There are many reasons for taking amino acid supplements. Essential amino acids are required by the body in order to function at its best, but not all the essential amino acids are created by the body - some need to be obtained via food or supplementation. Amino acids help create proteins in the body and for energy transfer.
Benefits and Guidelines
There are 20 different amino acids that may affect the body. Each amino acid has its own function, some of which can be beneficial for specific goals, such as stronger, healthier hair or to aid metabolism. Claims are made that amino acids can help alleviate certain medical conditions like fibromyalgia, although it's important to note that claims of curing a condition of which the cause isn't yet understood should be taken skeptically.
Similar but Different
Just because a supplement acts as an amino acid, as is the case with super L-carnitine, it doesn't mean this supplement is an actual amino acid. Similarly, acetyl l-carnitine can be used as an amino acid replacement but isn't actually one.
Safety and Side Effects
Any supplement raises questions such as its safety, drug interactions or potential side effects. Even supplements that are marketed as "natural" can have contraindications with both prescription and over-the-counter medication, so it's important to understand how supplements may interact with anything else you're taking. It's also important to ensure any supplements you take are appropriate for any medical conditions you have. For example, people with certain medical conditions should avoid branched chain amino acids.
Depending on a variety of factors including dietary intake, amino acid supplements are not one-size-fits-all. Some amino acids, such as tryptophan, are present in foods and additional supplementation may not be necessary if sufficient amounts are ingested from food intake. Phenylalanine, another amino acid, frequently appears in diet sodas and can cause medical problems with people with medical issues.
There are some instances in which specific amino acids have been proven to be beneficial for specific conditions. For example, glutamine can help intestinal health while suntheanine can promote relaxation and mental focus. Speak with a physician or nutrition professional for information on using amino acid supplements to treat any condition.
With the right information, you'll derive the most benefits from your amino acid supplements. Get informed and make the best decisions for your health and avoid taking any supplements that you won't actually benefit you.