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:
- Help with the digestion of food
- Assist in repairing body tissue and the growth process
- Are used by the body as an energy source