You’ve probably heard about amino acids and their importance here and there in your day-to-day life. You know that you can get them in fish and off-the-counter supplements.

However, that’s as far as most people’s knowledge of amino acids goes. In this article, we will take a more extensive look at amino acids and provide you with everything you need to know to make sure you’re getting the right amount.

What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and they serve as the nitrogenous backbones for compounds like neurotransmitters and hormones.

They play many crucial functions within the body including growth and repair of muscle, skin and connective tissue as well as cellular metabolism and building hormones, blood proteins and enzymes. They are small molecules, which are made when our body digests and breaks down protein.

What Are Amino Acids Made Of?

The main elements of amino acids include carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, although there are additional elements in the side chains of some amino acids.

Shot of Athlete Drinking

What Do Amino Acids Do?

There are numerous benefits of amino acids and they are intrinsic to nearly every function within the body including growth and development, maintaining muscle strength, the development of tissue, healing and repair, producing neurotransmitters, digestion, energy production, regulating mood, producing hormones, maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails.

How Many Amino Acids Are There?

Over 500 different amino acids which have been identified in nature, however only 20 appear in the genetic code.

What Are the 3 Main Amino Acid Groups?

Amino acids are categorised into three groups- essential, non-essential and conditional;

Essential amino acids cannot be made from the body and are obtained through the foods we consume or supplementation (oral or via IV infusion).

Non-essential amino acids are made from the body and are mainly synthesized from glucose, except for tyrosine which is synthesized from phenylalanine.

Conditional amino acids are normally non-essential except under specific conditions such as when the body is under stress or fighting illness. The body may not be able to produce enough of the conditional amino acids and supplementation may be required.

Illustration of the DNA Biology Code of Amino Acids

Essential amino acids include:

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

Non-essential amino acids include:

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

Conditionally essential amino acids are usually non-essential, except in times of stress or illness when the body may not be able to make enough. These include:

  • Arginine
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Tyrosine
  • Glycine
  • Ornithine
  • Proline
  • Serine

What Are the Benefits of Amino Acids?

Because amino acids build protein chains and support nearly every function within the body, they are an integral part of nutrition and everybody at every age will benefit from them.

Athletes, sports professionals and enthusiasts can benefit greatly from amino acid substitution through the following:

  • Developing an increased pain tolerance, enabling them to further challenge themselves
  • Helping fight fatigue
  • Reducing recovery time
  • Improving immune function
  • Increasing aerobic performance
  • Improving lean muscle production
  • Reducing muscle wasting
  • Enhancing fat metabolism

Additionally, the elderly can also benefit hugely from amino acid supplementation, helping reduce natural muscle deterioration which is part of the ageing process, increasing strength and immunity.

Amino Acid Rich Eggs

What Is the Role of Amino Acids in the Body?

Below is a list of each amino acid, highlighting their function within the body and the food sources they can be found:

Histidine – a precursor for several hormones and helps renal function, neurotransmission, gastric secretion and the immune system. Found in Meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, and whole grains

Isoleucine – helps build and repair muscle and tissue and boosts energy. Found in beef, chicken, pork, fish, tofu, dairy, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables like peas

Leucine – helps muscle building, metabolise fat. Found in chicken, beef, pork, fish (tuna), tofu, canned beans, milk, cheese, squash seeds, and egg

Lysine – promotes growth and repair in the body, improves calcium absorption, reduce anxiety and helps transport fat to be used as energy. Found in Meat, Cheese, cod, sardines, eggs, soybeans and spirulina.

Methionine – growth and repair in body tissues, improves wound healing and enhances the quality of skin, hair and nails. Found in meat, fish, and dairy products

Phenylalanine – helps with conditions such as depression, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis. Found in meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and milk.

Threonine– used to treat various nervous system disorders. Found in lean beef, soy, pork, chicken, liver, cheese, shellfish, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils.

Tryptophan – helps promote sleep, relieves anxiety and depression and helps with pain tolerance. Found in chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, spirulina, and peanuts.

Valine – helps with muscle growth and repair, energy production and recovery. Found in beef, chicken, pork, fish, tofu, yoghurt, beans, podded peas, seeds, nuts, and oatmeal

Alanine – strengthens the immune system and is a source of energy for muscles and the central nervous system. Found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Asparagine– helps with the synthesis of many important cellular proteins. Found in dairy, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, asparagus, potatoes, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains.

Aspartic acid – improves fatigue, athletic performance and muscle strength. Found in poultry, beef, pork, lamb and dairy.

Glutamic acid – helps strengthen the immune system, improves digestion and brain health. Found in soy protein, chicken, eggs, seeds, cheese, fish.

Arginine – helps enhance athletic performance, regulates blood pressure and blood sugar, helps wound healing and improves recovery after illness. Found in nuts, meat, legumes, seaweed.

Cysteine -helps with conditions such as angina, cardiovascular disease, bronchitis, diabetes, flu, inflammation, Inflammatory bowel disease and osteoarthritis. Found in poultry, egg, beef, and whole grains.

Glutamine – It’s the most abundant amino acid in the body. Helps maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall, heals tissue, calms anxiety and reduces sugar and alcohol cravings. Found in meat, seafood, milk, nuts, eggs, cabbage, beans.

Tyrosine – produces important brain chemicals that help improve communication of the nerve cells, promoting alertness, focus, attention and improve mood. Found in beef, lamb, pork, fish, chicken, nuts, eggs, dairy, beans, soybeans and whole grains.

Glycine – used to make glutathione, provides energy to muscles, helps with brain function, bone health and is the main amino acid in collagen. Found in meat, fish, dairy and legumes.

Ornithine – helps reduce fatigue, improve recovery from exercise and injury, promotes wound healing and helps manage chronic liver diseases. Found in dairy, eggs and fish.

Proline – helps form collagen in the body and maintains flexibility in the bones and joints, reduces skin ageing, repairs wounds, fights inflammation, supports cardiovascular system Found in beef (organ meat), bone broth, cheese, chicken, eggs.

Serine – essential for the growth of neuronal processes and supports brain health. Found in soybeans peanuts, almonds, walnuts, chickpeas, lentils, eggs, meat, and shellfish.

What Is the Best Way to Obtain Amino Acids?

The majority of people can get their daily intake of amino acids through eating a healthy, balanced diet. However, for some people such as elderly, athletes or those with a compromised immune system, supplementation may be required. This can be achieved by taking an oral supplement or through an IV infusion.

At IV Boost UK, we tailor our IV therapies to each individual in order to address any health and optimise wellness. The treatments are all medically lead, overseen by a doctor and administered by a team of expert nurses in our relaxing Marylebone clinic on Wimpole Street.