What Are Amino Acids?

We have all heard of amino acids. But, what exactly are they and why are they important?

In short, amino acids are the building blocks of protein and serve as the catalyst for nearly every chemical process in the body. Most people associate amino acids purely with protein synthesis and muscle gain. However, they are also necessary for nearly every other physiological function. For instance, enzyme production, hormone regulation, cognitive ability, neurotransmitter balance, and metabolism. There are 20 amino acids in total, and all of them are required to make these vital processes happen.

What are Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids?

Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)

Of the 20 amino acid in your body’s protein, 9 are classified as essential. These are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Essential amino acids are the ones that the body cannot produce itself. Therefore, they must be acquired through diet, specifically from a variety of protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and a few other non-meat sources. Each of these amino acids has unique properties and play crucial roles in our working bodies. Proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids are considered “complete” proteins. However, proteins that do not contain all nine essential acids are considered “incomplete”

Non-essential Amino Acids

On the other hand, non-essential acids can be synthesized in the body even if we do not get them from the food we eat and are just as important. Of the 11 non-essential amino acids, 8 are called conditional amino acids. Further, these amino acids are synthesized by more complex pathways and there are measurable limitations to the rate at which they can be synthesized. When this limit is attained, the amino acid in question becomes an essential component of the diet. Conditional amino acids are usually not essential, except in times of illness and stress. These include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.

What are the Branched-Chain Amino Acids? (BCAAs)

3 of the essential amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – are known as the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), named for their branched chemical structure. BCAAs account for 35–40% of the dietary essential amino acids in body protein and 14–18% of the total amino acids in muscle proteins. And, BCAAs are unique because they are metabolized in the muscle instead of the liver. In other words, they are available in the bloodstream soon after ingestion and can be used for energy during exercise.

See: Protein vs Amino Acids: What is The Difference?

BCAAs and Athletes

There has been a buzz about BCAAs, especially leucine, in the athletic community since research determined that leucine is responsible for initiating the muscle recovery process after training. Leucine provides the signal to switch from a catabolic state to an anabolic state. In other words, this is where the body stops breaking down muscle and starts to rebuild it. More recently, researchers have sought to determine if leucine is the only key amino acid needed for muscle repair and recovery, or whether all the BCAAs or even all of the EAAs should be present in the bloodstream for optimal repair and recovery.

A 2016 study by Moberg et al compared the impact of water, leucine, BCAAs, and all EAAs in resistance-trained men completing a training protocol. In short, the results found that BCAAs provided alone or in the full mix of EAAs stimulated repair and recovery better than water or leucine alone.

Although BCAAs are in some of the foods we eat, when you are following a hard training plan, working to maximize athletic performance, and/or cutting calories, it can be difficult to make sure you get enough BCAAs regularly. This is where BCAA supplements can help.  

See: 4 Reasons To Supplement With Amino Acids

BCAAs are in all Amino VITAL Products

First, a great pre-workout supplement to try is Fast Charge (contains BCAAs, Arginine, Glutamine and B Vitamins). Fast Charge is designed to boost natural muscular energy and fight fatigue during your workout.

Secondly, drinking Action (contains BCAAs, Arginine, and Glutamine + electrolytes) during your workout helps to increase stamina and performance while providing healthy hydration.

Finally, after your workout, Rapid Recovery (contains BCAAs, Arginine, Glutamine, complex carbs, and electrolytes) accelerates muscle recovery and reduces next-day soreness.

See: Rapid Recovery Ingredient Breakdown


Peter J. Reeds; Dispensable and Indispensable Amino Acids for Humans, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 130, Issue 7, 1 July 2000, Pages 1835S–1840S.
Moberg M, Apró W, Ekblom B, van Hall G, Holmberg HC, Blomstrand E (2016). Activation of mTORC1 by leucine is potentiated by branched-chain amino acids and even more so by essential amino acids following resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2016 Jun 1;310(11):C874-84.  
Shimomura Y, Yamamoto Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Murakami T, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatari K (2006). Nutraceutical Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids on Skeletal Muscle. J Nutr., Feb;136(2):529S-532S.
April 22, 2019 — amino VITAL

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