Written by: ASN



Time to read 4 min

‘Amino Acids’ are mentioned in the Health and Fitness industry quite frequently. They’re well known as the ‘building blocks’ of our body and a supplement that is worth taking as a part of your recovery process.

But do you actually know what ‘Amino Acids’ are?

Did you know they fall in to different categories – ‘Essential’ and ‘Non-essential’.

Do you know how they work as a recovery supplement and why they’re important?

I’ve come across a lot of people who don’t understand them; or only take them because their mentors, trainers and people that they aspire to, incorporate them.
So, let’s become more educated as a society and know the benefits of the nutrients we have available to us. Knowledge is power everyone; and that power can translate in to the gym, if you understand the facts!

What are Amino Acids?

Amino Acids are small molecules that chain together and structure as proteins. Since your muscles, skin and hair is made from proteins; on a smaller scale your body is structured from Amino Acids. This is why they’re a recovery supplement. When wounds heal and muscles repair; its replaced with new tissues, new proteins… new Amino Acids. So, our body needs to have the specific Amino Acids in high demand if you’re training and working to build new muscle; otherwise, what’s it going to grow from?

Think of it like fertiliser to your tissues.

Now different Amino Acids do different things, they target different tissues and have different roles/benefits; but most work synergistically with other Amino Acids, and when formulated properly they create a super team that help each other do their best work. 

The essential Amino Acids are the ones I want to discuss; because some Amino Acids we produce naturally in our body (non-essential). There are 9 we have to obtain from our diet and they’re the ones that are primarily blended in your Amino Acid supplements.
Essential Amino Acids have vital roles in your recovery and optimum health; and the names you want to look for are:

  1. L-Histidine
  2. L-Isoleucine
  3. L-Leucine
  4. L-Lysine
  5. L-Methionine
  6. L-Phenylalanine
  7. L-Threonine
  8. L-Tryptophan
  9. L-Valine

L-Leucine, L-Valine and L-Isoleucine are the three amigos of recovery. They are the perfect blend for repairing and building muscle. Their supplement form is referred to as “Branch Chain Amino Acids” (BCAAs) and they get this name because the three of them each have a branched hydrocarbon attached to them. This enables them to attach to other proteins with a stronger bond.

The benefits of these three are:

L-Leucine is a total workaholic… it has many roles that include the promotion of growth, burning of visceral fat, regulating protein synthesis (creation of new protein in the body), the regulation and reduction of your appetite, as well as amplifying recovery post exercise, specifically in your skeletal muscle.

L-Valine is a real protector of the team; working primarily on reducing muscle wastage and protecting your muscles. Added benefits include reducing heightened emotions, coordination with your muscles and it aids in the immunity functions of your Liver within your lymphatic system… so optimum health!

L-Isoleucine’s prime functions are to prevent muscle catabolism, repair muscle tissue, develop new tissue and increase endurance, making it a power pack of the group!

What about the other 6 players of the team? Well there are supplements coming out more and more by the name of EAAs – Essential Amino Acids, which provide you with the full service. Along with your muscle recovery, this full blend will also work on your sleep, your immune system, your mood, mental health and your brain function, in order to gain proper memory retention and focus.

In more detail, here are the individual benefits of the other 6:

L-Histidine is quite the beauty; predominately it works with your hormones to ensure your thyroid functions are stimulated properly. But, it also has a role in creating collagen for healthy hair, skin and nails, improves the digestion of protein in your diet and as an added bonus, helps improve sexual pleasure.

L-methionine aka Wonder Woman; has key roles in forming creatine and carnitine in your body, as well as strengthening your immune system. L-Methionine is a scrounger for free radicals; making it a wonderful antioxidant to prevent disease and illness.

L-Phenylalanine it’s the genius of the group and has wonderful functions for your brain which improve your ability to retain information, learn, as well as form dopamine for more happy days! As an added bonus, along with your happiness, it has properties that can aid in the suppression of your appetite, helping you to maintain a healthy balance in your eating if your appetite is an issue.

L-Threonine is a tough guy, he’s definitely on the defence team as a player; his key roles are to support your immune system, liver function, cardiovascular system and your central nervous system. With a role in the formation of collagen as well, L-Threonine is one you don’t not want to be lacking in.

L-Tryptophan is a bit of an underdog so do not underestimate his power! L-Tryptophan in the form of 5-hydroxy Tryptophan is formed into melatonin and serotonin in your body; which in turn creates better sleep, regulates digestion and your appetite, as well as relieves muscle soreness and pain throughout the body.

L-Lysine, last but not least, is quite the super star! With functions involved in antiviral activity, healing wounds, preventing and reducing cold sores; it somehow manages to also work on maintaining your lean body mass, form carnitine and promote the growth of new bone!

Now, with knowing the different functions of the 9 Essential Amino acids; it’s important to understand that they do work together; which is why they’re formulated into supplements.

Like every other nutrient in your body you can be deficient or have a nutrient toxicity with Amino Acids; so, don’t go downing a whole tub of L-Tryptophan to sleep better. The supplements you buy have been tested and formulated to ensure healthy regular levels of these nutrients which is why people incorporate them together in their diet, rather than just the one Amino Acid on its own.

As always, my goal is to ensure you gain the correct information, to understand your body and the nutrients it needs. I must say, it has been a true pleasure writing this piece for you all; helping you to know and understand the importance of Amino Acids and how you can best utilise them in your diet for maximum performance. 

So, happy training, happy eating and happy living my loves! You’re all worthy of amazing lives and amazing results; so, go out and get them.

- Always Ellis x

Sources: Osiecki, H. (2010). The nutrient bible. 8th ed. Eagle Farm, Qld.: Bio Concepts Pub.