Get to know the 9 Essential Amino Acids that fuel your muscles

icon 4 min
mann klettert ein seil hoch ©skynesher

You already know that protein is a macronutrient, right? Then you’re probably also aware that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They’re broken down into two categories: non-essential, which our body produces on its own, and essential, which it doesn’t. Food and supplements are the only way to unlock these 9 essential amino acids. But before you start stockpiling supplements, read on for everything you need to know about amino acids, including what they can do for you and where you can get them naturally. 

What are essential amino acids?

Amino acids are organic compounds that our bodies need to synthesize protein and function properly. Out of 20 different amino acids, there are 9 essential amino acids, which, again, are amino acids our bodies can’t create on their own. Having a protein-rich diet is the best way to ensure you’re getting these essential amino acids (or EAAs) on a regular basis.

The nine EAAs are:

  1. Methionine
  2. Valine
  3. Leucine
  4. Isoleucine
  5. Lysine
  6. Phenylalanine
  7. Threonine
  8. Tryptophan
  9. Histidine

How EAAs affect your muscles

We all know that protein is a muscle builder, but have you ever wondered why? The macronutrient is filled with many of the essential amino acids we need to be in our best physical form.

EAAs are key players in many of the body’s functions, especially when it comes to muscle development. They’re responsible for warning the body to rest after a strenuous workout as well as providing it with the compounds it needs to create new muscle fibers. If you want to add bulk, you simply can’t do it without amino acids.

Even if you’re already super fit, you need EAAs in order to keep in shape. Since they’re involved in muscle metabolism, their role in protein synthesis not only promotes muscle mass growth, but also prevents muscles from breaking down.

EAAs have been proven to improve physical performance, whether for cardio or strength training. They reduce signs of fatigue and increase endurance and strength levels.

Recovery periods are essential for continued muscle growth and preventing injury. However, essential amino acids have an anti-inflammatory effect that can reduce the amount of time it takes for you to bounce back.

EAAs can also be a boon for weight loss because they stimulate your cells to produce mitochondria that are responsible for eliminating fatty acids.

Wondering what your diet needs to look like to make sure you’re providing your body with all the EAAs it needs? Though they’re found primarily in animal-based protein sources like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, EAAs are also present in plant-based foods that contain a similarly high amount of protein. Quinoa is a perfect example of a plant-based alternative to meat proteins, because it contains all 9 essential amino acids. This type of protein, which provides you all nine EAAs at once, is called a complete protein.

If you don’t regularly consume adequate amounts of all nine EAAs, you may develop a deficiency. In some cases, dietary supplements can be a great way to ensure you’re getting what your body needs. To be safe, though, always check in with your doctor before making any changes.

The non-essential amino acids that the body makes itself also use essential amino acids to develop functional peptides, which are structural components of cells, muscle tissue, and hormones. Here’s a list of the non-essential amino acids:

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glycine
  • Histidine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

Side note: Some non-essential amino acids are what we would call semi-essential amino acids. While the human body makes them in regular conditions, in times of overworking, stress, or a weakened immune system, they go from non-essential to essential.

What’s the difference between branched chain amino acids and essential amino acids?

There’s actually no difference between the two, because branched chain amino acids (or BCAAs) are simply three of the 9 essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Many people focus on them because they’re especially helpful for muscle development and maintenance. Here’s what each essential amino acid can do for you:

  •     Leucine promotes muscle development through protein synthesis.
  •     Isoleucine promotes muscle recovery.
  •     Valine prevents muscle breakdown and eliminates excess protein from the liver.

If you want visible improvements in your muscle growth, branched chain amino acids can help you get results faster. Want some proof? Taste test a can of our Sparkling Aminos, which contain an ideal dose of BCAAs as well as natural caffeine extracted from guarana.

Discover our Sparkling Aminos

But our BCAA Capsules are by far the fastest way to get what you need. This supplement supplies leucine, isoleucine, and valine directly to your body, so that you’ll feel the full effects of each essential amino acid in no time.

The side effects of EAAs

Although there are currently no studies proving that essential amino acids can have any serious side effects, products that contain them shouldn’t be considered meal replacements. As long as your intake doesn’t exceed the recommended daily dosage, you should have nothing to worry about. The truth is that protein – and amino acids in general – is ideal for athletes of all levels.

EAAs: Our conclusion

Plenty of protein will ensure you get the amino acids you need to reach your goals, whether that be weight loss or muscle growth. Supplementing them is also a great way to ensure you’re in top form for your workouts. You’ll feel their benefits as soon as you step out of the gym – and throughout the day, long after your sweat session is done. But don’t just take our word for it. Try it out for yourself!

Sources for this article

We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.