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Is It Possible to Overdose on Amino Acids?

by
author image Adam Cloe
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Is It Possible to Overdose on Amino Acids?
Amino acid supplements piled up on a white counter. Photo Credit Kritchanut/iStock/Getty Images

Amino acids in the diet either come from protein or from amino acid supplements. Amino acids are important for the health of the body, but consuming too much protein or amino acids can put a strain on your kidneys, because amino acids can be metabolized and have potentially toxic byproducts. Talk to your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.

Amino Acids

All proteins, including the ones from your food and those found in the body, are made up of many different amino acids. The sequence of amino acids defines the protein. When you consume protein in your diet, your digestive tract breaks down the protein into the composite amino acids. Your intestines are then able to absorb these nutrients. After this occurs, the amino acids are available for use by your body.

Metabolism

When you consume amino acids, some are used to make proteins for your body. However, excess amino acids can also be used as a source of fuel. To accomplish this, your body has to convert the amino acids into other substances. This metabolism of amino acids generates compounds that contain nitrogen. The nitrogen-containing chemicals are converted into urea, which then is excreted via the urine.

High Intake Effects

Sometimes people consume large amounts of protein or take amino acid supplements to help them build muscle, because muscle tissue is very dense in protein. However, a review published in a 2000 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition" found that consuming lots of amino acids does not significantly improve athletic performance. Excessive consumption of amino acids also puts more strain on your kidneys since they have to excrete more urea than normal. High protein intake can also acidify your blood.

Considerations

Although there is no maximum amount of amino acids that you can safely consume, a high intake of amino acids can pose problems if you have impaired kidney function. High-protein diets can exacerbate kidney problems due to the extra work the kidneys need to perform to rid the body of urea. Too much protein can also cause unintended weight gain, as 1 g of protein adds four calories to your diet. Talk to your doctor before changing your protein intake or taking amino acid supplements.

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