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An amino acid supplement is a pill, powder, or liquid that provides the body with essential amino acids that are not being derived by food sources. Essential amino acids are proteins that the body needs in order to properly build cells and tissues, but cannot manufacture on its own. The body uses them by breaking down proteins found in food into amino acids. The acids then bond with nitrogen in the body, allowing them to form new proteins which the body can use.
Those who do not get enough protein in their diet may require an amino acid supplement. Athletes also commonly take supplements to help support healthy muscle growth during strenuous workouts. Since their bodies need more than the normal amount of protein to allow for extra large muscles, they often drink protein shakes and powders to help stimulate healthy tissue.
In order for the body to properly synthesize proteins, all amino acids need to be present at once and in quantities large enough to accommodate the amount of protein being processed. If even one type of amino acid is missing, the system will not work. The missing amino acid is often referred to as the limiting amino acid. Large quantities of every essential amino acid can be found in certain proteins.
Proteins can be referred to as complete or incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids, and are usually made up of animal proteins like chicken, steak, and fish. Unfortunately these foods can also contain large quantities of fat and calories. Incomplete proteins have little or no traces of one or more essential amino acids and are generally found in fruits and vegetables. Those who don’t eat meat should combine large quantities of plant-based proteins in order to get the full amount of essential amino acids.
People who do not eat enough protein in general may benefit from taking an amino acid supplement. This allows proteins in the body to be properly synthesized and for muscles and tissues to properly replenish themselves. Low levels of one or more amino acids can result in muscle fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and in some extreme cases, severe bodily deterioration.
When taking an amino acid supplement, just as with any drug, it is important to speak to a doctor or pharmacist before use. The best type of amino acid supplement contains all essential amino acids in the right quantities. Taking additional vitamins like C and B6 helps the body to better absorb amino acids, as does taking supplements on an empty stomach. L-form amino acid supplements are generally better accepted by the body, so these should be taken when available. Food-derived supplements may also provide a healthier choice for individuals who want to avoid artificial ingredients and additives.