What types of amino acids are there?

Amino acids are organic compounds which contain at least one amino group (-NH2) and a carboxy (-COOH) group. In the human genome, 20 amino acids are created to build proteins and therefore termed proteinogen. Besides this, there are approximately 250 amino acids which do not form proteins. These are used to form sugar for example.

The 20 proteinogen amino acids are also called standard amino acids, which can be divided into three groups: essential, semi-essential and non-essential. 

Eight amino acids are essential for humans, as the body cannot produce them by themselves, and they have to be supplied externally. These are: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.  

Arginine and histidine form the group of so-called semi-essential amino acids. They have to be consumed in the diet under certain circumstances.

The ten non-essential amino acids are able to be produced in the body. The following amino acids fall into this category: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serin and tyrosine.

It should be noted that the grouping ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ does not mean that one group more important is that the other. This is because the division of the two does not assess whether the body has sufficient supply of the amino acids in question at its disposal. The protein requirement can differ greatly from person to person. The amount of semi-essential and non-essential amino acids produced by the body itself depends on many different factors, such as age, mental and/or physical stress or distress situations. These determine the various amino acid levels required to stay fit and healthy.

It all depends on the structure

From a biochemical point of view, the proteinogen amino acids can be differentiated through their structure. They come in two symmetrical forms: the L- and D- structure. The L- amino acid structure is the only one natural to the body. This is why it is important to be aware when choosing additionally required amino acids, e.g. through dietary supplements, that the ingredients contain L- and not a D- or DL- (mixed) amino acid form.

We are convinced that the most relevant amino acids for the human body are the so-called proteinogen amino acids, in particular the L-amino acids. A sufficient balance of the supply of B-vitamins is decisive for the amino acids to have an optimal effect. The B vitamins should not be separated from their naturally occurring combination. This means they should not be taken individually, as this could negatively impact their effect.

Dear reader,

We are often asked for amino acid product recommendations. As we generally cannot answer this in a universal way, the information collected from our German colleagues could be used as a guide to those who are looking for quality supplements: www.aminosaeuren.de. The site trialed and evaluated the products and services of the main providers in German-speaking countries. The information is currently only available in German, but you will nevertheless be able to see the names of the best manufacturers.


  • »Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper«

    Arginine and zinc make sperm cells more resilient

    “Men should ensure that they consume a balanced diet and get enough exercise” explained Professor Frank Sommer from the Institute for Men’s Health, at the Hamburg-Eppendorf Clinic in Germany. He specifically recommended arginine when presenting his nutritional advice, as the amino acid can have a positive effect on the dynamics and fitness of sperm cells. The trace element zinc also contributes to the resilience of these cells.