Amino acids are a group of 20 organic compounds that share specific formation traits. They are known as the ‘building blocks’ of proteins in both plants and animals. Because they play such a foundational role, they are involved in many chemical reactions throughout your body to help maintain your body’s normal functions.
Amino acids are grouped into three categories – Essential, Nonessential, and Conditional. The group to which a specific amino acid belongs depends on where your body obtains it.
Essential Amino Acids: Your body cannot produce essential amino acids. These must be obtained by an external source, usually through food or supplementation. Most people are able to get enough essential amino acids through their diets. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Nonessential amino acids: Nonessential amino acids are those which your body naturally produces throughout the day whether or not you eat food that contains them. The nonessential amino acids are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.
Conditional amino acids: These amino acids are produced only under specific circumstances, typically when your body is fighting off an illness or dealing with stress. The conditional amino acids are arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.
A balanced diet can help ensure that you get a healthy intake of essential and nonessential amino acids throughout your day. Without an adequate intake of amino acids, your body will not be able to produce proteins in your body as effectively, and in some cases the proteins in muscle and tissues will start to weaken or degrade.