Amino acids are found in proteins like meat, chicken, tuna, and fish. They are the building blocks for protein synthesis. Most people tend to eat too many carbohydrates and not enough protein. Protein has the highest dynamic effect on a person’s metabolism so it’s important to eat protein with every meal. It is for this very reason that protein diets have become so popular.There are 20 to 28 different kinds of amino acids, which are divided into 2 groups: nonessential and essential


Nonessential Amino Acids

Even though they are considered nonessential they are actually very vital. They are manufactured by the body through a process called de novo synthesis and are important for good health.


Essential amino acids

Can only be obtained through foods and are essential for good health, just as their name implies. Another label for amino acids is the term “building protein”. This is the protein found in our bodies and is second only to water in terms of the most common substances in the human body. About 30% of our protein is found in our muscles with the remaining found in our bones, skin, blood, and cartilage.


“Complete protein”

Is found in fish, poultry, and other meats as well as dairy products and soy. “Complete protein” means that the entire spectrum of amino acids are approximately in equal amounts


“Incomplete proteins”

Do not have the full range ore certain acids are in short supply, and are in foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains. However, incomplete proteins can become complete when they are combined together, as in the case of beans and rice.


The creation of new protein from amino acids and the breaking down of existing protein into amino acids are ongoing processes in our bodies. For example, if you are working out and developing certain muscles, amino acids come to the rescue with new protein to build muscle cells. Similarly when you eat a complete protein, such as meat or beans and rice the body breaks down the amino acids in that food for later use.


Below is a list of the most familiar amino acids, what they do and what foods you can obtain them from:

  1. Carnitine helps remove fat from the bloodstream, and can help with overall weight loss. It is found in dairy products, wheat, meat, peanuts and chocolate
  2. Arginine helps burn sugar, heal the skin, affects liver detoxification and enhances the immune system. It is primarily found in meat.
  3. Glutamine is the main amino acid found in our muscles. It can stimulate learning and alertness and ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and sugar cravings. It is mainly found in raw spinach and parsley.
  4. Phenylalanine helps with alertness, optimism, and ambition and also plays a role in weight loss by reducing the appetite. It has also been used to alleviate pain in conditions such as arthritis, menstrual cramps, and migraines. It is found in meats like pork, turkey, and chicken, dairy products, brown rice, potatoes, chocolate, and soy flour.
  5. Tryptophan helps crate calm moods and sleep patterns. 5-HTP has been found to help increase serotonin levels which will help with depression, aches and pains, sugar and carbohydrate craving, and obesity.
  6. Lysine prevents fever blisters and is key element when it comes to repairing tissue and forming new collagen that provides support for the skin and connective tissues. It is also required for the metabolism of fats.


Consequently, if one or more amino acids are missing then a bodily function is likely to be thrown out of balance. This imbalance could cause depression, upset stomach, or obesity. However, by eating a healthful diet, rich in a variety of foods, it is likely that you are getting almost all of the amino acids you need. Be aware of the foods you are eating and if they are rich in amino acids. Lots of protein shakes and bars have all the essential amino acids along with lean meats and dairy products. Eating healthy, lifting weights, and exercising are all you need to do consistently to feel great and maintain a healthy weight.



Mary Wannall is the owner of Real Life Fitness and a nationally certified fitness coach through NETA. She can be reached at 404-940-8085 or at