What Are Amino Acids? The Body’s Building Blocks

Amino Acid Diagram

Amino Acids

What are amino acids?

Amino acids are the pieces that are left over after your body breaks down proteins.

If the protein was a Lego house, amino acids are the Lego blocks.

Amino Acids

(Science explanation warning)

Each of those protein Lego blocks is made up of a carbon atom as the foundation. Attached to that carbon atom is an amino group, which is a nitrogen atom with two separately attached hydrogen atoms, a carboxyl group, another carbon atom with a double-bonded oxygen atom and a hydroxide compound (oxygen and hydrogen), a single hydrogen atom and a “side chain” that is unique to the specific amino acid.

(Science explanation complete)

There are 20 different types of amino acids and they make up thousands of different combinations (around 50,000).

Our body uses all of those different combinations for different purposes.

Each combination is a different type of protein.

Each amino acid is categorized into three different types.

  1. Essential Amino Acids
  2. Non-Essential Amino Acids
  3. Conditional Amino Acids


Nine of the twenty amino acids are considered “essential“. The reason they are essential is that they cannot be made by the body and must be consumed as food or taken as a supplement. Included in the Essential Amino Acid group are the BCAAs. (To learn more about BCAAs, click here)

The Essential Amino Acids, starting with the three BCAAs, are as follows:

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


Non-Essential Amino Acids are produced by the body when they are needed and are not necessary to consume in food or as a supplement unless there is a deficiency.

In normal circumstances, the remaining 11 amino acids are considered non-essential:

  1. Alanine
  2. Asparagine
  3. Aspartate
  4. Cysteine
  5. Glutamate
  6. Glutamine
  7. Glycine
  8. Proline
  9. Serine
  10. Tyrosine
  11. Arginine

Conditional Amino Acids

All twenty amino acids fit into the essential and non-essential, but some have an additional identifier.

Six of the 11 Non-Essential Amino Acids are also Conditional Amino Acids.

This means they are considered essential under certain conditions (illness, stress, etc) in which the body cannot produce enough of them.

The six Conditional Amino Acids are:

  1. Arginine
  2. Cysteine
  3. Glycine
  4. Glutamine
  5. Proline
  6. Tyrosine

When it comes to intense exercise, the conditional amino acids are sometimes taken as a supplement because the stress of the exercise can inhibit production, while the exercise itself uses what the body already has.

Arginine and Glutamine are two of the conditional amino acids that gym-goers will look for in a pre-workout drink mix or another style of a supplement.

Which Do What?

It is beyond the scope of this article to get into what each amino acid does or is used for, but as we expand our posts, we will add links to each article for the separate amino acids.

In general, Essential Amino Acids are vital in many extremely important roles in the body’s functions, including but not limited to:

  • Tissue growth (skin, connective tissue and muscle)
  • Energy production
  • Neurotransmitter production (serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, etc)
  • Immune function
  • Nutrient absorption

Non-Essential Amino Acids also have many very important roles, including:

  • Tissue growth and repair
  • Red blood cell production
  • Hormone synthesis
  • Immune function

Amino Acids Are Important

As you can see, amino acids are required for us to live healthy lives.

Most of the functions that we take for granted, the ones that happen without us even knowing, are done because of amino acids.

Whether you get yours from your diet or supplements, make sure you keep getting them to feel and be your best!

To make sure you get enough BCAAs, we have developed MetaBCAA. MetaBCAA includes an optimum 2:1:1 ratio, glutamine and vitamin B6, giving you a great energy boost!

Thank you for reading and welcome to the MetaFire Life!

4 thoughts on “What Are Amino Acids? The Body’s Building Blocks

  1. I have learnt so much about these 20 essential and non-essential amino acids and their role in our day to day life. Would you recommend taking all these when you are leading a stressful life? Also, which brand would you recommend? As I was looking for the brand recommendation which contained all these.

    I have saved your website and I am definitely coming back to it to learn and possibly buy some of these recommended brands especially the L-Glutamine and hormone balanced pack.

    Many thanks for helping us achieve an healthy life.

    Best wishes

    1. Hello, again Habib,

      The majority of the amino acids you will get will come from food. Any protein that you consume will be broken down into amino acids and our body produces some of them. The ones that you should make sure that you get daily are the BCAA group or branched-chain amino acids. They are necessary for muscle growth and blood sugar control. They also can’t be produced by the body.

      We have MetaBCAA for this reason. It also contains Glutamine, which will help with gut health and workout recovery.

      Give it a try, you will thank us later!


  2. Thanks for the explanation on Amino Acids. I know they are extremely important. I train with weights and do cardio 6 days a week. Clearly taking amino acid supplements is vital for me.

    QUESTION: How can I know how much of any of the amino acids and essential amino acids I should be taking daily?

    1. Hi Glenn,

      When it comes to amounts, it is better to get too few than too many with your amino acids, especially BCAAs. We have formulated MetaBCAA to have a maximum daily intake of 2 scoops. Otherwise, you run the risk of hypoglycemia (blood sugar much too low), which can cause unwanted side effects, like dizziness, elevated heart rate, fatigue, and possibly even fainting.

      For most amino acids, it is recommended to eat a variety of proteins every day instead of trying to hit the “perfect” amount with supplementation. For BCAAs, MetaBCAA will fill in the gaps.

      Thanks for the great question!


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