The Benefits of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
What Are Branched-Chain Amino Acids?
Branched-Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs are a type of amino acid used by the body to produce
protein, something you obviously need to build muscle. And unlike non-essential amino acids the
body cannot make them, so you must consume it. These amino acids are broken down primarily in
the muscles, because they play a role in producing energy during exercise.
The three types of branch chain amino acids are valine, isoleucine, and leucine. Leucine is primarily
used in muscle protein synthesis. Isoleucine is needed for cells to take in glucose properly. The role
of valine in the body is less clear. It is thought to help regulate blood sugar and produce energy.
There are proven benefits of supplementing your diet with Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) to
reach your fitness goals. Let's discuss a few occasions when you can't do without these
When Your Diet Can't Supply Enough
Branched-chain amino acids are available in a number of foods. For example, they're found in eggs
and meat. If you're consuming one to one and a half grams of high protein per kilogram of body
weight, you probably don't need supplementation. If you're vegetarian or vegan, there's a good
chance you'd benefit from BCAA supplements. If you have trouble eating enough natural protein
to meet your needs for these amino acids supplements are a viable alternative. That's especially
true if issues like lactose intolerance rule out whey protein supplements and can't tolerate soy
If you're fasting, supplements could provide the amino acids to you to maintain your muscles while
losing the fat. (1) This was demonstrated in a 2016 study cited by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
When You Need to Fight Fatigue
If you aren't getting enough critical amino acids you'll become fatigued sooner than expected
during workouts. Several studies have found that consumption of branch chain amino acids,
including as supplements, reduce this issue. (2) A 2006 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that
during endurance exercises like cycling, there was an uptake of tryptophan in the brain.
Tryptophan is converted to serotonin, eventually leading to fatigue. This study suggested that the
oral intake of BCAAs slowed the intake, delaying fatigue and the related slowdown in one's
workout. Note that they won't improve athletic performance; they will only make you feel less tired
during and after the workout.
This makes Branched-Chain Amino Acids a better choice for those doing strength and interval
training instead of a generic 30 minute workout every night. The anti-fatigue benefits will be
greatest with people just starting to lose fat and build muscle. You'll likely be able to work harder
and longer whether jogging, biking, playing sports or on the workout circuit. Another benefit of
BCAA supplements is that you're taking them free-form. Your body doesn't have to wait several
hours for them to be broken down and reach your bloodstream as happens when you take whey
protein. You'll receive the benefits sooner and won't have to wait for the amino acids to be
available to your muscles. You could take a BCAA supplement like Amino Mend, go to yoga class,
and then move on to your workout.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids don't seem to affect blood glucose concentrations per se according to
one study, but they did improve cognitive function after an extended workout. (7) The study
authors said that this may be beneficial for those in sports that required fast reaction times and
quick decision making.
When You Want to Reduce Muscle Damage
Several studies linked intake of BCAA with reduced muscle damage. (3) A study published in the
2013 Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that BCAA during endurance exercises
reduced muscle damage. This builds on a 2007 study in the International Journal of Sport
Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism demonstrating that BCAA supplementation reduced indirect
indicators of muscle damage during endurance exercise. In this study, BCAA supplementation
attenuated muscle damage in untrained individuals at a similar level to iso-caloric carbohydrate,
both of which were far better than would be seen if it was due to the placebo effect. The benefit of
BCAA supplementation is that it provides these benefits without the risk of excess calories you
could take in drinking a lot of sports drinks. The safer choice is to use products like Amino Mend,
drink water or consume low-calorie electrolyte drinks. This also allows you to avoid the high
fructose corn syrup often added to these drinks that can interfere with health liver function.
For some, the reduction in muscle soreness tied to use of Branched-Chain Amino Acids will allow
them to keep up the workout regimen. (6) A 2016 study found that BCAA reduced muscle
soreness for both those doing intense strength training and resistance training. This is separate
from the reduced rate of muscle damage that is correlated to an increased risk of injury.
When You Want to Burn Fat While Losing Weight
A 2011 study (5) found that BCAA supplements improved lipid oxidation during endurance
exercise after the body had depleted its glycogen. Those using Branched-Chain Amino Acid
supplements had enhanced lipid oxidation after glycogen depletion. This is on top of the fact that
you can use freeform supplements that don't add several hundred calories to your diet. All in all,
this makes BCAA supplements an ideal way to get enough critical amino acids as you struggle
with a restricted calorie diet and exercise regimen.
Links to References:
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