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How Many Amino Acids Are There?

Twenty amino acids are found in proteins. While your body requires all twenty of them, you can synthesize some of them. However, the remainder of them can’t be manufactured. To get these amino acids, you must include them in your diet.   Amino acids have many important functions.  They include building and repairing tissues, transporting nutrients, and helping to regulate chemical reactions in the body.

The benefits of amino acids are numerous. They help maintain muscle mass, promote fat loss, support the immune system, improve cognitive function, and more. In addition, they play a role in preventing disease and reducing the effects of aging.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They have a chemical structure that consists of a central carbon atom, called a carboxyl group (COOH), and an amino group (NH2). The carbon atom is also attached to a hydrogen atom and an oxygen atom. The amino acids’ side chains can vary, giving them different properties.

Amino acids are made in the body by combining a nitrogen-containing molecule called an amine with a carbon-dioxide molecule. The amine molecule can come from protein digestion or the breakdown of certain vitamins, such as niacin and biotin. The carbon dioxide molecule is produced when carbohydrates and fats are broken down in the body. These small molecules have a similar structure, but each has a distinct characteristic that distinguishes it from all other amino acids.

Most of the amino acids we need come from protein in our diet.

Did you know that proteins make up 20 percent of your body? It’s true, so needless to say; they play a vital role in your health. The proteins of your body are made up of individual amino acids.

Their Roleamino-acids

Proteins play a vital role in your body. The proteins you consume and digest daily are known as single amino acids. When your body absorbs them and transports them to the tissues in your body, your cells can use the amino acids to create new proteins that you may need for muscle growth, antibody production, formation of blood cells, or hormone synthesis. These amino acids can combine in varying amounts and sequences to create each unique protein you need. The versatility of mixing and matching the 20 amino acids allows you to manufacture a wide array of proteins to support overall optimal health.

Essential Amino Acids

Out of the 20 amino acids in your body’s proteins, 9 are essential to your diet because your cells cannot manufacture them.  The amounts of each essential amino acid the body requires can vary depending on the overall amino acid composition of the protein you’re consuming. For example, your cells can make cysteine from methionine when necessary; however, if your cysteine intake is low, you need extra methionine in your diet,  not only to meet your methionine needs but also to manufacture cysteine.

Essential amino acids have several benefits:

 Essential Amino Acids Include:

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


Non-Essential Amino Acids

Just like with essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids are required by your body but not in your diet. Non-essential amino acids are those the body can produce on its own from other amino acids.  The body can make these amino acids by breaking down proteins in food or by recycling them from other amino acids.

One way to think about it is that there are only 8 “building blocks,” and the body can create an almost infinite variety of proteins by using different sequences of these blocks. Some amino acids can be made from others by a process called transamination. For example, tyrosine can be made from phenylalanine, and glycine can be made from serine.

Arginine and aspartic acid are unique because they can be formed from two other amino acids, glutamine and glutamic acid. This process is called deamination.

Tyrosine can convert to phenylalanine, while serine can be created from molecules produced by burning carbohydrates for energy.


Some of the benefits of non-essential amino acids include:

  • They help to build muscle mass and strength.
  • They help to reduce fat mass and promote weight loss.
  • They help to improve athletic performance.
  • They help to improve brain function and cognitive performance.
  •  They have anti-inflammatory effects.

The non-essential amino acids include;

  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartate
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine


To meet your body’s protein needs, you must consume sufficient overall protein that includes all the essential amino acids. Make sure you take the time to get familiar with them all.

A daily minimum intake of 0.8 grams of high-quality protein for each kilogram you weigh, or 0.4 grams per pound, can be adequate to meet your amino acid requirements.

Older adults, growing children, athletes, pregnant or nursing women, and those under stress may require more protein to supply cells and tissues with all the necessary amino acids.  As you can see, amino acids are important.  They are needed for muscle growth, antibody production, formation of blood cells, or hormone synthesis.  In many cases, it is necessary to supplement your food intake with an amino acid shake.  Be sure to ask your holistic doctor about the benefits of amino acids at your next visit.

About Author

Picture of  Ava Bell-Taylor, M.D

Ava Bell-Taylor, M.D

Ava Bell-Taylor, M.D., originally from Atlanta, Georgia, received her Bachelor of Science degree from Spelman College. She later received her medical degree from Morehouse School of Medicine. She completed her Family Practice training at Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia and her psychiatry residency at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Bell-Taylor has extensive post-graduate medical training in Functional, Integrative, and Anti-Aging Medicine. She is certified in Functional Medicine. Ava Bell-Taylor, M.D. is a holistic doctor with a focus on functional and integrative medicine. Combining functional medicine with her knowledge of conventional medicine has enabled Dr. Bell-Taylor to help many patients suffering from depression, anxiety, insomnia, attention-deficient, dementia, and eating disorders. Dr. Bell-Taylor specializes in functional medicine with a special emphasis on how hormone disorders, environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and nutritional deficiencies contribute to brain dysfunction, like depression, attention deficiency, anxiety, insomnia, dementia, and other chronic medical illnesses. Dr. Ava Bell- Taylor is the co-author with her husband, Eldred B, Taylor, M.D, of two must-read books, Are Your Hormone Making You Sick? and The Stress Connection: How Adrenal Gland Dysfunction Effects Your Health.

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