At the most basic level, amino acids are simply the building blocks of protein. They build everything from tissues and skin, to muscle and organs. In addition, they regulate nearly every metabolic process and are needed for survival.
Amino acids are broken into three different categories, essential, semi-essential, and non-essential. Essential amino acids can't be made in the body from other amino acids, and must be acquired through diet and supplementation. Semi-essential amino acids can be made in the body, but usually in very limited quantities. Supplementing these amino acids can be very beneficial to overall health. Non-essential amino acids can be made in the body. Enough of these amino acids can be made in the body that supplementation is not always needed. During intense training, however, supplementing these non-essential amino acids can be beneficial to aid in recovery.
There are twenty different amino acids that make up proteins, and many of them perform very different functions. Alanine, for example, can be used to help produce glucose during intense training, while Carnitine helps with transporting fatty acids and burning fat.