Aside from teeth and bones, most of your body is made up of protein. In fact, it is the second most abundant substance in your body after water. Without amino acids, there would be no protein to build the “meat” of the human body (blood, muscles, organs, skin, hair, etc.).
Protein molecules are made up of a combination of amino acids, which are linked end-to-end to form long chains, helixes, spheres or branched structures. While there are numerous amino acids found throughout nature, only 20 are used in the body to build protein. About half of those are synthesized naturally by your body (non-essential amino acids), and the rest come from the foods you eat (essential amino acids). The type of protein produced by your body is determined by the number (hundreds to thousands), variety and order of amino acids that are linked together.
Hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and antibodies are also made from amino acids. In fact, there are over 1,600 basic proteins in the body, and all of them are created from unique combinations of amino acids. Thus, the availability of amino acids to your body has a great deal of influence on your overall health and wellness. So how do you choose the right amino acid supplement for your health? Below are several of our most popular amino acid supplements and a brief overview of the role each amino plays in your body.
Acetyl L-Carnitine & L-Carnitine
What It Does: Carnitine converts fatty acids in the cells into energy that the heart, muscles and other body parts can use. L-Carnitine supports natural energy levels, cardiovascular health, weight management, cognitive function and healthy aging.
- Retail $18.99
- Swanson $11.49
L-Cysteine and N-Acetyl-Cysteine
What It Does: Cysteine supports the liver’s natural production of the immune-boosting antioxidant glutathione, another non-essential amino acid. It is also used to help naturally detoxify the liver. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is more bioavailable than L-cysteine. In fact, taking supplemental NAC appears to be more efficient than supplemental glutathione in supporting production of this important antioxidant.
What It Does: Tryptophan helps maintain healthy levels of serotonin—the feel-good hormone—in the brain, which also supports positive moods and emotional health. It is also used to support natural sleep and healthy weight management. You might be more familiar with 5-HTP, a natural derivative of tryptophan with good bioavailability.
- Retail $28.49
- Swanson $20.99
What It Does: Theanine is found in green tea, a natural source of antioxidant support and a popular herbal in its own right. One cup of green tea will provide roughly 25 to 50 mg of theanine. Theanine closely resembles another amino acid: glutamic acid, a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is best known for its anti-stress benefits.
What It Does: Tyrosine is a precursor of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which regulate mood and the feeling of satisfaction. L-Tyrosine builds the body’s supply of adrenaline and thyroid hormones and helps control the appetite. Tyrosine can also rapidly metabolize as an antioxidant.
What It Does: Lysine works with the immune system to keep the body healthy. During times of high stress and emotional fatigue, the body uses more of this essential amino acid. Lysine works to provide overall immune system support, but it also plays a role in building muscle and repairing tissue.
Multiple Amino Acids
Type: Combination supplement
What It Does: This combination supplement delivers a boost to bodybuilders trying to maximize muscle mass. It features high-grade dairy protein supplying 18 different amino acids, including all of those deemed essential to human nutrition. Commonly used to support healthy muscle building, it also delivers a good overall amino acid profile for general health and wellness.
What It Does: Taurine is vital for healthy vision. It also helps the body maintain a healthy water balance. It also provides nutritional support for cardiovascular health.
Type: Compound of histidine and alanine
What It Does: Carnosine is an organic compound comprising the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine that are highly concentrated in important tissues like those of the brain, heart and muscles. Carnosine functions as a broad-spectrum antioxidant and supports the healthy functioning of enzyme systems.
View all amino acid supplements.