Amino Acids: Essential vs. Non-essential

You’ve got a million types of protein to deal with, and now people are talking to you about amino acids. What are amino acids? What are they good for? And should you be taking them? The short answer is probably. It never hurts to stock up on aminos, and you can take them either as a supplement or through your diet.

What are amino acids?

First things first, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They’re the parts all forms of protein are made from, and they’re vital for building and maintaining cells and tissues (including muscles.)

Eggs, chicken, beef, whey, brown rice and hemp protein, all contain aminos.

What’s the difference between essential amino acids and non-essential?

That’s really simple — non-essential amino acids (while still essential) can be made by the body. Essential amino acids can’t. Your body cannot manufacture essential amino acids, so you have to get them through your diet. If you don’t, the consequences will show in loss of muscle mass and definition, slower recovery and lack of energy.


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Fortunately, there are plenty of supplements which contain essential amino acids, including:

  • Whey protein
  • Brown rice and hemp proteins
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Fruit

amino acid sports supplement

When should I take amino acid supplements?

You can take your amino acid supplements at any time of the day, since the goal is to keep your stores topped up. Some people like to use aminos as a post or even during-workout supplement, to help prevent muscle breakdown. You can do this, and it is effective. Taking aminos regularly can also help you to recover faster, since you’re not breaking down muscle as severely.

In summary:

  • Essential amino acids can’t be made by the body
  • You can supplement or eat your essential amino acids
  • Take aminos throughout the day, or during/after exercise

Jonathan Naish

Jonathan Naish

Writer and expert