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Risks of Taking Amino Acid Supplements: Side-Effects and How to Avoid Them

May 03, 2024 · Sarah Rights

Risks of Taking Amino Acid Supplements: Side-Effects and How to Avoid Them

Many people use amino acid supplements to boost their health. These supplements can help with exercise and mood, but, they may also cause side effects. Each amino acid comes with its own precautions. Learn how each could affect you and learn how to avoid any adverse reactions.

Key Takeaways

  • Amino acid supplements can make you hold onto water, cause muscle cramps, and even dehydrate you. Be careful how much you use.
  • Some amino acids like L-arginine and β-Alanine have their own side effects including nausea and headaches. Know these before using them.
  • Taking too many amino acids for a long time might lead to feeling sick, getting headaches, or having more pain in your body.
  • BCAA supplements could make you tired and less coordinated because they affect serotonin levels in your brain.
  • Using amino acid supplements without caution can change blood function and mood, making heart diseases more likely.

Understanding Amino Acid Supplements

a small scooper of white amino acid supplement powder

Amino acid supplements come in different types, such as branched-chain amino acids and essential amino acids. These supplements help your body build muscle, improve exercise performance, and recover faster after workouts.

People often take them to get certain amino acids that their diets might lack.

Taking these supplements can also boost mood and health outcomes. For example, oral branch-chain amino acid (BCAA) products are safe for up to six months for most people. They are specially made to support the body's needs during physical activities and recovery periods.

But it's crucial to use them correctly to avoid unwanted effects like gastrointestinal distress or gout risk increase.

Side Effects of Increased Amino Acid Intake


Taking in more amino acids than your body needs can lead to unexpected changes. These can include holding onto extra water and feeling muscle tightness.


Water Retention

Taking amino acid supplements can lead to your body holding onto more water. This means you might feel puffy or swollen because of extra fluid in your tissues. People often see this side effect with long-term use of these dietary aids.

Your body tries to keep a balance, but too many amino acids disrupt this balance, causing water retention. This isn't just about looking bloated; it can also make you feel uncomfortable and increase blood pressure.

Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps can happen if you take too many amino acid supplements. Your muscles might suddenly tighten up and feel painful. This is because supplements like branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) change how your muscles work.

If you use them a lot, your body might react by making your muscles cramp.

People who eat more amino acids than usual through supplements often face this issue. Research shows that BCAAs, found in protein shakes and pills for muscle growth, are linked to this problem.

So, if you're using these supplements to get stronger or improve athletic performance, be careful about how much you take. Stick to recommended doses to help avoid muscle cramps.


Taking amino acid supplements can increase your risk of getting dehydrated. Your body may use more water to process these nutrients, leaving less for other functions. This makes it important to drink plenty of fluids if you're using these supplements, especially during exercise or hot weather.

Long-term use of amino acids also raises dehydration risks. Over time, your body continues to need more water to deal with these extra nutrients. If you don't keep up with this demand by drinking enough, you could end up feeling very thirsty and dry.

Keep an eye on how much water you drink each day while taking these products to stay safe and hydrated.

Potential Side Effects of Specific Amino Acids

a closeup of man's stomach; he's holding his stomach in pain

Some amino acids can cause unique side effects that you should know about.


L-arginine is an amino acid that helps your heart and muscles. But it can also cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and bloating. People with asthma might find their breathing gets worse if they take L-Arginine.

It can slow blood clotting too. This means you could bruise or bleed more easily when taking certain medications.

Taking L-arginine might lead to abdominal pain and make you feel bloated. If you have problems like these, it's because of how L-Arginine affects your body. Be careful using this supplement, especially if you're also on medication that affects blood clotting or if you have a history of asthma.


β-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid. It helps make other important chemicals in the body. Taking β-Alanine as a supplement can help people perform better in sports and exercise longer by delaying tiredness.

Studies show it might also increase resilience against stress, brain injuries, and heat.

Taking too much β-Alanine can lead to side effects like headaches and stomach pain. These are common issues that some people face with its supplementation. Despite these drawbacks, many athletes use β-Alanine to boost their performance and improve muscle endurance during high-intensity activities.

Branched-chain Amino Acids

Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, include valine, isoleucine, and leucine. These nutrients help build muscle protein and provide energy during workouts. Studies show they are safe to use for up to 6 months without causing harmful side effects.

People taking them don't see bad reactions even with big single doses.

BCAAs can also lower excess phenylalanine in those with certain health issues. Research supports their use in improving kidney failure conditions. This opens new ways to treat such illnesses effectively.


L-Citrulline is an amino acid that your body naturally makes and you can also get it from foods or supplements. It’s useful for improving heart health, and blood sugar levels, and helping muscles recover after exercise.

Taking L-citrulline might help lower blood pressure and make workouts easier by boosting endurance. This supplement could even help with erectile dysfunction by improving blood flow.

Even though L-citrulline offers these benefits, it's important to use it carefully. There are no known side effects from the supplement itself, but it can affect how certain medications work in your body.

For example, if you're taking drugs for heart disease or high blood pressure, adding L-citrulline might change how those drugs perform. Always talk to a doctor before starting any new supplement to make sure it's safe for you and won't interfere with your medications.

Risks of Long-Term Amino Acid Supplementation

pills spilled on a dark countertop

Taking amino acid supplements for a long time can lead to problems. These issues include feeling sick, getting headaches, and experiencing different kinds of pain.


Feeling sick to your stomach is a common problem with long-term use of amino acid supplements. This includes taking too much BCAAs and L-arginine. Your body might react badly, making you feel like throwing up.

This kind of discomfort can mess with your daily life. It warns that your body is not happy with the extra amino acids. Listen to what your body tells you and consider cutting back on these supplements if you start feeling this way.


Taking amino acid supplements for a long time can lead to headaches. This is a common side effect many people face. Headaches might start because the body reacts to changes in how much of these nutrients you're getting.

The important facts show that this problem comes up often with higher doses of supplements.

These pains in your head can also signal that something isn't right with how your body handles these extra amino acids. Whether using them for muscle building or improving sports performance, it's key to watch out for any signs of discomfort like headaches.

Keeping track without ignoring such symptoms helps maintain your health while pursuing nutritional goals.


Long-term use of amino acid supplements may lead to pain. This includes stomach aches and joint discomfort. Using these supplements for a long time can make your body react in ways that cause physical distress.

BCAA protein supplements often result in abdominal problems like nausea and, yes, more pain. The risk of developing conditions such as gout also increases with extensive intake of amino acids, causing joints to hurt badly.

Side Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids

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Taking too many branched-chain amino acids can lead to feeling tired and less coordinated. Keep reading to learn more about how these supplements affect your body.


BCAA supplements might make you feel tired. Research shows that using these supplements for up to six months can lead to feeling weary. This happens because BCAAs can reduce serotonin levels in your brain.

Serotonin is a key chemical that helps control your energy during exercise.

Taking 12 grams of BCAAs every day for two years also has similar effects. People have reported feeling less energetic and more fatigued over time. Since serotonin helps with mood and energy, lowering its levels makes workouts feel harder and recovery slower.

Loss of Coordination

Taking branched-chain amino acids can lead to loss of coordination. This side effect makes it hard for some people to move smoothly. They might stumble or find it tough to do tasks that need fine motor skills.

Think about tying your shoes or writing a note. These simple actions could become challenging.

This problem is serious because it affects daily life. It can make driving unsafe and increase the risk of falls and injuries. People who take these supplements must know this risk, especially if they rely on sharp movements for sports or work.

Being cautious and aware is key to staying safe while using these supplements for muscle building or recovery.

Amino Acid Supplements and their Impact on Blood

red pills and vials of blood in a lab setting

Amino acid supplements can change how blood works in our bodies. For example, BCAA supplements might lower blood sugar levels. This is a big deal for people with diabetes who are already taking medicine to control their sugar levels.

It's like adding too much of one thing and not enough of the other, which can make keeping sugar levels stable hard.

These supplements also affect other parts of blood health. They can influence how well our liver cleans out unwanted stuff from our blood. If someone has liver disease or hepatic encephalopathy, taking these supplements could make things worse instead of better.

It shows us that what we put into our body affects more than just muscles; it impacts vital systems like our bloodstream too.

Dangers of Excessive Intake of Amino Acid Supplements

a man driving with a pensive facial expression

Eating too many amino acid supplements can change your mood and make you feel different. It can also make your heart and blood vessels more likely to get sick.

Effects on Mood

Amino acids play a big role in how we feel. Low serotonin levels can make us feel sad or anxious. This happens when there's an imbalance of amino acids in our bodies. Amino acids are like building blocks for proteins, and some of them help make serotonin, a chemical that helps us feel happy.

If we don't have enough serotonin, we might feel down or have trouble sleeping.

Taking supplements like tryptophan can help fix this balance and improve our mood and sleep. It's important to make sure we get the right amount of amino acids to keep our minds healthy.

Supplements can sometimes help with mood problems caused by not having enough of certain amino acids.

Increased Susceptibility to Cardiovascular Diseases

Taking too many amino acid supplements can make heart disease more likely. Some amino acids might hurt your tissues and raise levels of homocysteine or cholesterol. This could damage your heart's health.

Taurine helps your heart and brain, but too much might harm them. It could raise your blood pressure and worsen your heart health.

Using these supplements a lot may link to serious problems like myocardial infarction and hypertension. Your body needs balance. Too many amino acids throw off this balance, putting extra strain on the cardiovascular system.

Keep an eye on how much you use to protect your heart's well-being.


a water bottle in the middle of desert sands

Amino acid supplements can boost your health and exercise performance. But, they also come with side effects like muscle cramps and dehydration. Some amino acids have specific risks, such as stomach issues from BCAAs or mood changes from too much intake.

If you take them for a long time, you might get headaches or feel pain. Always make sure to use these supplements wisely to avoid any unwanted effects on your body.

Amino Acid Intake Side-Effects FAQs

Q: What are amino acid supplements?

A: Amino acid supplements are dietary supplements that bodybuilders and athletes often use to help with muscle building and recovery. While amino acid supplements are generally safe for most people when taken as directed, they can cause side effects such as nausea, headaches, and upset stomachs if taken in excessive amounts.

Q: Can taking amino acid supplements affect my kidneys?

A: Yes, these supplements can increase creatinine levels and may affect your renal function, especially if you have kidney issues.

Q: Are there any side effects for people with diabetes who take amino acid supplements?

A: People with type 2 diabetes should be cautious because some amino acids can impact insulin resistance and glucose levels.

Q: Could pregnant women face risks when taking amino acid supplements?

A: Pregnant women should avoid certain amino acids as they might harm the baby or cause complications during pregnancy.

Q: Do amino acid supplements have any effect on liver health?

A: Taking high doses of certain amino acids could lead to liver problems, including an increased risk of liver cancer in some cases.

Q: How do these supplements interact with the immune system and brain function?

A: Amino acids play a role in supporting the immune system but excessive intake might disrupt normal neurotransmitter balance, affecting brain function.

Q: What are the common side effects of taking tryptophan supplements?

A: Tryptophan supplements may cause drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth as common side effects. It is advisable to consult a healthcare provider before taking tryptophan supplements.

Q: Can BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) lead to any adverse effects?

A: BCAAs are generally safe for most people when taken in appropriate doses. However, excessive intake of BCAAs may lead to fatigue, loss of coordination, and headaches as potential adverse effects.

Q: What are the side effects of leucine supplementation?

A: Leucine supplementation can sometimes cause an increase in blood pressure and may adversely affect individuals with certain medical conditions. It is important to monitor your response to leucine supplementation and consult a healthcare professional if needed.

Q: How can BCAA supplements impact protein synthesis?

A: BCAA supplements can potentially stimulate protein synthesis in the body, supporting muscle growth and repair. However, excessive or uncontrolled intake of BCAAs may disrupt the balance of amino acids and have unintended effects on protein synthesis.

Q: What are the potential risks of taking individual amino acids as supplements?

A: Taking individual amino acids as supplements may lead to imbalances in amino acid levels, impacting overall amino acid metabolism. It is crucial to understand the specific effects of each amino acid and ensure they are consumed in appropriate proportions.

Q: Are there any specific types of amino acids known to have notable side effects?

A: Some amino acids, such as certain branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), can have varying metabolic effects and may be associated with side effects like fatigue or digestive issues. Understanding the effects of different amino acids is important for safe supplementation.

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Sarah Rights

Sarah Rights is a dynamic and inspirational certified personal trainer, known for her unique blend of gymnastics and strength training. Her journey into fitness began in her childhood, with a deep passion for gymnastics that later evolved into a career in personal training. Sarah's gymnastic background gives her an exceptional understanding of body mechanics, flexibility, and balance.