What Are the Benefits and Risks of Taking Amino Acid Supplements?


What is an amino acid supplement?

Amino acid supplementation may benefit you if your body is lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids.

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:

  • Lysine
  • Leucine
  • Tryptophan
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Valine

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.

Essential amino acids are typically received through proper diet and nutrition. Sometimes amino acid supplementation is recommended.

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

Benefits of amino acid supplements

Like any medication or supplement, there are risks and benefits. Speak with your healthcare provider to see if supplementation with an essential amino acid blend would improve your overall health.

Muscle function

Proper amino acid levels are important for muscle development and strength. They help control the balance between the atrophy and growth of human muscle.

Supplementing your diet with essential amino acids may increase the supply of nitrogen to your body. It can also help maintain the amount of amino acids stored in your skeletal muscles.

Sports performance

Amino acids are frequently marketed to athletes along with a high protein diet. Your muscle growth may be increased if you consume essential amino acids shortly before or after exercise.

Amino acids may also aid in the exercise recovery period. It is unclear, however, if there is a significant difference between supplementing with amino acids and simply eating a high protein diet.

Blood glucose levels

Amino acids have been shown to be beneficial to blood sugar levels. Some people with type 2 diabetes who take amino acids are able to lower their blood sugar without impacting their insulin levels. It is unclear what the long-term effects of amino acid supplements on blood sugar may be.

Skin conditions

Young women who take amino acid supplements may improve their overall skin condition and its moisture level. They can also improve their muscle mass.

What foods have amino acids?

Amino acids are building blocks of protein. The amino acids come together to form proteins. There are 20 types of amino acids overall belonging into three different categories:

  • Essential
  • Nonessential
  • Conditional

Out of these 20 amino acids, the body does not produce nine essential amino acids, which we need to get from the foods we eat. The nine essential amino acids include:

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

Foods that have a high content of amino acid include:

  • Mindful portion sizes of nuts and seeds that include:
    • Almonds
    • Hazelnuts
    • Mixed nuts
    • Peanuts
    • Peanut butter
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Walnuts
  • Legumes and beans are a source of high-quality protein (20-45%). Legumes and beans include:
    • Peas
    • Chickpeas
    • Lentils
    • Soybeans
    • Peanuts
    • Cooked kidney beans
    • Black beans
    • Garbanzo beans
    • Edamame
  • Most fishes are high in amino acids and other essential micronutrients. Salmon is high in amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Soy protein products:
    • Tofu
    • Tempeh
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Mushrooms contain a total of 17 amino acids including the essential ones. A study has claimed that supplementing a cereal diet with mushrooms would help to overcome lysine deficiency.
  • A 100-gram serving of cottage cheese provides about 25% of your daily value of protein. It consists of a substantial amount of amino acids including threonine and tryptophan.
  • Turkey has a high amount of amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan is necessary for:
    • Digestion
    • Healthy skin
    • Proper functioning of the nerves
    • Produces serotonin that affects moods and happiness quotient
  • Eggs are packed with essential amino acids. The amino acids provided by eggs are better absorbed and utilized by the body than other sources like casein or soy.
  • Quinoa is an excellent source of all the nine essential amino acids that your body requires from the food. It has a higher amount of lysine as compared to wheat and rice making it a better source of amino acids.


Amino acid supplementation may benefit you if your body is lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids. A healthcare provider or nutritionist can help analyze your diet to determine if you should consider taking amino acid supplements.

Three of the most commonly mentioned risks of long-term amino acid supplementation are nausea, headache, and pain.

Amino acid supplements can impact your blood sugar levels. This means that you should avoid them before and after surgery.

Many experts advise against taking supplements that contain a single amino acid. Amino acids with the worst side effects if you take too much include methionine, cysteine, and histidine.

Amino acid supplements may interact with other medications that you are taking, including diabetes and thyroid medication. Always check with your doctor before supplementing with amino acids.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here