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The Top Six Active Amino Acids for Good Health

There are a few amino acids that are great for producing health benefits and effects on your mood. Of the hundreds of amino acids found in nature, a few have been found to have beneficial effects.

In this article, we explore six of the top active amino acids supplements. These are all common amino acids that are found in your body and in your diet. Research has shown that they have the potential to help support a healthy body and each one has its own unique benefits. This is a great introduction to the wonderful world of active amino acids!

woman standing in sunrise, healthy

What Are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the building blocks of life. All the proteins in your body are made entirely of amino acids. Your body also uses amino acids in metabolism – the process of digesting and using food as energy. There are 20 amino acids that make up the ‘alphabet’ of proteins. Of these, our bodies can produce only 11. The other 9 must be consumed from our diets.[1]

DNA beautiful and powerful DNA contains the codes for amino acids and proteins

Your DNA has the codes for building all the necessary proteins in your body. You can literally imagine proteins as microscopic machines that help build your body: they stabilize your muscles, hold your body together, perform countless tasks, and help the chemical reactions in your body to take place. And all proteins are made up of amino acids.[2]


When you consume protein-rich foods, your body breaks down many of these proteins into amino acids. Your incredible body then uses the amino acids to form new proteins and sends them to wherever they are needed.

In summary, amino acids are a group of similar chemicals that act as the building blocks of all life on Earth. Before there was life on Earth, there were amino acids. In fact, one of the great mysteries of science is why these particular twenty compounds were “chosen” to be used in proteins.[3]

No matter the answer, what we do know is that amino acids have made up life on Earth since the earliest records of single-celled life, over 3.8 billion years ago.[4]


Top complete amino acid food sources

Your body either produces its own amino acids (nonessential amino acids), or you have to consume them through your diet (essential amino acids).[5] When we talk about foods that are high in protein, what we mean are foods that contain the complete set of essential amino acids.

sprouts contain complete amino acids Sprouts are a great source of complete amino acids

Many people believe that a diet that is high in meat, eggs, dairy and fish is the only way to consume all the necessary essential amino acids. However, this is based on incorrect science. In fact, plants contain the complete set of essential amino acids required for protein synthesis. More and more evidence shows that consuming a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables is healthier.[6]

In fact, many of the strongest animals on Earth: elephants, rhinos, Silverback gorillas, bison, and hippos, are herbivores – getting their complete set of amino acids from plants. World strongman champion Patrik Baboumian lives on a diet that is entirely free from animal products.[7]

silverback gorilla active amino acids The Silverback gorilla, one of nature's strongest herbivores

Some of the top animal sources for amino acids include:

  • Eggs
  • Cod and salmon fish
  • Mollusks – snails, mussels, oysters
  • Game meat[8]

Some of the top plant sources for amino acids include:

  • Spirulina
  • Soybeans
  • Beans
  • Grains – lentils and quinoa[9]

What Are Active Amino Acids?

Active amino acids are the few amino acids that have noticeable effects on your mood and your energy. When you eat them, your body simply uses most amino acids to build proteins or to help your metabolism. However, research has shown that there are some amino acids that have noticeable effects when consumed.

When you consume amino acids, they are often in a slightly altered form – they had been partially metabolized by the plant or animal that you ate. Furthermore, although there are only 20 amino acids that your body uses to build proteins, there are actually hundreds of other amino acids that you can find in nature.[10] While your body doesn't use these amino acids to make proteins, many of them are active – meaning that they may have effects on your brain or your body.[11]

dna active amino acids

Top Six Active Amino Acids:


1.    L-Tryptophan

Tryptophan is one of the best-known active amino acids in nature. Scientists have been studying l-tryptophan for a long time and there is a lot of data about how effective this amino acid is at producing some great benefits.

Liftmode l-tryptophan Liftmode's L-tryptophan, 98+% purity

L-tryptophan benefits include:


  • Mood-lifting effects
  • Potential to help maintain a healthy weight
  • Helps to maintain healthy sleep patterns[12]


Your body converts L-tryptophan into 5-HTP, another important and effective dietary supplement that can be used to improve your mood. Although 5-HTP is not an amino acid, your body makes it from l-tryptophan in only one chemical step.[13]

L-tryptophan is particularly important as a dietary supplement because it is an essential amino acid. This means that it is one of the 9 amino acids that we need to consume through our diets. L-tryptophan is often found as part of a protein shake supplement, along with other branched-chain amino acids.

You can use l-tryptophan to boost your mood, help promote relaxation and to promote healthy sleep. Many plants and animals also convert l-tryptophan into tryptamine. Tryptamine is an important amino acid derivate. It is found in many psychoactive plants and substances.[14]


2.    L-Theanine

L-theanine is another important amino acid with potent calming and relaxing effects. L-theanine is found in high concentrations in mushrooms and green tea.[15] Unlike l-tryptophan, l-theanine is a ‘nonessential’ amino acid, meaning that it can be produced inside your body.

To experience the effects of l-theanine, the best thing to do is to use a high-quality supplement.

Some of the benefits of L-Theanine include:

Liftmode's L-Theanine 200mg Liftmode's L-theanine, 99+% purity
  • Promoting relaxation without drowsiness
  • Boosting mood and focus
  • Many other health benefits[16]


L-theanine has a multitude of other health benefits including reducing the feeling of stress and improving your mood. It has also been shown to have the potential to help protect your body from the negative effects of alcohol.[17]

Many people combine L-Theanine with caffeine. This synergistic stack helps to reduce the anxiety and restlessness of caffeine – giving you improved focus and mood without the negative effects of caffeine.[18]

L-theanine has also been shown to have the potential to help with maintaining a healthy weight. Finally, there is evidence that this great amino acid may also help to promote healthy sleep patterns.[19]


3.    Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is a great pain-reducing amino acid with beneficial effects on your health. Phenylalanine can be found in various forms. The best form of phenylalanine for health benefits is DL-Phenylalanine. This wonderful dietary supplement combines two forms of phenylalanine to help produce the strongest effects.[20]

liftmode's supplements for pain Liftmode's DL-Phenylalanine, 99% purity

Some of the benefits of DL-Phenylalanine include:

  • Improved mood and relaxation
  • Improved mental clarity and focus
  • Might be able to help reduce sensations of pain [21]


A number of clinical studies have indicated the potential to use DL-Phenylalanine in the future. For now, DL-phenylalanine is a great dietary supplement to help improve your mood and focus. DL-phenylalanine may have the potential to help reduce pain.[22]


4.    GABA

GABA is an amino acid that also acts as a neurotransmitter in your brain. It helps to reduce signals from the Central Nervous System (CNS).[23] This is why GABA is so important as a relaxing and mood-boosting amino acid.

active amino acid: GABA GABA, your body's ultimate relaxing transmitter

The only problem with GABA as a supplement is that it has some difficulty in crossing the blood-brain barrier and is very highly regulated in your body. This is why many supplements and medications aim to target GABA receptors instead.[24] Dietary supplements like Phenibut and medications like benzodiazepines target GABA receptors to produce their effects.


GABA is the main depressant amino acid in your brain – meaning it is the one neurotransmitter that can reduce sensations from the CNS.[25] This is why GABA is so important for relaxation and anti-stress effects.

There may also be a connection between GABA and human growth hormone. Many bodybuilders believe that GABA supplements help to boost their growth hormone levels. However, the science behind this is still lacking in conclusive evidence.[26]


5.    Glutamine and Glycine

Glutamine and glycine are two more important amino acids that act as neurotransmitters and have beneficial effects.

Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid (only essential in disease and trauma). It has remarkable effects on your immune system and helps to promote a healthy metabolism. Many people use glutamine for building muscle mass.[27]

Glycine is the smallest and simplest amino acid that you can find in nature. It is very important for the proper functioning of your body and it helps to carry signals across neurons. This means that glycine is very important for cognition.[28] Studies have shown that glycine supplements may be beneficial in improving cognitive performance as well as reducing fatigue.[29]


Other amino acids in nature

There are over 700 amino acids in nature, only around 20 of which are used to build proteins. Until recently, the non-protein forming amino acids were fairly disregarded by science. However, more and more evidence shows that these amino acids may be beneficial in many ways.[30]

plant-life and amino acids There are hundreds more amino acids in plants, only a few of which have been researched

Some of the non-protein active amino acids are created by chemical changes to standard amino acids. This helps in various functions. Scientists have found many other non-standard amino acids in the metabolisms of plants and animals. They help enzymes to work properly and serve many functions, most of which are still be researched.[31]

In fact, in 1971, researchers published a paper on the Murchison meteorite – a meteorite that hit Australia in 1969. In this paper, the researchers described finding twelve non-protein amino acids that appeared to be extra-terrestrial in origin. They argued that this could help humans to learn about the evolution of amino acids on Earth.[32] These findings also show that amino acids are found all around the universe!


DMT: The Spirit Molecule

One of the most important and least understood amino acid substances is N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Researchers have found this naturally occurring amino-acid derivative in trace amounts in humans and in all life. The concentration of DMT in the human brain appears to vary throughout the day and night.[33]

active amino acids DMT is a powerful substance found in all life

Scientists still do not yet understand the exact purpose of DMT in our bodies. However, some humans have been ingesting DMT for thousands of years in the form of an ancient spiritual drink called caapi, also known as Ayahuasca.

When consumed in the form of the revered caapi, DMT takes the user out of their body and into what seems to be a parallel universe. As a result, DMT is an illegal substance in many countries. However, the mysterious effects of DMT have led some researchers to conclude that it may be the chemical involved in some spiritual experiences, trances, and even dreams.[34]



healthy nature waterfall

There are many active amino acids that are great for supporting good health

In conclusion, the top six amino acid’s are l-tryptophan, l-theanine, phenylalanine, GABA, glutamine and glycine. However, there are much more amino acids with beneficial effects.

Firstly, L-Tryptophan and L-Theanine are great for producing relaxing and mood-lifting effects, with l-tryptophan being more of a mood support and l-theanine more calming.

Secondly, phenylalanine, especially DL-Phenylalanine, is great for mood and has the potential to help with pain reduction. GABA is not great when used as a dietary supplement because it struggles to cross the blood-brain barrier. However, we recommend Phenibut as an alternative to GABA for reducing stress and promoting mental clarity.

Finally, you can use glutamate and glycine to help improve muscle mass and for supporting a healthy immune system and metabolism. Glycine is especially useful in supporting cognition.




[1] The Chemistry of Amino Acids, The Biology Project online, University of Arixona, retrieved on October 28, 2016

[2] Proteins, Peptides & Amino Acids, by William Reusch, Michigan State University notes online, retrieved on October 28, 2016

[3] Mapping Amino Acids To Understand Life’s Origins, Amanda Doyle, Jan 2014, Astrobiology Magazine online

[4] An Evolutionary Perspective on Amino Acids, A Gutiérrez-Preciado, H Romero, and M Peimbert, Scitable by Nature magazine online, Nature Education 3(9):29, retrieved on October 28, 2016

[5] Amino acids, Medline Plus, retrieved on October 28, 2016

[6] Plant Foods Have a Complete Amino Acid Composition, J McDougall, Circulation

June 25, 2002, Volume 105, Issue 25, Originally published June 25, 2002, DOI: 10.1161/01.CIR.0000018905.97677.1F

[7] 'Vegan Badass' muscle man pumps iron, smashes stereotypes, Susie East, CNN News, July 6, 2016

[8] Foods highest in Protein, Self Nutrition Data, retrieved on October 28, 2016

[9] Foods highest in Protein (in Vegetables and Vegetable products), Self Nutrition Data, retrieved on October 28, 2016

[10] Non-protein amino acids in plant defense against insect herbivores: representative cases and opportunities for further functional analysis, T Huang et al., Phytochemistry. 2011 Sep;72(13):1531-7.

[11] Some Physiologically Active Amino Acids from Plants, MP Hegarty, Aus Journal of Dermatology, Volume 14, Issue 1, April 1973, Pages 35–38

[12] L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications, DM Richard et al., Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009; 2: 45–60, Published online 2009 Mar 23

[13] 5-HTP efficacy and contraindications, M Hinz et al., Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2012; 8: 323–328, Published online 2012 Jul 19. doi:  10.2147/NDT.S33259

[14] Tryptamine: a neuromodulator or neurotransmitter in mammalian brain?, RS Jones, Prog Neurobiol. 1982;19(1-2):117-39.

[15] L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state, AC Nobre et al., Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8.

[16] The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness, T Giesbrecht et al., Nutr Neurosci. 2010 Dec;13(6):283-90.

[17] Effects of theanine on alcohol metabolism and hepatic toxicity, Y Sadzuka et al., Biol Pharm Bull. 2005 Sep;28(9):1702-6.

[18] The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood, GN Owen et al., Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(4):193-8.

[19] In Search of a Safe Natural Sleep Aid, TP Rao et al., J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(5):436-47.

[20] Dl-phenylalanine in depressed patients: an open study, H Beckmann et al., J Neural Transm. 1977;41(2-3):123-34

[21] Phenylalanine, SD Ehrlich, University of Maryland Medical Center online, Last reviewed on 8/6/2015, retrieved on October 28, 2016

[22] DL-phenylalanine markedly potentiates opiate analgesia - an example of nutrient/pharmaceutical up-regulation of the endogenous analgesia system, AL Russell and MF McCarty, Med Hypotheses. 2000 Oct;55(4):283-8.

[23] The role of GABA in anxiety disorders, RB Lydiard, J Clin Psychiatry. 2003;64 Suppl 3:21-7.

[24] A role of GABA analogues in the treatment of neurological diseases, K Gajcy et al., Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(22):2338-47.

[25] Neurotransmitters as food supplements: the effects of GABA on brain and behavior, E Boonstra et al., Front Psychol. 2015; 6: 1520, Published online 2015 Oct 6

[26] GABA supplementation and growth hormone response, M Powers, Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:36-46.

[27] Glutamine, Examine.com, retrieved on October 28, 2016

[28] The cognitive effects of modulating the glycine site of the NMDA receptor with high-dose glycine in healthy controls, C Palmer et al., Hum Psychopharmacol. 2008 Mar;23(2):151-9.

[29] The Effects of Glycine on Subjective Daytime Performance in Partially Sleep-Restricted Healthy Volunteers, M Bannai et al., Front Neurol. 2012; 3: 61, Published online 2012 Apr 18.

[30] Nonprotein amino acids of plants: significance in medicine, nutrition, and agriculture, EA Bell, J Agric Food Chem. 2003 May 7;51(10):2854-65.

[31] Source: Boundless. “The Incorporation of Nonstandard Amino Acids.” Boundless Microbiology. Boundless, 08 Aug. 2016.

[32] Nonprotein Amino Acids in the Murchison Meteorite, KA  Kvenvolden et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 68, No. 2, pp. 486-490, February 1971

[33] Endogenous psychoactive tryptamines reconsidered: an anxiolytic role for dimethyltryptamine, MS Jacob and DE Presti, Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(5):930-7.

[34] DMT Is Everywhere: A Conversation With ‘Spirit Molecule’ Director Mitch Schultz, JT Phillips, Huffington Post online, retrieved on October 28, 2016