It’s been a few months since I’ve caught a cold, but I remember last winter, when I came down with an awful virus that lingered throughout the month of December.

I was so desperate to escape my misery that I made an appointment at a spa-like IV therapy clinic for an “immunity booster.” I sat back in a cushy leather chair and let an IV drip a concentrated dose of vitamin C and zinc directly into my veins – anything to escape the fog of sickness that wouldn’t let me go.

I only mention this because a few weeks ago I received an email update from the IV therapy clinic, announcing that it now offers amino acid IVs.

For those of us who haven’t sat in a chemistry class in decades, amino acids are the molecular compounds that make up proteins. Our bodies need protein to build, repair and maintain muscle mass, which naturally declines after we reach age 40 and beyond.

Amino acids are also trending among fitness buffs. I’ve seen amino acid protein powders, supplements and bars on the shelves at local grocery and health stores.

In addition, the IV clinic offers injections of vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that keeps our nerve and blood cells healthy and gives us energy to power through the day.

Thankfully, for those of us who feel faint at even the thought of needles, you don’t need an injection or infusion to boost your body with amino acids and vitamin B12. You can get all the micronutrients you need from a balanced diet.

Animal-based proteins, including real meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, are a natural source of essential micronutrients, nutrition experts say.

Specifically, you can only get vitamin B12 from animal-based proteins, which is why vegetarians and vegans must take B12 supplements (or injections) to get this vital micronutrient.

Animal-based proteins are considered “complete” proteins because they provide all the essential amino acids our bodies need, says Ruth MacDonald, chair of the department of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University.

In comparison, plant-based proteins are “incomplete” proteins because they lack one or more of these essential amino acids.

“That’s the big difference: It’s quality of protein. It’s access to the micronutrients that you get in a very concentrated and efficient way from animal-based products,” MacDonald says.

MacDonald says the healthiest diets are those that include a variety of foods.

“That includes everything – fish, lean meats, vegetarian options … Just offering a wide range of foods is important,” she says.

So next time I’m feeling sick or run down, I will take a closer look at my diet.

And if you’re wondering how I felt after the IV therapy, yes, I started feeling better about a week later – but I don’t know if it was because of the IV or because the cold naturally ran its course.

I do know, however, that I can buy a week’s worth of groceries for the cost of the IV therapy. Plus, I would rather get my amino acids from a steak than a liquid injection.