9 Essential Amino Acids: Function, Health Benefits, and Food Sources

As health enthusiasts, we understand the importance of having a balanced diet that includes all the essential nutrients our body needs to function properly. Among these essential nutrients are Amino Acids, which play a vital role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. 

Amino acids are the fundamental components of proteins and are essential for many critical functions in the body. These compounds are responsible for the formation of important structures such as proteins, hormones, and neurotransmitters. To obtain enough amino acids, it is important to consume protein-rich foods like meat, fish, and seafood. Additionally, some individuals take  amino acid supplements as a natural way to boost their mood and/or enhance their athletic performance. 

9 Essential Amino Acids

Our bodies require a diverse range of amino acids to maintain optimal health and function. Although there are approximately 500 different amino acids found in nature, only 20 of these are used to create the proteins found within the human body. Though each of these amino acids plays a crucial role in our well-being, 9 of them are deemed particularly essential for our survival.

These  9 essential amino acids include leucine, valine, isoleucine, lysine, threonine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, methionine, and histidine. In this blog, we will be discussing the definition, health benefits, and food sources of these essential amino acids to help you understand the significance of including them in your diet. 

1. Leucine

Leucine is one of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)** along with isoleucine and valine. It plays a vital role in protein synthesis, making it important for muscle growth and repair. It can help preserve muscle mass during periods of caloric restriction or increased physical activity. Leucine is also involved in the regulation of blood sugar levels and the stimulation of wound healing. Additionally, studies have suggested that leucine may have the potential to improve bone health, and may play a role in preventing obesity.

A wide variety of healthy, tasty foods contain leucine, including eggs, beef, tuna, and salmon. These good food sources of leucine are all easy to incorporate into your diet. Leucine is also available in supplement form and is often used by athletes, bodybuilders, and other fitness enthusiasts to enhance muscle growth and recovery via a BCAA or EAA drink.

**BCAAs are a group of three amino acids that have a distinct branching structure at the molecular level. These amino acids are metabolized by the body and used as a source of energy for muscle tissue. BCAAs, which are found in high concentrations of muscle protein, have been recently recognized as vital to muscle health.

2. Valine

Like leucine, valine is classified as a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA). This essential amino acid is commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders as it helps prevent muscle breakdown, enhances athletic performance, and helps supply the muscles with extra glucose for energy production during intense exercise or workouts.

Valine promotes the growth and repair of muscle tissue, which can lead to an increase in muscle mass and strength. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes during intense exercise. Additionally, valine helps to stimulate the formation of hormones, which can aid in the body's overall health and well-being.

Valine can be found in a variety of food sources, including red meat like lamb and beef & dairy products too, especially cottage cheese and yogurt. Eggs, turkey, and chicken; fish, including wild-caught salmon and trout are some other good sources. To ensure that you're getting enough valine, be sure to incorporate these foods into your diet regularly. 

Additionally, supplements like  Amino Hydrate + which contains Valine, among the other essential amino acids, are commonly taken by weightlifters and performance athletes as part of their workout routines. 

3. Isoleucine

Isoleucine, as one of the BCAAs, is also critical to the physiological functions of your whole body. It helps with growth, immunity, protein metabolism, and fatty acid metabolism. Isoleucine has a role in the detoxification of nitrogenous waste like ammonia, which is then excreted from the body by the kidneys. It is also necessary for the synthesis of hemoglobin and the production of red blood cells, making it a crucial amino acid in the process of recovering from blood loss or anemia.

Isoleucine is also commonly taken by some bodybuilders and athletes, as it helps decrease post-workout muscle damage and soreness. According to a  systemic review published in 2017 in the Journal of Nutrients, some studies have shown that BCAA supplementation can be successful at reducing exercise-induced muscle damage. Moreover, according to  Annie Price, a Certified Holistic Health Coach, the isoleucine amino acid is also believed to mediate glucose uptake into a cell and break it down into energy. This specific isoleucine function is why it may help enhance athletic performance.

Animal-based isoleucine food sources include yogurt, tuna, lean chicken breast, lean pork chops, beef, cod, and haddock. 

4. Lysine

Lysine is an essential amino acid that helps build muscle tissue, prevent cold sores, maintain a healthy immune system, produce enzymes, antibodies, and healthy hormones, and even reduce feelings of anxiety and levels of the stress hormone cortisol in some people.Additionally, lysine also plays a crucial part in the synthesis of collagen, a protein necessary for bones and connective tissues, including skin, hair, tendons, and cartilage, keeping your skin, hair, and bones healthy. 

Other benefits include preventing osteoporosis and bone loss, regulating blood pressure, mitigating artery plaque buildup, assisting athletes in recovering from strenuous workouts, and building and developing muscle among bodybuilders.

Foods that will help people meet their daily lysine requirements include chicken, cottage cheese, parmesan, brewer’s yeast, red meat, fish such as tuna, cod, or sardines, eggs, seafood such as mussels, prawns, and oysters to name a few.

Moreover, supplements are also a common source of amino acids because they're convenient to use and easy to find at health food stores or online. Supplements usually come in powder form, like  Surpo Amino Hydrate +, just add 1 scoop to 12-16 oz of water and you will get the dose of lysine your body needs for maximum performance and overall health. This product can be taken at any time of the day or on an empty stomach.

5. Threonine  

Threonine is an essential amino acid that plays a vital role in the formation of structural proteins such as collagen and elastin, which are important for maintaining the strength and elasticity of skin, hair, and nails. Threonine is important for the proper functioning of the nervous system and has been shown to promote a healthy immune system. Additionally, threonine helps to maintain the proper balance of proteins in the body and aids in the absorption of nutrients.

It is important to consume adequate amounts of threonine through diet, as a deficiency can lead to poor immune function, skin and hair issues, and problems with the liver and nervous system. Some food sources of threonine include chicken, fish, dairy products, and eggs.

6. Phenylalanine

The human body requires phenylalanine, an essential amino acid, in order to function properly. It is a building block of proteins and is important for the formation of important neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which are responsible for regulating mood and behavior. Phenylalanine can help improve memory and concentration. It also plays a role in the production of melanin, a pigment that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes.

Phenylalanine has been found to improve mood and cognitive function, making it beneficial for those with depression or anxiety. It may also help reduce pain and inflammation in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Additionally, phenylalanine has been found to improve wound healing and skin health, making it beneficial for those with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Food sources high in phenylalanine include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. It's also important to note that phenylalanine can be found in a different form called aspartame, which is commonly used in artificial sweeteners. People with phenylketonuria (PKU) are advised to avoid foods containing aspartame, as their bodies cannot break down the phenylalanine in the sweetener, leading to a buildup of the amino acid in the body.

7. Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is involved in regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. Tryptophan is responsible for healthier and better-quality sleep, relief from depression and anxiety, increased emotional well-being and strengthened pain tolerance. Tryptophan supplementation improves muscle development, and it has previously been shown that it has a significant impact on muscle mass via its metabolite serotonin.

Tryptophan is found in meats such as turkey and chicken. It is also found in eggs, bananas, cheese, fish, chocolate, dried dates, and milk. Tryptophan is often found in high-protein foods such as these, but it can also be taken as a dietary supplement. The amount of l-tryptophan in these foods is small compared to supplements.

However, it is important to note that supplementing with tryptophan alone may not be as effective as getting it from food sources or as part of a balanced diet, and high doses of tryptophan supplements can be harmful. It's always best to consult a healthcare professional if you are considering taking this supplement.

8. Methionine

Methionine is an essential amino acid that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions, including protein synthesis, detoxification, and the production of other essential nutrients like glutathione and creatine. Methionine is involved in the detoxification of heavy metals, pesticides, and other harmful substances. It also helps to prevent the buildup of fat in the liver. It is also essential for the production of new proteins, which are important for the growth and repair of tissues.

Additionally, methionine is necessary for the production of collagen, which is a protein that provides structure to skin, hair, and nails, and is involved in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which play a role in mood regulation.

Some of the best sources of methionine, with high concentrations, are found in red meat, chicken, and turkey. It is also found in eggs, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt, some nuts, and seeds, like sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. It's important to note that a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein sources will provide enough methionine for most people. However, those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may need to pay extra attention to their methionine intake.

9. Histidine

Histidine is a nutritionally essential amino acid that plays a vital role in a variety of pathophysiological and physiological processes. It plays a crucial role in the maintenance of myelin sheaths that protect your nerve cells while metabolizing the key wake-promoting neurotransmitter called histamine. Histamine supports and reinforces your immune system and inflammatory response, and is vital for gastric secretion, sexual functions, and the production of blood cells. Additionally, histidine also plays a key role in the formation of collagen, which is necessary for maintaining healthy skin and hair.

Histidine is an amino acid that was traditionally considered non-essential, meaning that it could be produced by the body from other amino acids. However, recent research has shown that histidine may play a crucial role in certain physiological processes, such as immune function, blood vessel health, and neurotransmitter production. As a result, histidine is now considered to be conditionally essential, meaning that under certain conditions (such as during growth or development) the body may not be able to produce enough histidine on its own and it may need to be obtained from the diet.

Histidine can be made by the body by converting other amino acids, such as lysine and methionine, into histidine. However, this process can be limited by the availability of these other amino acids, as well as other nutrients such as vitamin B6 and zinc. By consuming adequate amounts of the original 8 essential amino acids, as well as other key nutrients, the body can produce enough histidine to meet its needs.

It's important to note that while histidine is considered conditionally essential, it is not considered as essential as the other 8 amino acids that are required in larger amounts and cannot be synthesized by the body. Therefore, it's important to include a variety of protein sources in the diet to obtain all essential amino acids.

Foods rich in histidine are generally protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. It is also present in some spices and herbs, like basil, thyme, and oregano. 

SURPO Takeaways

Essential amino acids are an important component of a healthy diet. They are essential because our bodies cannot produce them on their own and must obtain them through our diet. These essential amino acids play a vital role in maintaining optimal health and well-being. From helping to build and repair muscles to supporting the immune system, these amino acids are necessary for many bodily functions. 

Food sources such as eggs, fish, poultry, beef, and dairy products are excellent sources of essential amino acids. However, vegetarians and vegans can also obtain these essential amino acids through plant-based sources such as legumes, nuts, and seeds.

It's essential to note that a balanced diet is crucial for obtaining all the essential amino acids. Therefore, it's essential to consume a variety of foods that are rich in these nutrients. If you're concerned about your dietary intake, it's always best to speak with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional.   



Amino Hydrate +



Amino Hydrate + 

Amino Hydrate+ intra workout & hydration powder replenishes lost minerals and electrolytes needed for endurance and physical and mental energy. Formulated with 8 Essential Amino Acids (EAAs), this Pre Workout Powder & Post Workout Recovery Drink assists in muscle recovery and growth, fueling your fitness journey! Amino Hydrate’s EAAs have an unparalleled 99% absorption rate and are already broken down in the correct ratios for optimal utilization, making it ideal to consume while training. 

This hydration drink is an amino acids supplement for men and women that allows you to train harder and longer in the gym or on the field—an ideal hydration electrolyte and amino-heavy pre-workout with no stimulants and for an after-workout recovery drink! Our hydration supplements for men and women fully hydrate your body, keeping you fueled to tackle even the most intense workout. 



Amino Hydrate +



Unlike ordinary hydration electrolytes and amino acid nutritional supplements, this workout powder will help you reach your body and fitness goals. Our EAA Supplement (which contains the bcaas) increases metabolic rate and muscle protein synthesis and provides 99% NNU (amino acid absorption) to support athletic recovery and overall performance!

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