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9 Essential amino acids and how they can support you in muscle development, fitness and overall health.

We all know that amino acids are important for our body. They are organic compounds which help build and repair muscles, provide cellular structure and perform essential functions in our bodies. They also play a role in storing and transporting nutrients. Our body is designed to synthesise many different amino acids. However, there are some amino acids that are very essential for us but are not produced by our bodies, which means we must acquire them from our diet. Below is information about 9 vital essential amino acids that our body needs, including their benefits.

1. Valine – essential for regulating blood sugar levels, energy prevision and normal growth and development 

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Natural Sources of Valine:

Valine is a branched chain amino-acid (BCAA) which along with two other BCAAs, isoleucine and leucine promotes normal growth, repair tissues, regulate blood sugar and provide energy for the body.

It is beneficial for healthy mental functioning as it stimulates the central nervous system. A deficiency of valine can lead to conditions such as Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), which is caused by the inability to metabolize leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Valine deficiency could also affect the myelin covering the nerves and lead to degenerative neurological conditions.

  • Meats
  • Dairy Products
  • Mushrooms
  • Peanuts
  • Soy Protein
  • Perfect for people who often exercise, have a low-protein diet or are want to develop muscle mass.
Recommended Intake:

24 milligrams per kilo per day.

I.e. 60 kg (132 IBs) female – 1,440 mg, 80kg (176 IBs) male – 1,920 mg

  • An excessively high intake of valine can lead to skin crawling sensation and even hallucinations
  • Too much of it can disrupt liver and kidney function and increase the amount of ammonia in the body.

2. Leucine – helps to maintain nitrogen balance and energy supply. 

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Leucine is another branched-chain (BCAA) amino acid that along with isoleucine and valine are needed for muscle repair, blood sugar regulation, and energy provision.

It also increases hormone production, and helps burn fat.

Natural Sources of Leucine:
  • Brown rice
  • Beans
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Soyflour
  • Wholewheat
  • Help promote muscle recovery after exercise
  • Most effective BCAA for preventing muscle breakdown
  • Promotes healing of bones, skin, and muscle tissue after traumatic injury.
  • Commonly recommended for those recovering from surgery.
Recommended Intake:

43 milligram of Leucine per kilo per day

I.e. 60kg (132 lbs) female – 2580 mg, 80kg (176 lbs) male – 3,440mg)

  • Excessively high intake of leucine is linked the development of pellagra, a deficiency of the vitamin niacin which can lead to dermatitis, diarrhoea, and mental disorders.
  • Excessive amounts of leucine can affect the liver and kidney function and increase amount of ammonia in the body.

3. Isoleucine – this is involved in muscle development and repair 

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Isoleucine like the other branched chain essential amino acids, leucine and valine is also involved in muscle development and repair.

It is essential particularly for serious athletes and body builders as its main role in the body is to increase energy levels and aid the body in recovering from intense physical activity.

A deficiency in isoleucine can lead to symptoms similar to those that are suffering from hypoglycaemia, and may also include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, depression, confusion, and irritability.

Natural Sources 

* High Protein foods such as nuts, seeds, meat and eggs, fish, lentils, peas, and soy protein


* Keeps energy levels stable by helping to regulate blood sugar

Recommended Intake 

19 mg of Isoleucine per kilo per day

I.e. 60kg (132IBs)  (Female – 1,140 mg)


* If you are suffering from impaired liver or kidney function you should not take isoleucine without first consulting your physician, because large doses of isoleucine can worsen these conditions.

4. Phenylalanine – needed for normal function of the nervous system

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Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid and is a building block of protein. It is needed by the body to make epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine which are three neurotransmitters are responsible for how you perceive and interact with the environment.

Phenylalanine has also been used in treating symptoms of depression and chronic pain and also conditions related to malfunctioning of the nervous system.

There are three types of phenylalanine, D-phenylalanine, L-phenylalanine, and the mix made in the laboratory called DL-phenylalanine.

Below show the symptoms that each type of phenylalanine is effective for treating:

  • D-phenylalanine – controlling pain
  • L-phenylalanine – regulating mood, appetite, and mental alertness
  • DL-phenylalanine – can affect both pain sensitivity and mental state
Natural Sources:
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Yoghurt
  • Cheese
  • Soy Products
  • Certain seeds and nuts
  • Help to improve to memory
  • Enhance overall alertness
  • Expand learning capacity
  • Enables central nervous system to operate more efficiently.
  • Improve symptoms of anxiety and depression

Recommended Intake:

33 mg per kilo per day

I.e. 60kg female (132IBs) – 1,980 mg, 80 kg (176IBs) male – 1640 mg

  • People with high blood pressure or migraines should not take phenylalanine supplements or foods with high concentrations of this amino acid as it may aggravate their conditions.
  • If you suffer from conditions such as arthritis, obesity, severe menstrual cramps or mild depression you may want to speak to your physician first about taking these supplements.


Side Effects:

The supplement is considered mainly safe and is well-tolerated. However, there are some side effects including:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Heart Burn

5. Tryptophan – necessary for production of vital neurotransmitter serotonin

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Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which is needed in the body to produce serotonin, a hormone which not only helps the brain transmit messages throughout the body, but can also influence your mental state.

Low levels of serotonin can cause depression, insomnia, an increased appetite, sugar cravings, weight gain and hyperactivity in children, while levels within the normal range promote feelings of relaxation and confidence.

This amino acid is also essential in the production of other necessary substances in our body.

About half of the tryptophan is converted into Vitamin B3 a nutrient, which is beneficial for regulating blood sugar levels, preventing accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries, and stopping the effects of harmful free radicals.

Inside the pineal gland at the centre of the brain, tryptophan is used to make melatonin, which is needed for telling our bodies to sleep at night or to wake up.

It is what makes us feel sleepy at night.

Natural Sources:
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Brown Rice
  • Peanuts
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Soy Protein
  • Helps produce vitamin B3 in the body
  • Helps in production of serotonin which is needed to transmit signals between nerve cells and can prevent depression, insomnia, an increased appetite, sugar cravings, weight gain and hyperactivity
  • May also be helpful for people with eating disorder bulimia
Recommended Daily Dosage

5 mg of Tryptophan per kilo per day

I.e. 60kg (132 lbs) female – 300mg, an 80kg (176 lbs) male – 800mg)

If you experience sleeping difficulties, weight gain or anxiety etc, you may want to try supplementation

It is important you get enough vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium as well, because without these nutrients the body will unable to synthesise tryptophan.

6. Threonine – role in supporting central nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune function and liver function


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Threonine is an essential amino acid which helps support normal growth and development by helping maintain the correct protein balance in the body.

It is also known to support function of the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and the liver.

In addition, it is important in producing the amino acids serine and glycine which are vital for the production of collagen, elastin and muscle tissue.

It helps maintain the strength and elasticity of connective tissues in muscles including the heart.

Deficiency of threonine can lead to symptoms such as emotional agitation, confusion, digestion difficulties and fatty liver

Natural Sources:
  • Meat
  • Grains
  • Dairy
  • Leafy Vegetables
  • Mushrooms
  • Helpful in treating some types of depression
  • Can help to process fatty acids and prevent liver failure when combined with aspartic acid and methione.
  • Helps the immune system by aiding in production of antibodies
Recommended Intake:

20 mg of Threonine per kilo per day

I.e. 60kg (132 lbs) female – 1,200mg,  80kg (176 lbs) male – 1,600mg


  • Taking more than the recommended dosage can affect liver function, lead to formation of too much urea and ammonia toxicity in your body.
  • Strict vegetarians or vegans may want to consider taking Threonine supplements, as meat has a high amount of Threonine compared to grain which is quite low.

7. Methionine – essential for processing and eliminating fat


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Methionine is a sulphur-containing essential amino acid that is vital in effective at processing and removing fats in the body.

They prevent an accumulation of fat in the liver, which helps maintain a healthy functioning liver.

The sulphur in methionine is needed by the body in the production of the antioxidant, glutathione. Methionine is also required to produce other amino acids cysteine and taurine which are used to remove toxins and develop strong, healthy tissues and encourage cardiovascular health.

Methionine is also important for our muscles because it is needed to make creatine a nutrient mainly found in muscle tissue which gives energy that enable our muscles to move, and is essential for all muscular function including normal function of the heart.

Creatine has been found to increase athletic performance during short, intense workouts.

If you are looking for something to improve the health and texture of your skin, then methionine is perfect, as it is necessary in formation of healthy collagen used to form skin, nails, and connective tissue.

It can also reduce the effects of inflammation as it reduces the effects of inflammatory histamines.

Natural Sources:
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Seeds
  • Yoghurt
  • Soybeans
  • Healthier Skin
  • Normal function of muscles
  • Processes and removes fats and maintain healthy liver function
  • Helps to produce glutathione an antioxidant.
  • Increases athletic performance
Recommended Dosage

19 mg of methionine per kilo per day

I.e. 60kg (132 lbs) female – 1,140 mg, 80kg (176 lbs) male – 1520mg.


Excessive intake of methionine along with, insufficient intake of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, can increase the conversion of methionine to homocysteine, which can may cause cardiovascular disease.

8. Lysine – an essential amino acid needed to help build a healthy functioning immune system

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Lysine is a key essential amino acid that is involved in the production of antibodies to provide a strong, healthy immune system.

This makes it effective at preventing outbreaks of herpes and cold sores. It is also important for producing hormones and bone growth and repair in both children and adults. According to studies, lysine has been shown to be significantly more effective at fighting cold sores compared to placebos.

A deficiency in lysine can cause symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, hair loss, an inability to concentrate, irritability, lack of energy, poor appetite, reproductive disorders, retarded growth, and weight loss.

Natural Sources of Lysine:
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lima beans
  • Milk
  • Potatoes
  • Red meat
  • Soy products
Benefits of Lysine:
  • Healthy functioning immune system
  • Helps fight and prevents diseases including herpes and cold sores.
  • Important for hormone production
  • Essential for healthy bone growth and repair
Recommended Daily Dosage:

38 milligrams of lysine per kilo per day

I.e. 60kg (132 lbs) female – 2,280mg,  80kg (176 lbs) male- 3,040mg

  • If you suffer from conditions caused by the herpes virus, you will greatly benefit from lysine supplementation, however, you should first consult your healthcare professional.
  • This is because many physicians who specify in nutrition will combine lysine therapy with ordinary antiviral medications.

9. Histidine – an essential amino acid necessary for infants to ensure healthy development and repair and regulation of growth.


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Histidine is an amino acid that is required to build and maintain healthy tissues in all parts of our body.

Levels of histidine in the body need to be balanced. Low levels are thought to lead to the development of rheumatoid arthritis and a type of deafness caused by nerve damage.

Too high levels of histidine has been linked to causing psychological disorders including anxiety and schizophrenia.

Histidine is also vital for healthy sexual functioning, because the body converts it into histamine which is needed stimulate sexual arousal.

When combined with vitamin B3 and B6 it can boost histamine levels in the body, and thus increase sexual pleasure.

It also plays a role in the immune system in helping it know if it is experiencing an allergic reaction, as well as production of gastric juices vital for normal digestions.

Research shows that histidine can acts as a natural detoxifier, preventing radiation damage and eliminating heavy metals from the body.

Natural Sources:
  • Alfalfa
  • Apple
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion
  • Endive
  • Garlic
  • Pomegranates
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Helps in detoxification of heavy metals
  • Prevent conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Contributes to healthy sexual functioning
  • Helps in normal immune system functioning
Recommended Daily Dosage

14 mg of Histidine per kilo per day

I.e. 60kg (132 lbs) female – 840mg, 80kg (176 lbs) male – 1,120mg

  • If you suffer from manic (bipolar) depression you should not take histidine supplements without first consulting your physician.
  • If you suffer from liver or kidney disorders you should first consult a licensed health care provider as taking any amino acid supplement may lead to nitrogen imbalance, and disrupt the process by which toxins are removed from the liver and kidneys. 

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