Amino acids are essential to life, used by every cell in your body to build proteins. Amino acids give cells their structure and play a vital role in the synthesis and transportation of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. They also help to heal muscle and tissue, and to rid the body of waste.
The human body uses 20 different amino acids. 10 of these can be manufactured by the body itself; these are termed "non-essential" amino acids, because we do not need to replenish their supply. However, the other 10 must be obtained through the diet or through supplementation; these are the "essential" amino acids.
Any food which contains all of the essential amino acids in the correct proportions for human needs is known as a complete protein. Most of these are animal-based foods, such as meat, fish and dairy products.
There are far fewer plant based complete proteins, but these do include quinoa, soy, buckwheat, hemp seed, spirulina and chia.
Amino acids, both essential and non-essential, can also be taken as supplements, and are particularly popular as sports and bodybuilding supplements, to ensure optimum muscle function and maximum endurance. Supplements are typically taken in powder or capsule format.