Page ID: 1562

What Are They?

Amino acids are organic compounds that are made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and (in some cases) sulfur bonded in characteristic formations. Strings of amino acids make up proteins, and there are countless varieties.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and 20% of the human body is made up of protein. Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes, thus making amino acids very important.

A large portion of our cells, muscles and tissue are made up of amino acids, and they carry out many important bodily functions, like giving cells their structure.

The human body only produces 9 of the 21 amino acids needed, meaning that we have to meet our requirements for the other 9 through nutrition.

They play a key role in the transportation and storage of nutrients. Amino acids have an effect on the function of organs, glands, tendons and arteries.

They are essential for healing wounds and repairing tissue, especially in the muscles, bones, skin and hair. They are also essential for the removal of all kinds of waste deposits produced in association with the metabolism.

Essential & Non-essential

          If your want to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, most likely you have some ingredients already handy in the cabinet which would be like your non-essential amino acids. These are the amino acids that your body produces. But, let's say you don't have chocolate chips, which in this example would be the essential amino amino acids. The chocolate chips must be picked up at the store before you can complete the chocolate chip cookies, which in this case would be protein. This is why it is very important to consume the essential amino acids because they are the building blocks of protein. These essential amino acids must be consumed through your diet, and if your body is missing any of these amino acids your body has a difficult time making all the protein it needs. Since protein is needed for the growth, repair and maintenance of cells, you can see the importance of getting all the amino acids you need.

Essential Amino Acids

Non-Essential Amino Acids


Aspartic Acid
Glutamic Acid
Pyrrolysine **Sometimes considered the 22nd amino acid, but is not used by humans

What Happens When We Don't Get Enough?

      Your body doesn’t store any excess amino acids you consume, which is why you need to have them in your diet daily. If essential amino acids are missing in your foods, the first response of your body is to break down muscle tissue to access the amino acids it contains so it can use them elsewhere. So, muscle wasting is the first symptom of a deficiency of essential amino acids. Some other physical effects can include weakened immune system, weakness/fatigue and changes to the texture of your skin and hair. 
         Lack of essential amino acids in your diet can also affect your mental health. For instance, lysine is a limiting amino acid in grains such as wheat, meaning it is an essential amino acid present in the lowest amount in this food. If you have a diet that relies on wheat as a staple, it can lead to a lysine deficiency. A study in the April 2004, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” described how replacing a wheat based diet with lysine clearly reduced anxiety and stress levels in an economically challenged community, and potentially by modulating serotonin in the nervous system.