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Let's Talk About Amino Acids

Updated: May 11, 2022

Amino acids, often referred to as the building blocks of proteins, are compounds that play many critical roles in your body. They’re needed for vital processes like the building of proteins and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters.

Some people may also take them in supplement form for a natural way to boost athletic performance or improve mood. Going further than what they can do for you in the gym, here I will discuss some evidence based, clinical effects of popular amino acids for health.


A precursor to 5-HTP which is the direct precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is important for Melatonin synthesis and regulates mood and sleep. Tryptophan has amazing results with insomnia cases. Also up-regualtes production of B3 which can be used for an array of skin conditions.


Boosts the brain's dopamine concentration. Has therapeutic effects for athlete endurance training, cognitive function, depression and mood disorders, thyroid supporting, and helping to treat addiction by modulating the "reward" centre of the brain.


Increases muscle contractility in both skeletal and cardiac muscle, and helps remove lactic acid which results in better workouts. Taurine supports nerve fibre integrity and can help with neuropathy or retinopathy. It can also help reduce blood pressure and support liver detoxification. Taurine is another crucial precursor for GABA, and can help treat anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia.


Unique to green tea and some mushrooms. Efficiently crosses the blood-brain-barrier and is a precursor to GABA. Can be used to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Interestingly, studies have shown its therapeutic use to enhance cognitive function while taking away the jitters when combined with 200mg of caffeine.


Is an amino acid but also categorised with the B family. Can help regulate insulin resistance often seen in PCOS. Myo-inositol is the preferred form to encourage ovulation. Can reduce testosterone levels, triglycerides and decrease blood pressure. Inositol can improve cell-to-cell communication and as a result has a wide range of effects including helping to treat anxiety and OCD.


Has anti-viral activity by blocking the activity of L-Arginine, which promotes HSV (herpes) replication. Also plays an important role in collagen synthesis. Has great effects against cold sores!


Is concentrated in skeletal muscles, the intestines, brain and lungs. Popularised for its muscle repair effects, however little research has been done to back this claim. Glutamine is used to repair the intestinal lining therefore can be indicated in an array of digestive disorders. It is also a GABA precursor so can help reduce anxiety, stress and insomnia.


Clinically, I have found that people respond very well to glycine, particularly with anxiety and sleep. Glycine plays an essential role as an inhibitory neurotransmitter via glycine receptors in the CNS which can improve sleep patterns. It is also an antacid and promotes prostate health.

N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)

A Naturopathic favourite! NAC supports the re-generation of glutathione, reduces heavy metal overload, helps eliminate excess estrogen, overall supports liver phase 1 and 2 detoxification. Studies have shown it has positive results for aiding addiction control as NAC normalises glutamate in the reward centre of the brain. This results in decreased cravings and addictive behaviour. Addiction evokes strong dopamine release which NAC can modulate. NAC is all-round neural protective and even has some research supporting its use in concussion recovery. NAC can also help respiratory congestion, support methylation and inhibits growth of H. Pylori.


An inhibitory neurotransmitter that supports the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress, anxiety and promoting sleep. However, GABA alone has been shown to poorly cross the bloodbrain-barrier and some evidence suggests supplementing the precursors is more effective.

Acetyl Vs L forms of Carnitine

Two different forms that do seperate things in the body and this can be confusing for people. The body can convert Acetyl-L - Carnitine into L-Carnitine and visa versa, however, if you want weight loss, best use L-Carnitine alone and if you are treating any related brain disorders or neurological function use the Acetyl form. Not only does Acetyl-Carnitine assist memory, but it is also able to increase dopamine which enhances focus and motivation. Individuals may feel an increase in focus and energy within about 15 to 20 minutes, so Acetyl-Carnitine can be used pre-exercise or for mental clarity pre-exam.


Builds cell membranes, and is useful in age-related memory conditions, allergies and cognitive disorders. Note for cognition, Acetylcholine will most efficiently cross the blood-brain-barrier. Choline bi-tartrate aids with fat loss. Choline is vital for methylation the "activating" process your body goes through to utilise nutrients, and regulate enzymes, neurotransmitters and hormones.

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