What is an Amino Acid Complex?

Key Takeaways

  • Amino acids play an important role in helping the body and brain to function
  • There are 9 essential amino acids humans need to get from food or supplements
  • An amino acid complex = a combination of amino acids
  • 5-HTP, GABA, and L-Theanine are 3 of the most common amino acids used to manage stress and anxiety
  • Amino acids work by regulating the endocrine system, a.k.a. hormones*
What is an Amino Acid Complex?

Amino acid is probably a familiar term even if you have no idea what an amino acid actually is. Bring in the phrase "amino acid complex" and now you really have a questioning mind. As you may know, Amino acids are often referred to as the "building blocks" of protein. They play a very important role in helping the body and brain to function. In many instances, amino acids are naturally occurring within the body, however there are also some amino acids found in plants that may work to benefit the human body as well. 

With this knowledge, let's talk about amino acid complexes.

Amino Acid Complex

As stated, amino acids are the building blocks of protein, meaning they help to form proteins that are often used to maintain, grow, and repair muscle tissues. They are also important for the blend of hormones with neurotransmitters. For a more scientific base, we can say that amino acids are made of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. 

For the body to function properly, it is said that we need 20 different amino acids. Here is where amino acid complex comes in. 

  • Amino acid - An important blend of select natural chemicals that form the base of proteins. 
  • Complex - consisting of many different and connected parts.

So then, amino acid complex is essentially a combination of amino acids. This is generally found in supplements, where you can get several amino acids together. Some amino acids are called "essential amino acids" and they cannot be produced by your body. Having the ability to get all nine of the essential ones as well as other forms is a huge plus, which is why so many people look to supplements and protein powders that contain amino acid complex.

The essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own include: 

  • histidine
  • isoleucine
  • leucine
  • lysine
  • methionine
  • phenylalanine
  • threonine
  • tryptophan
  • valine

Some of the most commonly talked about non-essential amino acids (the amino acids your body can produce on its own) include:

  • glutamine
  • glycine
  • proline

This also works for the benefit of the body as it is said that certain amino acids may help other amino acids to work better. For instance, sources have reported that L-theanine, which is an amino acid found in green tea, has been said to help with the function of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is an amino acid that naturally occurs in the brain. We will get more into this further in the article.

Benefits of Amino Acid Complex

While the body produces amino acids for our benefits, amino acid supplements have been proven to benefit the body as well. For this reason, some amino acids that we do not produce are considered essential. Here are some benefits of supplementing with amino acids or an amino complex.

May improve mood and sleep

Certain neurotransmitters in the brain are said to impact well-being, serotonin is one such neurotransmitter. Certain amino acids have been known to help with the production of serotonin and thus helping us to maintain normal levels of serotonin which in terms helps to maintain emotional health and sleep health.

Has the ability to reduce fatigue and boost energy

Certain amino acids have been effective at alleviating feelings of tiredness. With this, many may notice a feeling of increased energy when supplementing with certain amino acids, especially those that form the essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine.

Helps with overall muscle health

As mentioned earlier, amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and this protein often works to benefit our muscles. Amino acids have also been effective at helping athletes with their lean muscle mass. The BCAAs come into play again here as studies have shown a positive association between BCAAs and muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. Additionally, these amino acid proteins can be used by the immune system as fuel, truly serving as multi-purpose substances!

Boost overall athletic performance

Many athletes use amino acids as it is said to help improve their performance, likely due to the other benefits we've mentioned like feelings of increased energy, feeling more alert, and helping to relieve muscle soreness that stems from regular training.

Easy to Absorb

While we can receive similar benefits from taking protein supplements, amino acid complex is used more often since it is easier to absorb by the body.

Stress Management 

Certain select amino acids have been studied for their abilities to help with relieving stress. Many amino acids have the ability to promote a sense of relaxation and calmness in the body. Many people who deal with anxiety and stress have given amino acid complexes a try.

Amino Acid and Stress Management

One of the major uses of amino acids in modern times is as a proven substance to help alleviate bouts of stress and the effects that stress may cause. There are many amino acids that are said to be useful for stress management. A few of them include 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP, Oxitriptan), gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), and γ-L-Glutamylethylamide (L-Theanine).

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP/Oxitriptan)

5-Hydroxytryptophan, often shortened to 5-HTP, is also known as oxitriptan. 5-HTP is an amino acid with mood-boosting properties. When it comes to mood and overall mental health, you may be familiar with serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter often called the happy chemical. When it is well-balanced, people are said to have a high sense of wellbeing; however, low levels of serotonin has been linked to feelings of sadness or restlessness, among other problems such as sleep issues and even decreased immune function. 

The great thing about 5-HTP is that it may help support serotonin's functions through its conversion to serotonin, as well as being able to bind onto serotonin receptors that are within the central nervous system. Because serotonin is an important chemical having the ability to affect our moods, 5-HTP is also said to be important since it has the ability to increase serotonin levels or at least reproduce serotonin's effects.

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)

Gamma-Aminobutyric acid is also known as GABA. GABA is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body and works as a neurotransmitter within the central nervous system, specifically the brain. GABA has inhibitory properties, which means that it has the ability to inhibit or prevent an action from happening. Other forms of neurotransmitters are excitatory which means that they excite the nervous system.

Within the nervous system, GABA works to stop certain neurons from firing. In most cases, appropriate levels of GABA may induce a state of relaxation which works to reduce feelings of anxiousness or nervousness.

For this reason, GABA is said to be effective in stress management and may cause people to feel calmer in certain situations. Although GABA occurs naturally in the brain, many who take supplements containing GABA have noted increased feelings of calmness. 

The only thing of concern here is that not all forms of GABA that are used in supplements have the potential to cross the brain barrier, thus being effective.

γ-L-Glutamylethylamide (L-Theanine)

γ-L-Glutamylethylamide is also known as L-Theanine. L-Theanine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in green tea. So, if you have ever heard that green tea helps people to be relaxed or calm, then this is why. The L-Theanine in green tea serves more purpose than calming, it actually helps to balance the levels of caffeine that is also found in green tea. Due to this, while you will get a minor boost in feelings of energy from drinking green tea due to its caffeine properties, you will still feel a sense of calm from its L-Theanine properties as opposed to the usual jittery effects gained from drinking beverages with caffeine. 

L-Theanine is also said to have the ability to increase alpha brain waves. Studies have confirmed that ingesting L-Theanine promotes a state of relaxation within a short time of consuming. One of the ways it does this is by stimulating the production of alpha brain waves. Once these waves are dominant, there is a sense of mental alertness and deep relaxation that occurs. It has also been said that during some meditative states, alpha brain waves are also at dominant levels. 

This then means that people who experience long stressful workdays may benefit from consuming supplements with L-Theanine as it may promote a calm and relaxing state. A cup of green tea may also do the trick in some cases, however the level of calmness you have may vary depending on your own body's methods of processing. 

Apart from a relaxed state, L-theanine may also help cognition by improving alertness. Often, stress can cause one to be distracted or unfocused, and so improving alertness seems to naturally result in increased feelings of wellbeing. 

Summary

Amino acids have been proven to be very useful within the human body. Some amino acids are produced naturally within the body, however, there are some that we do not produce but still need. In the case where those amino acids are not produced but still needed, they are called essential amino acids. 

In order to produce a supplement that produces most of what is required, we have amino acid complexes, which are essentially a combination of different amino acids. Amino acids have been proven useful for improving feelings of alertness and wakefulness, supporting muscle health, supporting athletic performance through improved overall wellness, and most importantly, as an effective supporter of mental health and the alleviation of stress and anxiousness. 

This being said, keep in mind supplements are not intended to treat medical conditions and are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and are more so are meant to support overall health and wellness. Thus, the duty is on you to ensure that the product you are buying contains nutrients that will actually be useful for you. You can always turn to a healthcare professional to seek additional advice about adding new products into your daily routine. 

Amino complexes can be a great addition to your dietary supplement regimen, just make sure you look for a great product that's made from all natural ingredients and works to improve your overall wellness for a healthier, and usually happier, you.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2777886/

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/10762800151125092

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6366437/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4594160/

https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-drug/def/oxitriptan

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18296328/

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1385/1-59259-952-4:325 

https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/9/6/849/5098497

https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0184-9#:~:text=The%20branched%2Dchain%20amino%20acids,(e.g.%2C%20%5B1%5D)