4 Amino Acids That Improve Energy and Mood

4 Amino Acids that Improve Energy and Mood

Everywhere we look there are advertisements for anti-depressants, stimulants and other substances that are supposed to help us feel better and more energized, but time and again these drugs prove to be ineffective and even harmful in the long run. Amino acid supplements, on the other hand, are an excellent alternative therapy for treating lack of energy and low moods.

Julia Ross talks extensively about amino acid therapy in her books The Diet Cure and The Mood Cure (read my
review of The Mood Cure here). Supplementing with the right amino acids can boost deficient brain chemicals and make transitioning to a healthy lifestyle more achievable. It’s not uncommon to have trouble kicking habits like using tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and eating processed sugar foods. Many times cravings for these substances can be linked to neurotransmitter deficiency. Fixing your diet and lifestyle are the best ways to correct such a deficiency, but let’s face it: sometimes it feels impossible to make changes when our brain chemicals are off balance!

Amino acid therapy is generally very temporary if you are making other important changes in conjunction with the therapy. A few weeks or months is usually all it takes before doses can be tapered and eventually eliminated. I personally used amino acid therapy on and off for a period of about 12-18 months. Once I found which amino acids were most effective for me and got the dosage right, I discovered that changes were immediately noticeable. Today I no longer take regular doses of specific amino acids, though I do keep them around “just in case,” though I rarely feel the need to use them.

Here are four amino acids that particularly work to improve energy and mood:

(All the dosages below are based on Julia’s recommendations in her books, which I highly suggest reading before embarking on an amino acid therapy program. Remember it is always best to start with a small dose and increase as needed.)

4 Amino Acids That Improve Energy and Mood

Glutamine: L-glutamine supplements are among the most popular amino acid supplements for many reasons. They are useful for treating fatigue and depression. Glutamic acid, which is derived from glutamine, is essential for ideal brain function. During times of stress, your body uses up mass amounts of glutamine that can easily be replaced with a supplement of L-glutamine to keep you functioning at your best. Glutamine is also highly effective at fighting sugar and starch cravings. In addition, glutamine is also used to aid muscle recovery when taken before or after exercise. Suggested dosage is between 500-1,500 mg up to three times daily.

Phenylalanine: This is an essential amino acid which cannot be manufactured by the body. Phenylalanine is used to produce tyrosine (see below), and directly affects mood and energy. Phenylalanine supplements are used to treat fatigue, depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), problems with food cravings and overeating, and chronic pain. In supplemental form, you can use D-phenylalanine, L-phenylalanine, or DL-phenylalanine (DLPA). The first is especially useful in relieving pain, the second is also effective but slightly more stimulating, and the third is a combination of the first two forms. Start with 500 mg, one to three times daily, and gradually increase up to 1,000 mg three times daily as needed. Do not exceed 5,000 mg daily.

DLPA has been very helpful to me in the past. I’ve used it to help end coffee cravings (so has Ann Marie from Cheeseslave, you can read her post about quitting coffee here). It’s also helped me recover from periods of emotional imbalance and depression. In my experience, DLPA has been surprisingly effective. I’ve only had to use it for short periods and the benefits seem to be long-lasting.

Tryptophan: This essential amino acid is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is important for providing a feeling of calm and well-being. A deficiency of serotonin can result in depression, anxiety, insomnia, excessive anger and mood swings. Tryptophan supplements are quite effective, and act quickly to help produce optimal levels of serotonin. Take 500-1,000 mg up to three times per day. A bedtime dosage can be helpful for restful sleep.

This amino acid is a precursor of adrenaline, dopamine and norepinephrine, which are important for maintaining a sense of well-being and energy, and also promote a healthy metabolism and nervous system. Tyrosine also works with iodine to promote thyroid health. Supplemental L-tyrosine is excellent for treating fatigue, low moods, depression, low sex drive and anxiety. Tyrosine and phenylalanine can be used in conjunction. Some people benefit more from one or the other; it’s important to work with both of them to find the right balance for your individual needs (I personally do much better on DLPA than tyrosine, though it took some experimenting to figure that out!). Dosage begins at 500 mg, one to three times daily. Increase dosage as needed, up to 2,000 mg three times daily.

Tips For Taking These Amino Acids

– Look for free-form amino acids in capsule or powder form to enhance absorption. Tablets are inferior because additives and binders make them more difficult to break down and utilize. Powder form is the most easily absorbed and will often have no additives at all.

– Take all amino acids between meals, at least twenty minutes before or ninety minutes after. This prevents these therapeutic aminos from competing for absorption with amino acids obtained from food.

– Stimulating aminos like tyrosine and phenylalanine compete with relaxing aminos like tryptophan. Tryptophan, on the other hand, can be used successfully for relaxation in the late afternoon, evening or bedtime.

Remember: Amino acid therapy should be used while working on improving dietary and lifestyle habits that could be draining your brain chemicals. Getting plenty of protein is an important part of stabilizing your energy and moods. Learn more about getting enough protein here.

You might also be interested in this post on natural energy boosts.

4 Amino Acids that Improve Energy and Mood - livingthenourishedlife.com

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet.

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  1. I’m *so thrilled* that you and Ann Marie have been talking about this :) It nudged me to look into them for my family; I’m on GABA which has seemed to totally get rid of my ADD/anxiety symptoms, and my ASD daughter is on L-Carnosine which I believe helps heal the gut (she’s also on GAPS), and my husband has been working overtime to advance in his career and is thriving on DLPA! I’m so NOT a supplement person, but these amino acids really do feel like they’re correcting deficiencies so I’m okay with them :)

    • I feel the same way, Cara. I think it’s a good idea to be careful with supplements, but as you said, sometimes it’s needed when correcting a deficiency. Then typically the supplement is only temporary as well, which makes it somewhat less of a concern. And as with any supplement/medication you have to look at the benefits and risks involved. To me, the benefit of being able to get off coffee and junk food (and feeling and sleeping better, too!) is often worth using a simple amino acid supplement for a few months.

  2. Thanks for your post on amino acids. I am learning more and more about them as the weeks go by. I have been reading Julia Ross’s book–it’s a gold mine, and your post helped mine out some of the gems. It is amazing how they work, how the body uses them, even how the amino acids help other. The dlpa helped me get over years of caffeine dependence, and I have been trying out 3 other amino acids for other concerns.

  3. I read your post with interest because I am trying to do the same thing. I first heard about the mood cure from Ann Marie. I took the 4 tests online and saw that I needed to try this. I am still trying to figure out which amino acids I need and how much. My cravings aren’t so bad anymore since I began eating traditional food, but I don’t sleep well and there are other issues I am hoping to deal with. The book also recommends several vitamins to take. I don’t take any and I’m wondering if I need to.

    I started with 5HTP but it did nothing for me. Now I am trying tryptophan and DLPA. Still not sure if I have the right ones or if I’m taking enough of them. So I’mstill trying to figure this out. Thanks for posting about this.

    • I feel safer with tryptophan than 5-htp personally. 5-htp is stronger than tryptophan (it is one step closer to serotonin), and for me I noticed it was easy to overdo it and get too much serotonin! It doesn’t seem possible, but having too much serotonin is just as bad as having too little. Plus, Dr. Schwarzbein said not to use 5-htp indefinitely, that there were concerns about it if used more than temporarily.

  4. I have found the above mentioned amino acids very helpful when supporting alcoholics and amphetamine abusers (addicts) with craving control and mood stabilization

  5. Hi, My name is Jeffrey Simpson. I am looking for a possible simplest
    approach to a rather complicated problem. I had previously abused Adderall
    for almost 15yrs, sometimes swallowing up to 14 tablets at a time. I
    relapsed in January of 2014, because I was depressed and have no energy. I
    am currently on Zoloft for depression, which I don’t believe is helping me
    at all, and Serax for anxiety, which keeps the anxiety under control, but
    also makes me very tired and just masks the problem. After being off
    Adderall for 3-4yrs without any meds I was depressed, had severe anxiety,
    a “wired and tired” feeling all the time if you will. I cannot find any
    middle ground as the stress is so overwhelming. I understand that you may
    not be a doctor, but I could really use some professional advice.

    Jeffrey Simpson

  6. Jeffrey, I had the same problem about 10 years ago and I am better now. I realized that I had a thyroid problem and I was taking adderall for energy. I took a lot and embarrassed myself and looked crazy. Read Stop the thyroid madness and The mood cure. You can feel great,just figure out what you’re lacking that you are trying to compensate for by taking drugs.

  7. Loved this article! Thanks so much for posting. I was in Whole Foods earlier telling a worker that I has been dealing with intestinal inflammation. As a result, I’ve had to go gluten free and needed B-12, Iron, Magnesium and Potassium because my energy is so low due to my new diet. She asked about my absorption and then recommended L-Glutamine with Manuka Honey to help. Researching this is how I came across this article. I’m pretty sure I’m going to try the other things you mentioned too. :)

  8. I am interested to know if children can take an Amino Acid supplement as I know of a child who may benefit from this having read the post .

  9. DL phenylalaline, 5htp, SAMe, Vit. D Vit. B23 (methycobalamine)
    I find this combination works best for me. Dosages vary for me…some days I need more than others. Actually, the vit D is 8,000iu a day and B12 is 5000mg. a day

    • Yes, all protein is made of amino acids. However, in amino acid therapy, you take a specific amino acid on an empty stomach so that it doesn’t compete with other amino acids for absorption. This way you receive maximum benefits from that particular amino acid.

  10. Thank you so much for this info – perfect timing! Just one question: can I take my before bed aminos with collagen (assuming yes as collagen is a protein – right?)? Many thanks- keep sharing!

  11. I’m planning to embark on Amino Therapy for three months and then take a break while on holiday for a week…would it be ok to stop the therapy for a week or would I need to taper off before my holiday?

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