Peptides – Proteins – Amino Acids: What Are the Differences?

Peptides and proteins are both made of amino acid chains. Peptides are smaller and are made of anywhere between two and 50 amino acids. Once you exceed 50 peptides in a chain, you’re in protein territory.

Proteins are often polypeptides. Multiple smaller chains of amino acids bond together to form more complex molecules carrying out complicated cell functions. For example, proteins give cells their structure and size. They also regulate other molecules inside cells.

Peptides are smaller, so they usually have simpler functions than proteins that stimulate or trigger specific biological responses.

Amino acids, for their part, are some of the earliest known molecules. They’re small compounds that chain together in structures for different purposes. If proteins are the building blocks of life, amino acids are the cement that makes the blocks. Without them, there would be no peptides or proteins.

Let’s dive into some of the basics of peptides, proteins, and amino acids to help you discover more about how they work.

What Are Amino Acids

Amino acids are what you get when you break down a protein. The body uses amino acids to create different proteins the body needs to grow and take shape. Without proteins, your body would have no structure because proteins are what holds your cells together.

Amino acids are typically categorized as:

Conditional Amino Acids

Essential Amino Acids

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids, interestingly, must be eaten. The body can’t make them itself. Some of them include leucine, methionine, threonine, and valine. Your body can make non-essential amino acids, but they can also come from food. Unless you’re sick or acutely stressed, conditional amino acids aren’t usually required.

Eating a balanced diet is the best way to get the amino acids your body needs to build more proteins. You can also find a variety of supplements with essential amino acids that come in powder form or in capsules.

The Basics: A Peptide Overview

The smallest peptide is known as a dipeptide, which is two amino acids strung together. However, peptides can reach up to as many as 50 amino acids in a single chain.

What makes peptides is a unique composition of amino acids that form a compound. It then triggers a specific biological reaction or carries out some function in the cells.

Researchers have been studying peptides for decades to discover ways we can use them for health benefits and other uses. For example, collagen is a peptide known to improve skin elasticity, and you can find it in many skin care products that promote healthier skin and prevent wrinkles.

Many studies have been done in animal models that demonstrate that peptides can help reduce fat, increase muscle mass, promote higher testosterone levels, and help reduce addictive impulses.

Learning About Proteins

Proteins are complex molecules that perform a host of critical functions in your body. They do a lot of the heavy lifting in your cells. They’re what give your cells their size and contribute to regulating your organs.

While peptides are capped at just 50 amino acids, proteins can consist of hundreds or even thousands of amino acids. One interesting thing about proteins is that all of them are made of only 20 different amino acids. However, their combination is what gives proteins variety.

Proteins have many functions. Some include messengers that carry signals between cells, organs, and tissues. Proteins are hormones that coordinate how your body reacts and grows. Proteins also offer storage for atoms and smaller molecules found in your cells. Enzymes are another example of proteins that manage chemical reactions. They create new molecules as well.

People need proteins to stay healthy. One of the most popular results of taking more protein is building muscles. By increasing your protein intake, you can see better results at the gym because it’s easier for your body to build new muscles during the repair process.


Amino acids, peptides, and proteins are all vital to human life. We need all of them, and finding ways to create more bioavailability can promote better health and improved performance results. The more you learn about these amazing building blocks, the more you’ll understand how the body works and what your body needs to be its best.

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