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Proteins are made up of amino acid molecules. There are 9 essential amino acids, and they are essential because your body CAN'T make them.

You need them for functions like protein synthesis, tissue repair, and nutrient absorption. They can also prevent muscle loss and help with sleep, mood, athletic performance, and fat loss.

There are benefits to a healthy protein intake. Read more about the benefits of protein here.

Essential amino acids

The 9 essential amino acids your body cannot synthesize are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Your nutrition should incorporate these for your body to be optimal.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA's) are a group of 3 essential amino acids that boost muscle growth and athletic performance. They also support weight loss and post-work-out fatigue. 

BCAAs form 40% of all amino acids in the body and 18% are found in your muscles. BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine and valine. 

Man winning running race

Recommended daily amino acid intakes* (RDI) 

  1. Histidine
    14 mg – Helps digestion, libido, and sleep-wake cycles.
  2. Isoleucine:
    19 mg – Helps control blood sugar, healing, muscle development, and maintaining lean body mass, and boosting energy and performance.
  3. Leucine:
    42 mg – Helps provide energy during exercise to muscle, muscle growth, and lean body mass, production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone), and the control and regulation of blood sugar.
  4. Lysine:
    38 mg – Helps the body absorb calcium, iron, and zinc, production of collagen, and reduce blood pressure.
  5. Methionine + Cysteine:
    19 mg – Helps improve healing, liver detoxification, and copper accumulation.
  6. Phenylalanine + Tyrosine:
    33 mg – Helps with pain relief, alcohol withdrawal, and regulating thyroid and adrenal gland hormones.
  7. Threonine:
    20 mg – Helps with the production of collagen and elastin for healthy skin.
  8. Tryptophan:
    5 mg – Helps control several functions in the central nervous system and contributes to the production of niacin.
  9. Valine:
    24 mg – Helps stimulate muscle growth, produce energy, and maintain physical stamina, and also supports the central nervous system in stressful times.

* (The guidance above may change over time as research continues. The mg represents US RDI per KG body weight, and these will be impacted by your age and weight, so please use the above as a guideline only)

Non-essential amino acids

These are the remaining amino acids your body can create even if you don’t get them from food, thus they are called non-essential amino acids.

They include alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartate, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, ornithine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

Within the above group are also what is called conditional amino acids meaning they are only required and produced when certain conditions exist such as illness or stress. 

These conditional amino acids typically include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, ornithine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

What do amino acids do?

Amino acids are compounds that play critical roles in the human body such as the building of proteins, the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters, as well as other vital processes. They are the molecules from which proteins are made and are key for building musclechemical reactions, transporting nutrients, and building immunity.

If you don’t get enough, several conditions can arise including depression, lower mental alertness, and other health issues.

Your body needs amino acids, it can't make all of them, so remaining healthy means ensuring your body has sufficient amino acids to ensure survival. Too few and functioning will decline.

Can I have too much?

Our bodies dispose of excess nitrogen efficiently, so protein intakes above daily recommendations are believed to be safe.

Some researchers have postulated that excess protein intake can accelerate aging, but there are no human studies that support this. It has also been suggested that habitual high intake may contribute to osteoporosis, but this seems unlikely based on current evidence in the United States, where intakes are substantially above requirements and there is no firm evidence that this is harmful. Read more about protein and protein intake in our protein guide

Excessive intakes are considered over 35% of total calories, and symptoms of protein poisoning include an upset tummy, headaches, mood changes, tiredness, low blood pressure, and low heart rate. High protein diets may also worsen kidney function in people with kidney disease.  

Find out more about the amino acid profiles in protein supplements, what you should be looking for, and also find out more about some of the benefits of having protein and the different types of protein that are available.


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