What is an amino acid supplement?
Amino acids are sometimes referred to as the building blocks of life or the building blocks of protein. They are organic compounds that the human body uses to help form protein. All amino acids contain oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.
There are three different types of amino acids, and they are:
- Essential amino acids
- Conditional amino acids
- Nonessential amino acids
Nonessential and conditional amino acids are made by the body, regardless of nutrition intake, whereas essential amino acids come from the food that we eat. A diet rich in protein is considered an important part of the body receiving enough essential amino acids.
Generally, when people talk about amino acid supplements, they are talking about supplements that contain one or more of the nine essential amino acids that the body does not produce on its own. These include:
Arginine is required for children but is typically not included in amino acid supplements.
Branch chain amino acids are a group of essential amino acids commonly found in over-the-counter supplements. Branch chain refers to three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
A diet that contains sufficient protein from meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs is typically all that is needed. Additional amino acids may be recommended when receiving treatment for diseases such as cancer or while under excessive stress.
Amino acids are useful because they:
Benefits of amino acid supplements
Supplementing your diet with essential amino acids may increase the supply of nitrogen to your body. It can also help maintain the amount of amino acids stored in your skeletal muscles.
Blood glucose levels
Amino acids have been shown to be beneficial to blood sugar levels. Some people with type 2 diabetes who take amino acids are able to lower their blood sugar without impacting their insulin levels. It is unclear what the long-term effects of amino acid supplements on blood sugar may be.
Amino acid supplementation may benefit you if your body is lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids. A healthcare provider or nutritionist can help analyze your diet to determine if you should consider taking amino acid supplements.
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Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: "Effect of amino-acid intake on physical conditions and skin state."
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "Dietary Supplements and Sports Performance: Amino Acids."
The Journal of Nutrition: "The Nature of Human Hazards Associated with Excessive Intake of Amino Acids."
Medical Science Monitor: "Effect of oral supplementation of free amino acids in type 2 diabetic patients."
National Institute of Health: “Protein and Amino Acids.”