Branched-Chain Amino Acids, also known as BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids. Those amino acids are – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. In bodybuilding and fitness communities, BCAAs supplements are quite popular. Many physical fitness enthusiasts use BCAAs regularly to promote their muscle maintenance and growth.
When you engage in high-intensity exercises, there is a loss of Alanine and Glutamine from your muscles. As stated above, BCAAs contain leucine, isoleucine, and valine which help restore the balance of these losses. These amino acids help compensate the loss of muscle mass which often occurs after force training.
Doctors recommend that you must take BCAAs supplements with other proteins in order to increase the muscular absorption and retention. The favorable intake method is to take BCAAs supplements one or two hours before your intense training session. You must consider this method as it helps support the energy cycle, avoid muscle loss and save testosterone during the training session.
Branched -Chain Amino Acids makes up about 35% of your muscle mass. BCCA helps your muscles grow and develop. This is one of the many reasons why health and fitness enthusiasts consider BCAAs supplements. Made from three essential amino acids, BCAAs have a branched molecular structure, vital for the body growth.
The three proteinogenic BCAAs are among the nine essential amino acids that account for a major part of your body. Generally, these branched amino acids are essential nutrients that the body obtains naturally from food items such as meat, dairy products, and legumes. However, you can still make the most of BCAAs by the use of their supplements.
The supplements contain twice as much leucine than isoleucine or valine, having the ratio of 2:1:1. This is primarily because leucine is more effective in stimulating the synthesis of protein. It also helps suppress the breakdown of muscle protein. All three amino acids are metabolized in your muscles rather than in your liver. Due to this reason, BCAAs supplements have a faster effect on your body than a whole food item or protein powders.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids are typically taken by mouth. However, doctors also consider giving it with the help of IV. The healthcare providers use these methods not only for the muscle growth but for other purposes as well. If an athlete suffers from fatigue or a loss of energy, the doctor may prescribe him BCAAs supplements.
During an intense workout or weight training, your body goes to a catabolic condition which causes muscle breakdown. The stored glycogen starts to deplete and the liver has to produce glucose by converting into L-Alanine.
In order to reduce the muscle breakdown effect, one needs to take BCAAs. As you consume it, your body starts to synthesize protein. This is why BCAAs are one of the most useful training supplements. Every sports nutrition program should consider it.
- It helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissues.
- For those who work-out, it enhances stamina.
- It supports process of protein synthesis in muscles.
The role of BCAAs is not limited to your muscle growth. It has many other functions too such as energy production, protein synthesis, leptin regulation, and the formation of other amino acids.
1. Protein Synthesis
BCAAs play a central role in synthesizing protein in the body. Consuming BCAAs alone will not maximize protein synthesis. Hence, incorporating resistance exercise in your daily routine is also important. It helps trigger Mtorc1 which is significant for muscle building.
Older men and women should also consider the intake of BCAAs as older adults often suffer from protein deficiency. A study conducted on older men and women aged 65 to 79 showed that there was an increase in their protein synthesis when they consumed BCAAs supplements for a couple of weeks. The amino acids elicited an acute increase in protein synthesis.
2. Energy Production
Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are easily broken down in your muscle. Other kinds of amino acids have to first synthesize in your liver and then they reach up to your muscles to provide the desired result.
Since BCAAs break down in your muscles, they are able to produce a high level of energy during the exercise. In this way, you get significant doses of energy during your workout sessions.
3. Forming Other Amino Acids – Alanine and Glutamine
Glutamine and alanine, essential amino acids, need nitrogen for their synthesis. The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are one of the major sources of nitrogen.
Alanine is a principal amino acid that releases from the muscle tissue during starvation. On the other hand, glutamine helps maintain the blood glucose concentration in your body. By consuming BCAAs supplements, the synthesis of alanine and glutamine is possible.
4. Leptin Regulation
BCAAs supplements stimulate the hormone “leptin” which is involved in the regulation of metabolism, weight, and appetite.
The secretion of leptin is connected with your body-fat levels. The higher the body fat, the higher the leptin secretion is. BCAAs help activate the leptin expression in your body. In this way, your body is able to decide whether it is receiving adequate calories or not.
Generally, the consumption of BCAAs supplements is safe. You won’t suffer from any serious side effects if you consume BCAAs within the dosage range of 15 to 35mg. However, those with ALS or maple syrup urine disease should consider limiting their intake.
BCAAs, if not mandatory, is an essential requirement for muscle growth and development. Athletes consume their supplements on a daily basis without suffering from any serious side effects.
Many scientific studies prove the safety of BCAAs. A team of researchers from the University Of Orleans In France concluded that during a long endurance trial, athletes who consumed high levels of BCAAs reported feeling less tired than those who took the placebo. The placebo consumers reported feeling lazier and more tired.
The Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences at Nagoya University in Japan concluded that BCAAs supplements are effective for alleviating post-exercise muscle soreness. Other reports showed that proteins involved in muscle catabolism were immediately suppressed after BCAA supplementation. The researchers believe that this is an indirect effect of the muscle protein synthesis caused by the consumption of BCAAs.
1. BCAAs Supplements Reduce Muscle Soreness
Scientific research shows that BCAAs help to decrease muscle soreness after a heavy workout. Sore muscles are often referred to as DOMS. They develop 12 to 24 hours after every exercise and last up to 72 hours.
Although the main reason for muscle soreness is not known, some researchers believe that their development is the result of tiny tears in the muscles after exercise. Studies show how BCAAs instantly relieves muscle pain as it helps reduce the severity of DOMS.
2. BCAAs May Reduce Fatigue During Exercise
BCAAs not only help reduce muscle soreness that is often the result of exercise but it also reduces exercise-induced fatigue. It is common to experience fatigue and exhaustion from exercise. How quickly you get tired depends on a lot of factors. Some of those factors include intensity and duration, environmental factors, and your fitness level.
The muscles use a lot of BCAAs during the exercise. This causes the blood level to decrease. As the blood level of BCAAs decreases, levels of the essential amino acid – tryptophan in your brain elevates. Tryptophan converts into serotonin which is a brain chemical that helps lower fatigue.
3. BCAAs May Increase Muscle Mass
People who consume BCAAs supplements frequently are able to increase muscle mass to a great extent. Some studies also prove that BCAA supplements help increase more muscle mass if they contain a greater amount of leucine rather than isoleucine and valine.
4. BCAAs May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
BCAAs also help support normal blood sugar levels in your body. Leucine and isoleucine are the amino acids that increase the insulin secretion. This, in turn, enables your muscles to take in more sugar from your blood. This procedure helps to lower your increased blood sugar level.
A study involving 10 participants revealed that their blood sugar levels reduced when they took 12.5 grams of BCAAs.
5. BCAAs Enhance Weight Loss
BCAAs prevent you from gaining weight. In fact, it helps you lose weight. Clinical studies prove that those who consume 15 grams of BCAAs every day have a 30% lower chance of becoming overweight.
Another study showed that wrestlers who had a high-protein, low-calorie diet and consumed BCAAs supplements every day were able to lose 3.5 more pounds as compared to those who took only a soy protein supplement.
6. BCAAs May Reduce Complications in Liver Disease
Doctors believe that BCAAs may give rise to fewer complications that are often linked to liver failure. One of the most common complications is hepatic encephalopathy (HE). This health condition may cause confusion, loss of consciousness, and coma.
A current review concluded that BCAAs supplements may prove to be more effective to those with liver disease than the other kinds of supplements that reduce the severity of HE.
Another study showed that patients who underwent liver surgery faced not a single liver complication as they reportedly were on BCCA-enriched solutions.
BCAAs supplements can help who are suffering from liver cancer and reduce their water retention and lower the risk of premature death by up to 7%
Branched Chained Amino Acids supplements are the best source of proteins. However, if the supplements are unavailable to you, you can have natural food items that can be as beneficial to you as BCAAs supplements.
Supplements that contain the highest amount of BCAAs are as follows:
- Meat, poultry, and fish (per 3 ounces) contain 3 to 4.5 grams of BCAAs
- Beans and lentils (per cup) contain 2.5 to 3 grams of BCAAs
- Milk (per cup) contains 2 grams of BCAAs
- Tofu and tempeh (per 3 ounces) contain 0.9 to 2.3 grams of BCAAs
- Cheese contains (per 1 ounce) 1.4 grams of BCAAs
- A large egg contains 1.3 grams of BCAAs
- Pumpkin seeds (per 1 ounce) contains 1 gram of BCAAs
- Quinoa (per cup) contains 1 gram of BCAAs
- Nuts contain (per 1 ounce) 0.7 to 1 gram of BCAAs
The consumption of these food items will help you increase BCAAs in your body. When the amount of BCAAs is greater in the body, there will be more chances for you to enjoy all the benefits that BCAAs offer.
BCAAs Daily Dosage
If you are planning to start the supplementation of BCAAs, you will need to consider the daily dosage. The regular intake of BCAAs will largely depend on your needs and goals.
A 1985 report from the World Health Organization explains that an average adult should consume a minimum of 15 mg of BCAAs per pound of body weight every day. However, a recent research shows that women should take a minimum of 9 grams of BCAAs per day while men must consume a minimum of 12 grams of BCAAs per day.
The recommended dosage includes 10 to 20 grams of BCAAs per day. The best time to consume BCAAs supplements is before or after the workout.
BCAAs Dosage for Weight Loss
In order to lose weight, consider BCAAs supplements that contain natural fat burning compounds.
Take one scoop of BCAA 30 to 40 minutes before workout and one scoop during or after the workout. This will not only help you lose extra calories but it will also maintain your muscle mass.
BCCA supplements are safe to use when taken by mouth. However, there are some side effects that you may experience such as fatigue or loss of coordination. You must use BCAAs supplements cautiously especially when you are about to engage in performance activities such as driving.
Since driving requires motor coordination, you need to ensure that BCAA supplements do not cause any side effects. These side-effects go away after a few days of continual use of BCAAs. Hence, there is nothing to worry about. If you continue to feel those side-effects, it is better to consult a doctor immediately.
- Additional effects of taurine on the benefits of BCAA intake for the delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise.
- Branched-chain amino acids.
- Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on insulin resistance and quality of life in chronic hepatitis C patients
- The Emerging Role of Branched-Chain Amino Acids in Insulin Resistance and Metabolism
- Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances
- Effects of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) on the progression of advanced liver disease
- Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality?
- Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review
- Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans