Feeling old? Off your game? As I write about here, certain symptoms—joint pain, hearing loss, skin changes—can be indicators of fast aging. While there’s no way to know exactly how much longer you’ll live, there are clues that give you an idea of how your health is faring as you get older. One of the things your body could be telling you is that you’re lacking sufficient amounts of amino acids. These organic compounds are the building blocks of protein, and they play a role in all of the body’s cellular processes. Here are nine signs you have an amino acid deficiency. 


Trouble Focusing

Tyrosine is an essential amino acid found in protein-rich foods like dairy products, meat, and eggs. As LIVESTRONG explains, tyrosine helps boost your body’s production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine that help you focus, and insufficient tyrosine may cause you to have trouble concentrating. 



We all have days where we feel like we’re dragging. But if you find yourself constantly struggling with exhaustion, you may not be getting the amino acids you need to fuel your body.


Memory Loss

In addition to its role in energy production, acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown to improve cognition and memory—which is why it’s on my list of top supplements for brain health. According to the website healingwithnutrition.com, one study found that elderly patients with mild memory deterioration who supplemented with acetyl-L-carnitine experienced significantly improved mental function. Just make sure it is the acetyl form, as plain l-carnitine doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier.


Slow Illness Recovery

SF Gate reports that insufficient amino acid intake can compromise your body’s ability to recover from infection by slowing the process. 


Muscle Loss

Bodybuilding.com explains that, in the absence of sufficient energy produced by amino acids, your body may break down muscle tissue in order to fuel itself during intense exercise. And science suggests that long-term supplementation with amino acids may help prevent and treat age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia). In general, your body will break down muscle tissue if it’s not getting enough of even one of the amino acids it needs. 


Craving Unhealthy Foods

Do you have an insatiable sweet tooth? Are you crazy for carbs? Your brain might not be getting the amino acids it needs to help you feel satisfied, according to Psychology Today. Neurotransmitters that help control your appetite are made from amino acids. 



If you can’t run as fast or lift as much weight as you used to, you might want to evaluate your intake of amino acids from protein. As reported by Men’s Journal, inadequate protein intake can lead to muscle weakness. 


Depressed Mood

Research shows that some amino acids are precursors to neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine that are associated with depression. 



Can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed? If you feel like all you want to do is sleep, you could be lacking amino acids needed to energize you.

Experiencing any or all of these symptoms? There are steps you can take. Of the twenty total amino acids, nine are essential, meaning your body can’t produce them and so they must be obtained through food. To make sure you’re getting enough, Greatist recommends eating a wide variety of protein sources every day.

If you are ready to take the next steps, talk to Dr Spar about getting tested for deficiencies or overall metabolism by requesting an appointment with Dr. Spar.

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has been a consultant with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on national television, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He was most recently National Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of a national medical practice, but is available to consult with individual patients interested in a personalized approach to optimal performance and health.