How Many Amino Acids Does It Really Take to Make a Protein? - BodyHealth.com LLC

Understanding Amino Acids Structures & The 3 Amino Acids Types

by Dr. David Minkoff April 09, 2020 3 min read

Understanding Amino Acids Structures & The 3 Amino Acids Types

How Many Amino Acids Does It Take to Make a Protein?  And How Many are Essential?

Have you heard conflicting information about how many amino acids are used to build protein? 

And how many are “essential” vs. "non-essential? Have you even heard the 3rd category, conditionally essential? Do you know the difference between EAAs and BCAAs?

One can get pretty confused trying to research this online.  The simple truth is there are 22 amino acids used to build body protein and 8 of them must be obtained from nutrition as the body cannot make them on its own. 

Read on for more…

 

Understanding Amino Acids

You’ve probably heard since you were a child that protein is needed to build muscle and have a well-functioning body.

You might have also heard that amino acids are the building blocks that your body needs to create protein and muscles.

That is all true. But there’s much more to the story.

Amino acids are simple organic compounds that your body needs to operate. Among other functions, amino acids are used by your body to:

  • Build protein
  • Create hormones
  • Produce the substances your body needs for cell to cell communication
  • Control and support your immune system

In other words, amino acids aren’t just for gym junkies and athletes – they’re for everyone.

 

Types of Amino Acids

There’s a lot of conflicting information floating around about amino acids, so here we’re going to clear it up once and for all.

There are 22 basic amino acids used by the human body, classified in three ways:


“Non-essential” amino acids:

There are twelve amino acids that your body can produce on its own, thereby making them “non-essential” parts of your diet:

  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine
  • Asparagine/aspartic acid
  • Glutamine/glutamic acid

“Essential” amino acids (EAAs):

These eight are the most important amino acids and are the “essential amino acids” or EAAs.  They are essential because your body simply cannot produce them – they are only available from food or supplements. The eight essential amino acids are:

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

Each of the eight essential amino acids plays a critical role in the overall health of your body. The creation of protein, production of collagen for your skin, hormones – you name it – they all rely on having each EAA available in the right quantity.


“Conditionally essential” amino acids:

These final two amino acids can be produced by the body in limited quantities if you have enough of the EAAs, which is why they’re classified as “conditionally essential”. Understanding this is vital, as people who are very sick or experiencing extreme stress may need to take supplements or adjust their diet to include these two amino acids. They are:

  • Arginine
  • Histidine

 

What about BCAAs?

You’re probably wondering “What about all the BCAA supplements I see on the internet and in my local health store?” What are they?

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (or BCAAs for short) are a chain of three of the EAAs: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.

BCAA supplements have been said to help build muscle mass, increase strength, boost your stamina, and help your muscles recover after a workout. Sounds ideal, right?

Unfortunately, not really. BCAA supplements come with a downside: because they only have three of the eight EAAs, and high doses of these supplements can lead to an imbalance in your amino acids – with pretty severe adverse effects.

It takes the right combination of all eight essential amino acids to make a protein – the three BCAAs can’t do the job on their own.

 

The Health Benefits of Properly Balanced Amino Acids

Regular consumption of protein-rich food and supplements that contain healthy amounts of the eight EAAs is crucial for a well-functioning and healthy body.

A diet with the right proportions of the essential amino acids can provide many benefits, including:

  • Greater strength and endurance
  • Improved muscle growth
  • Quicker recovery after a workout
  • Reduced soreness and muscle pain
  • Less mental fatigue
  • Enhanced immune system responses
  • Better skin

Sound good? We thought so too.

A quick and easy way to supplement your diet with perfectly balanced EAAs is BodyHealth’s PerfectAmino tablets or powder, formulated for 99% utilization in the body.