Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and make a large part of our muscles and tissue. There are 20 amino acids in total which can be broken down into two categories essential and non-essential. There are 9 essential amino acids which our body cannot make so it’s important that we are getting them through our diet. The other 11 amino acids are non-essential as they can be produced by our bodies. That being said, within the 11 non-essential amino acids there are 6 conditionally essential amino acids, meaning that in times of illness or stress we may need larger quantities of the amino acid which our bodies are unable to produce so we must get it through diet.
Eating a wide variety of animal proteins is the best way to insure that you are getting all the different essential amino acids in your diet. But good news if you are vegetarian or vegan there are plant based proteins you can eat such as quinoa, buckwheat and fermented soy products to get your essential amino acids in.
Amino acids have many benefits and are needed by different parts of our body to support our health and wellbeing. One of the most well know being their ability to support muscle growth and recovery. When included in your diet regularly amino acids can help with muscle endurance during exercise and with the recovery process after. They are helpful too when you are wanting to drop body fat but preserve muscle mass. The most commonly used amino acid supplement when it comes to health and fitness are BCAAs- Branch chain amino acids which are made up of 3 essential amino acids Leucine, isoleucine and valine. These 3 amino acids are broken down in the muscle and have been linked to muscle growth, recovery and energy production. (Keep an eye out for my next blog where I go into more detail on BCAAs)
Another important benefit of amino acids….
Studies have shown that essential amino acid tryptophan can help boost mood and cognitive function and sleep. Tryptophan helps our body make serotonin an important neurotransmitter that influences our mood. Remember tryptophan is an essential amino acid, so we need to make sure we are eating foods that contain it. Luckily it can be found in many different food groups : meats, seeds, spinach, eggs, nuts and dairy.
One more specific amino acid i thought I should mention is L- Glutamine. L-glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, but is also classed as a conditionally essential amino acid. Studies have shown L-Glutamine as a vital nutrient used reduce permeability of our gut wall. It is additionally able to repair any cracks or holes in our gut which can lead to ‘leaky gut syndrome’. If you would like to read more on the benefits of L Glutamine - I have written a blog which you will be able to find on
Getting amino acids through our diet is important for optimal health and thankfully very achievable given the wide variety of foods they are found in. If you are healthy, eating a varied diet is all you need to be doing to get the correct amount of essential amino acids.