BCAA

What are BCAAs?

The term BCAAs stands for branched chain amino acids. Just like other essential amino acids, BCAAs are considered essential because they cannot be produced by the body.

These three branch aminos are:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

These are commonly referred to as branched chains because of the branches that are formed by the carbon bonds of their structure, and are widely considered a fundamental supplement for anyone looking to build muscle or preserve it.

About one third of the body’s skeletal muscle is comprised of branched chain amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of the body, and responsible for a number of different processes. The body requires an abundance of these aminos in order to fulfill its role in building and repairing muscle tissue.

BCAAs are often sold by themselves in powder or liquid form. They can also be obtained through foods such as meat and dairy, or other supplements like whey protein powder.

Why You Should Take Them During a Workout?

When taken during a workout, the body is able to immediately put BCAAs to work, helping with muscle contraction and serving as a source of energy for skeletal muscle. Several studies have also revealed that BCAAs are

Protein Synthesis:

Protein Synthesis is the process cells use to build or manufacture proteins, enhanced by BCAAs

beneficial in reducing muscle damage and soreness. They can also help preserve glutamine stores and increase Protein Synthesis and promote growth. [1]

During your workout, taking BCAAs can reduce the amount of tryptophan and serotonin delivered to the brain. By decreasing the uptake of serotonin to the brain, your body is able to delay fatigue. This allows you to train longer and with more intensity. [2]

BCAA Benefits

A BCAA supplement has the free form versions of isoleucine, leucine and valine, so they can be absorbed straight into the bloodstream. Even though your body is likely getting BCAA’s in your pre workout meal, they must still be broken down and separated by the body.

During a diet or cutting phase, most people enter a caloric deficit. As you get leaner, the body makes a greater effort to hold on to fat stores, and will often break down muscle to satisfy its energy needs.

Supplementing with BCAAs reduces this muscle degradation. By increasing protein synthesis, BCAAs help to spare muscle, and further encourages the body to utilize its fat stores for energy. [3]

  • Burn Fat. Supplementing with BCAAs reduces muscle degradation. By increasing protein synthesis, BCAAs help to spare muscle, and further encourages the body to utilize its fat stores for energy. [3]
  • Boost Growth Hormone. A study from 2001 found that athletes taking BCAAs for a month had higher levels of growth hormone and growth hormone binding protein following exercise.
  • Get Stronger. BCAAs have also been shown to help increase strength in athletes.
  • Speed Up Recovery Time. Because BCAAs help spare muscle from being broken down, they are able to recover quicker after workouts.
  • Train Longer and Harder. BCAAs give your body a fuel source to utilize during exercise; increasing strength and endurance.

Feast While You Fast

Fasted Cardio is one of the best ways to shift the body into fat burning mode, and achieve unprecedented levels of leanness. Fasted cardio, i.e. aerobic exercise performed first thing in the

Fasted Cardio:

Fasted Cardio is aerobic exercise performed first thing in the morning

morning, helps to burn extra fatty acids because your carbohydrate stores are low.

Unfortunately, this also means that your body will be in a Catabolic State. It will start to harvest hard earned muscle to supply the body with energy.

Feasting on additional BCAAs during this type of cardio will help preserve your muscle mass, and can even increase energy expenditure The longer and more

intense your workouts are, the more important it becomes to take a BCAA supplement. This will allow you to preserve muscle glycogen, and exert all-out intensity on every set and rep. BCAAs make the perfect training partners, giving a spot to your energy and intensity levels.

Catabolic State:

Catabolic State is unfavorable state in the body that leads to more fat and less muscle, can be overcome by BCAAs

Taking additional BCAAs during this type of cardio will help preserve your muscle mass, and can even increase energy expenditure.

How Should I Take My BCAAs?

Studies have shown that to get the most out of a BCAA supplement, the best ratio is a 2:1:1. The breakdown looks like this:

  • 2- Leucine
  • 1- Isoleucine
  • 1-Valine

The majority of BCAA supplements will have these amounts listed somewhere on the container.

A 2:1:1 ratio means that a 10 gram dose of BCAA should include 5grams of leucine, 2.5 grams of isoleucine, and 2.5 grams of valine.

Start off by taking 5-10 grams pre and post workout. As your training volume increases, feel free to add another 5-10 grams during the workout to help with muscle fatigue.

Is It Possible To Take Too Much?

Just like anything else you don’t want to overdo it with BCAA supplementation. 10-15 grams is fine to take all at once. Anything in the neighborhood of 30 grams and beyond is definitely overkill.

BCAA supplements are completely safe, and there are no side effects to be worried about. Just make sure that you buy from a reputable supplier. Some companies use unsafe or low quality raw ingredients in order to sell their products at a lower price.

Conclusion

BCAA Supplements are here to stay. They are being added to protein powders, NO supplements, intra-workout and post-workout supplements, vitamin waters and more. There is tons of research still being done on BCAAs and their applications to muscle growth, fat loss, recovery and sports performance. As a community we are uncovering the tip of the BCAA iceberg. In time BCAAs may just prove to be the most valuable supplement that you can add to your supplement regimen.

References:

  • Gibala, Martin J. Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Amino Acid Metabolism During Exercise IJSNEM Volume 11, Issue 1 March
  • Goldberg, A., The Regulation and Significance of Amino Acid Metabolism in Skeletal Muscle, Fed. Proc.: 37, 2301, 1978.
  • William, Alun. Metabolic Effects of Ingestion of L-Amino Acids and Whole Protein. Journal of Nutritional Medicine, vol. 4, pp. 311-319, 1994).
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