino Acids (Proteinogenic)

The twenty Proteinogenic amino acids can be broken up into three subcategories: Essential, Non-Essential and Conditionally Essential.

Essential

The body can produce some amino acids but the following 9 amino acids are ones that must be consumed, as they cannot be made by the body. That’s why they are “essential.” The last three in this section: Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine are listed under the heading “BCAAs.” Those amino acids are in fact essential amino acids, but they are further categorized as Branched Chain Amino Acids due to their make up.

Histidine

How It Interacts With The Body

Many commonly address Histidine as an semi-essential amino acid because adults can produce enough of it on their own. However, children may not be able to produce enough of it.

Histidine is a precursor to histamine. During an allergic reaction, histamine is a compound that the immune system releases. The importance of Histidine to your body is that it allows important elements like copper, iron, zinc, manganese and molybdenum to be used. When the body is faced with the threat of toxic metals like lead or mercury or excessive amounts of minerals like zinc, Metallothionein it created to protect the cells of the brain, kidneys and liver. Histidine is crucial to the formation of Metallothionein.

Where It Can Be Found

Typically Histidine can be found it protein dense foods like meat (beef, pork, poultry, fish), eggs and dairy. Meat alternative sources of Histidine are rice, beans and bananas.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

As Histidine is important to the the formation of the protective agent Metallothionein, proper levels are Histidine are important. Though, most adults get optimal levels with the exception of vegans and vegetarians. In these cases, it may be worthwhile to add Histidine supplementation


Methionine

How It Interacts With The Body

Methionine is a unique amino acid because it contains sulfur. Due to that, Methionine offers benefits to the body such as detoxification of the liver. Methionine containing sulfur is good because sulfur helps with the production of antioxidant nutrients.

In Europe, doctors are using Methionine to treat muscle pain, liver disease, inflammation and even depression.

Where It Can Be Found

Often times Methionine can be found in a regular diet consisting of meat, fish and dairy. Alternatively, for other sources (for vegetarians or otherwise) Methionine can be accessed through soy, sesame seeds and overall, whole grain sources.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Typically supplementation will not be useful for those on a regular protein diet. For those on a low protein diet, such as vegetarians, supplementation may be useful. Especially considering the body’s need for sulfur to serve antioxidant purposes.


Phenylalanine

How It Interacts With The Body

An interesting characteristic of L-phenylalanine is that it converts into another non-essential amino acid, Tyrosine. The purpose of Phenylalanine is to assist in forming valuable neurotransmitters in your brain.

Phenylalanine is the start in Catecholamine synthesis. In this process Phenylalanine turns into Tyrosine, Tyrosine turns into L-Dopa and L-Dopa eventually becomes Dopamine. This also raises the body’s levels of epinephrine and nor-epinephrine.

Dopamine is a crucial factor in our mental health and therefore Phenylalanine has significant cognitive benefits. Phenylalanine’s assistance in feeding these neurotransmitters can lead to improvements in sleep, mood and energy.

Where It Can Be Found

Phenylalanine can be found in meats such as beef, poultry, pork, eggs, fish, in dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, plant-based food such as turnips, spinach and seaweed, as well as legumes like seeds and nuts.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Phenylalanine has certainly caused controversy in recent years. Phenylalanine is used as a non-carbohydrate sweetener in soft drinks in addition to aspartame (aspartic acid). Phenylalanine and aspartame got bad press as some have stated that they could have damaging impacts to the brain.

That said, Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid and needed by the body. You may get enough from the food you eat but supplementation could be helpful if your intake is low on some of the food discussed.


Threonine

How It Interacts With The Body

This was the most recent essential amino acid found. Threonine supports the immune system through its role in producing antibodies. Some of the protein Threonine supports is collagen, enamel and elastin and they all help with muscle tissue production. It also plays a role in controlling the metabolism in the liver and helps the body function smoothly in the intestinal and digestive tracts.

It supports many systems in the body such as the liver, central nervous, cardiovascular and immune systems. Some of these benefits include strengthening teeth, strengthen bones and improving wound healing times.

Where It Can Be Found

Threonine is often found in proteins such as meat, eggs and dairy. Vegetarian options and alternative sources include nuts, wheat germ, various vegetables and beans.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Proper diet is typically enough to reach the best Threonine levels. Though, for those lacking in protein foods containing Threonine, it may be worth getting supplementation as it has immune system and muscle production benefits.


Tryptophan

How It Interacts With The Body

Tryptophan is needed for the production of serotonin. It plays roles as a sleep aid (melatonin) due to the body converting Tryptophan to serotonin. Alternative medicine has used Tryptophan to treat depression, anxiety, PMS and insomnia. Another impact is that Tryptophan lowers carb cravings. Tryptophan can help treat depression by increasing the amount of serotonin in your blood.

Where It Can Be Found

Tryptophan can be found in high protein foods like seeds and nuts, soy foods, meat, dairy, fish, eggs, beans and various grains.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Tryptophan can be found in many of the foods you eat. Which is good due to its effects of increasing mood and getting better sleep. If you aren’t getting optimal protein intake or are finding your serotonin levels may be low, Tryptophan supplementation may help.


Lysine

How It Interacts With The Body

Lysine plays an important role in digestive and immune function in addition to connective tissue growth. It particularly helps with the formation of the proteins collagen and elastin. It also positively impacts bone health by increasing absorption of calcium. Lastly, it also assists in producing carnitine (turns fatty acids into energy and that energy decreases cholesterol).

Where It Can Be Found

It can be found in foods like beef, poultry, pork, fish, eggs, dairy, soy, seeds, nuts, lentils and beans.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Signs of lack of Lysine include fatigue, nausea and slow growth. Most often, normal diets bring in enough Lysine to reach sufficient levels. Vegans may want to look into supplementation if they feel their protein intake is low.

Additionally, it’s been said that Lysine supplementation can help when dealing with a cold sore or herpes.


BCAAs

These are essential amino acids that are often found in volume in the skeletal muscle. They are helpful for those looking to repair muscle as well as prevent muscle loss in people who are trying to lose weight and cut fat. Often times, amino acid supplements are single amino acids. Branched Chain Amino Acids, as the name states, are specific amino acids that have BCAAs at their core. Therefore, their structure is "branched." BCAAs are helpful in that they help restore and build muscle. BCAAs are also key in helping to maintain current muscle and and prevent catabolism. BCAAs make up three of the 9 essentials acids, but they are very significant as out of all the amino acids in the body’s proteins, BCAA's make up about 70%. Research has stated that the three amino acids that are considered to be BCAAs have a positive impact on protein synthesis through their anabolic effect.

BCAAs are a popular topic in the gym because they are important to muscular maintenance, repair and growth.

Those three essential acids are Valine, Isoleucine and Leucine. In terms of promoting anabolism, using just Valine or Isoleucine alone does not accomplish much. However, when both Valine and Isoleucine are used in optimal doses, that can make a great difference in how well Leucine impacts the body. The optimal dosage of these three BCAAs is as follows: 2 (Leucine) - 1 (Isoleucine) - 2 (Valine). Therefore, it’s better to take all three BCAAs together rather than just one or two of them.

Valine

How It Interacts With The Body

As a BCAA, Valine is important in assisting muscle growth, but by itself, it doesn’t accomplish that feat. Protein synthesis is mostly encouraged by the BCAA Leucine, but Valine does have its role in helping the impact of Leucine.

As it provides muscles with an extra glucose, it does have an impact on muscle maintenance. For that reason, athletes interested in increasing endurance, like long distances runners and bodybuilders, take interest in Valine. It also helps with the functioning of the nervous and cognitive systems. It’s not processed bythe liver, but rather absorbed directly by muscles.

Where It Can Be Found

It can be found in foods like poultry, leafy greens, milk, fish and kidney beans.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Direct supplementation of Valine alone doesn’t do much good. When paired with the other two BCAAs, Leucine and Isoleucine, is where you’ll see noticeable benefits. If you’re interested in getting the benefits of Valine, it would be best to get a complete BCAA supplement that has all three amino acids, to get the most benefit.


Leucine

How It Interacts With The Body

For bodybuilding purposes, Leuine is definitely the most impactful of the essential amino acids. It stimulates protein stimulus and is the highest in muscle protein. mTOR is triggered by Leucine, which signals to the body to begin using amino acids to build muscle tissues.

Another purposes it can serve is by preserving muscle while burning fat. Bodybuilders like this benefit because it helps them keep fat off of their body while maintaining and building muscles when working out regularly.

Where It Can Be Found

It can be found in animal proteins like beef, poultry, fish as well as dairy and eggs. Other alternative source are soy and beans. That said, plant sources like soy and beans contain low amounts of Leucine.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Many people on a balanced diet get optimal levels of protein intake, but even optimal levels may not be enough to reach desired fitness goals. In these instances taking a Leucine (or better yet a BCAA) supplement can be helpful. Those who will find Leucine supplements to be most helpful are Vegetarians and Vegans, because they are likely to be low in Leucine levels.


Isoleucine

How It Interacts With The Body

It’s been observed that Isoleucine has a presence in muscle tissue. There, it plays a role in glucose usage. Like the other two BCAAs, Isoleucine plays a role in muscle tissue repair. It increases energy levels and helps the body repair after strenuous exercises. It can also help keep normal glucose levels as Isoleucine is converted to blood sugar in the liver.

Where It Can Be Found

It can be found in many different meats like beef, poultry, fish, eggs as well as dairy. The plant sources containing Isoleucine are soy, seaweed and beans.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Similar to Valine, supplementation of just Isoleucine likely won’t have a great impact on muscle growth. Though when the three BCAAs are included in one supplement, there are many benefits to the body such as muscle repair, growth and endurance.


Conditionally Essential

Conditionally Essential amino acids are not typically define as essential because the body can typically produce them at optimal levels. However, at times they may become essential when the body is struggling to produce them in situations of strain like stress and illness.

Arginine

How It Interacts With The Body

This amino acid it created by the body by using Citrulline, another amino acid. It has various functions such as ammonia removal, healing benefits as well as assisting in the immune system. It also leads to nitric oxide, which is important as nitric oxide plays a valuable role in relaxation of blood vessels. It also helps produce Urea and Creatine. Its benefit of wound healing can be important after surgeries as well as preventing infection.

Where It Can Be Found

It’s conditionally essential because most often ours bodies make enough of it, however in various instances, this may not be true, such as in a premature infant.

Some foods that contain L-Arginine are meats like beef, poultry and fish as well as dairy. Other sources are legumes and spirulina.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Unless you are on a low protein diet or your body is struggling to produce Arginine (not often) then there’s no need to supplement with Arginine.

That said if you are dealing with health issues like colds, migraines, congestive heart failure, erectile dysfunction or high blood pressure, it may be worth looking into.


Cysteine

How It Interacts With The Body

This amino acid contains sulphur. The primary role of Cysteine is detoxification and limiting oxidative damage. It also helps build up the white blood cells in the body. It can also have positive impacts on skin, hair and nail tissue growth. The antioxidants produced by Cysteine can help to protect the liver and brain from damage caused by alcohol and drug use. Overall, it has a positive impact on the immune system.

Where It Can Be Found

The body should be able to make this amino acid on its own. Though, if more is needed, foods that contain Cysteine are meats like chicken, pork, beef and eggs as well as dairy. Vegetarian sources include granola, beans and garlic.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Most supplements that contain Cysteine are listed as N-Acetyl-Cysteine. This form is used as it’s preferred by professionals. It may be a useful supplement as it can increase Glutathione (an important antioxidant) and protect the body from high metal exposure.


Glutamine

How It Interacts With The Body

This is produced by the body through Glutamic Acid and Ammonia. It helps to keep healthy blood sugar levels, build muscle strength and enable better endurance. Glutamine can turn into Glucose if your body needs it. It has been identified as the most common free amino acid in plasma and muscles. Most often, it’s produced in the lungs and muscles. It may also aid in memory and focus.

Where It Can Be Found

It’s produced by the body but can be found in high protein foods like beef, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. Other sources include asparagus and beans.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Typically the body can makes enough Glutamine on its own, but in certain instances such as stress, illness or injury, supplementation could be helpful. Typically BCAA supplements include Glutamine. If you are eating large protein meals, Glutamine supplements with have little purpose. However, if you are trying to lower carbs and cut, taking a Glutamine supplement could be beneficial to ensure your muscle isn’t being cut down as well. When the body has high levels of cortisol, it may worthwhile to use this supplement to increase lowered Glutamine levels.


Glycine

How It Interacts With The Body

The body can develop Glycine through another amino acid, Serine. It helps to develop proteins as well as influence the Central Nervous System through its impact on neurotransmitters. Due to its neurotransmitter influences, it has cognitive benefits like helping with sleep and memory. It also aids in improving skeletal muscles and other tissues as well as help promote healthy digestive systems.

Where It Can Be Found

Although the body can produce Glycine through the amino acid Serine, Glycine can also be found in foods like meats such as beef, poultry and fish as well in green materials like seaweed.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Glycine is used in many supplements, oddly enough, for its sweet taste. Although the cognitive benefits of Glycine were discussed in this article, Glycine supplements are only proven to aid in sleep.


Proline

How It Interacts With The Body

Typically Proline is found in individuals with high protein intake. Though is can also be created by the body with the use of Glutamic Acid. Proline helps the body develop protein as well as benefit the brain. Collagen synthesis, which is a process that helps heal body tissue, utilizes Proline. In addition to helping develop collagen, it also aids in decreasing arteriosclerosis (hardening of artery walls). Proline also helps to strengthen heart muscles.

Where It Can Be Found

The body can typically produce Proline. Though if your diet is lacking, foods that contain Proline are those that are high in protein and a few examples are meats like beef, poultry and fish as well as eggs. Alternative sources include asparagus and seaweed.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Typically supplements list Proline as L-Proline. Though, supplementation is often not necessary because if your diet doesn’t contain enough of it, your body will produce it.


Tyrosine

How It Interacts With The Body

The body makes Tyrosine by converting the amino acid Phenylalanine. Commonly, Tyrosine is credited for its role in muscle growth. After Phenylalanine is converted, Catecholamine synthesis occurs, and in that process, Tyrosine helps with mood, energy, focus, sleep and memory as well as other cognitive benefits. In all, Tyrosine can help with keeping normal levels of Dopamine, Noradrenaline and Adrenaline. When they say that high protein diets have positive cognitive impacts, it’s due to Phenylalanine and Tyrosine. It serves an important role in helping the brain’s neurotransmitters.

Where It Can Be Found

If your body can’t make Tyrosine through normal levels of Phenylalanine, foods that contain Tyrosine are meats like beef, poultry, fish, eggs as well as dairy. Vegetarians options include spinach, seaweed and beans.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

There are definitely benefits to taking Tyrosine supplements (normally listed as L-Tyrosine) as it help the body adapt to stress and promote other cognitive benefits.


Non-Essential

These amino acids are called “non-essential” because there is no need to ensure we get them. These non-essential amino acids are produced by our bodies, regardless of if we get them from food or not.

Alanine

How It Interacts With The Body

L-Alanine is a very important contributor in the glucose-alanine cycle. Through this cycle, Pyruvate and Glutamine are sent to the liver through muscle tissue and afterwards, Glucose is sent back. It’s important to note that this process occurs in the liver in order to spare muscle tissue. Alanine is also important in acid and sugar metabolism. In simpler terms, Alanine is utilized to convert Glucose into usable energy, in addition to removing toxins in the liver. Alanine plays a role in muscle tissue and helps to protect tissue during intense workouts. It also is found in the fluid in the prostate gland and so may help treat enlarged prostates.

Where It Can Be Found

BCAAs are important to the production on the Nitrogen that is required by Alanine, so ensure you eat enough BCAAs. Some food sources are eggs, meat, poultry, fish and dairy. Vegetarian options for Alanine are high proteins foods, such as avocados, whole grains and nuts.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Your body makes Alanine on its own. Though, in the instance you’re protein deprived, it may be wise to look for sources of Alanine. Other instances in which supplementation could be helpful are for those with diabetes or liver disease. Though, most healthy people get ample Alanine.


Asparagine

How It Interacts With The Body

Asparagine is developed by the body by using Oxaloacetic Acid. It plays a role in building proteins and helps to produce ammonia in addition to encouraging proper brain function. Lastly, it also helps with bettering liver functions and lowering fatigue.

Where It Can Be Found

The most common source of Asparagine is in asparagus, but it can also be found in chicken, beef, fish and dairy products. In addition to asparagus, other vegetarians sources include whole grains, soy and potatoes.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

If you run into an issue with your levels of Oxaloacetic Acid, supplementation could help. It also could help with improving exercise and metabolizing ammonia.


Aspartic acid (Asparatate)

How It Interacts With The Body

Aspartic Acid aids in energy production, stamina and brain health. It helps produce a well functioning metabolism. It also plays a role in the citric acid cycle. Also, it helps to form healthy RNA and DNA by sending minerals to cells. It aids the immune system by helping to produce antibodies. Lastly, it plays a role in the Urea cycle by converting Ammonia into Urea - thus preventing ammonia from becoming dangerous.

Where It Can Be Found

Your body produces Aspartic acid but it’s found in poultry, beef and dairy. Vegetarians sources include asparagus, cabbage and molasses.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Those dealing with depression or fatigue could be low in Aspartic acid and in those instances supplementation could help. Though, a medical professional’s opinion should ultimately be the deciding factor on a case by case basis. D-Aspartic Acid has been linked to increasing Testosterone and supplementation may be beneficial it that situation.


Glutamic Acid (Glutamate)

How It Interacts With The Body

Glutamic acid helps in developing whole proteins but another important perk is that it serves as a vital neurotransmitter in our nervous system. Therefore, it aids in things like memory, learning, clear thinking, mood, alertness and other cognitive functions. It also has antioxidant effects on the brain by turning ammonia (left over from metabolism) into Glutamine. Its cognitive benefits are why it has been utilized to treat schizophrenia, fatigue, Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy.

Where It Can Be Found

It is produced by the body but it can be found in beef, poultry and fish. Vegetarians sources include soy. It also has a salt variation called MSG, which is used as an additive to better food flavor.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

Supplementation could be helpful in the instance of various cognitive issues, but by the recommendation of a medical professional. As this is produced by the body, it typically isn’t needed as a supplement.


Serine

How It Interacts With The Body

Serine helps with many things such as improving brain function and the central nervous system, building muscle, increasing the immune system and proper RNA and DNA functions. Serine is also key in producing Tryptophan.

Where It Can Be Found

It can be found in beef, poultry, fish and dairy products. Vegetarian sources include soy, seaweed, squash and nuts.

Any Benefit To Supplementation?

In the instance of being deficient in Serine, supplementation could help. Serine is vital in many bodily functions and so it’s important to ensure your levels are optimal. However, most times supplementation is completely unnecessary as your body makes enough.


A Quick Look At Non-Proteinogenic Amino Acids

Up until this point, the 20 amino acids we have discussed were all related to building whole protein. Non-Proteinogenic Amino Acids are all the amino acids that don’t take part in building protein.There’s a lot of these amino acids but a few stand out in terms of relevance to this site and athletes.

Beta-Alanine

This amino acid is important because it increases levels of Carnosine, thus allowing you to increase the intensity of your workouts. Overall, it helps with endurance. It’s a common ingredient in many pre-workout supplements. It can be found in foods like beef, poultry, fish as well as vegetarians sources like soy. Supplementation can be helpful as it may help you add a few extra reps to your workouts.


Taurine

Taurine is developed through the combination of Cysteine and Methionine. Although in functions in the body as an amino acid, it’s considered to be an amino sulfonic acid. Its primary benefit is as an antioxidant. It can be found in foods like beef, poultry, eggs, dairy and fish. It isn’t common in vegetarian sources but can be found in seaweed.


Amino Acids vs Protein: The Importance of Free-Form Amino Acids

Proteins and amino acids go hand in hand. Proteins are essentially compounds of amino acids connected together. Proteins are said to be “whole” because they are made of up multiple amino acids joined together by a bond. Each of the amino acids that makeup the protein are connected, thus “whole.” Independent amino acids are called “free” amino acids because they are independent and not connected to others.

As proteins are “whole,” made up of large protein molecules (peptides), those bonds need to be broken down after consumption to be used. These protein molecules need to be broken down by the body into the original amino acids, so that they can be absorbed by the body. If the peptides are small enough, they may not need to be broken down to be absorbed. Once absorbed these amino acids can began building muscles.

Alternatively, when “free” amino acids are consumed they are considered to be pre-digested, so that do not need to be broken down anymore before being used by the body.

Why Take Amino Acid Supplements If Protein Powders Have Them Already?

As we touched on earlier, amino acids do not need to be broken down like proteins in order for amino acids to begin use. “Free” amino acid supplements allow amino acids to be quickly digested and start making an impact.

Protein powders and such need for the body to them break down structurally before any amino acids can be used. Some people may have poor digestion that make this breakdown more difficult. Digestion health can be harmed by stress, low fiber, high processed foods/sugars intake, antibiotics and vitamin/mineral deficiencies can all significantly slow this protein breakdown and absorption. If proteins aren't properly digested, the amino acids that make them up can't be used correctly. That’s why amino acid supplements are helpful, because the body doesn’t need to digest them. They can begin impacting muscles and the body immediately.

Most proteins are considered to be polypeptides (large peptides or large amino acid bonded chains). It’s worthy to note that although “free” amino acids absorb very quickly, small peptides may also absorb similarly quickly in varying circumstances. That is because there are peptide receptors in the gut that allow those peptides to be absorbed rather quickly. That said, proteins do absorb significantly slower than both small peptides and free amino acids. In order, for proteins (polypeptides) to be broken down, first their three dimensional folded structure must be broken and then the bonds between amino acids can be broken.

Another reason why you may want to take amino acid supplements is because they allow for more customization of your protein formula. By selecting supplements that contain the specific amino acids you’re looking for (see what these amino acids do above) you can create a protein formula perfected for your needs. Typically whey protein and other powders do not offer this customization.

Overall, amino acids are a great option to be during before or during a workout because your body can utilize them so quickly.

Amino Acids vs Creatine

By supplementing with various amino acids, people can get the specific growth they’re looking for whether that means improved repair, growth or strength. Amino acids are great for muscle repair and growth.

Creatine is an interesting supplement as it brings many similar benefits to amino acids. One of the primary promotions for Creatine is its impact on improved performance. Creatine can help with increasing stamina in high intensity exercises as well as increasing muscle strength and size. Even though amino acids and Creatine can do similar things for your body, amino acids are more important. Without a proper balance in amino acids, taking Creatine won’t cause much of an impact. Therefore, amino acid intake should be optimized before using Creatine. However, if your protein intake is at optimal levels, then Creatine can be a great workout enhancer.

Taking Amino Acid Supplements - Is It Right For You?

Whether or not to take amino acid supplements comes down to what you’re taking already. Typically, amino acid supplements should act as secondary supplements. Your primary supplement should be protein powder. That’s because taking quality protein powder and a balanced diet will often provide your body with all the amino acids it needs. That said, amino acid supplements have value. You may want to take them during a workout due to their ability to be quickly absorbed and utilized.