BCAAs : What, Why, How and When?
What are Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)?
Branched-Chain Amino Acids consist of 3 of the 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot produce naturally – Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine – and that must be obtained from diet. Amino acids are the building blocks for protein, and are also essential in the synthesis of enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and metabolic pathways. Just about every function in the human body requires the function of an amino acid.
But what are BCAAs and how are they different? Branched-chain amino acids (unlike normal amino acids) are so-called because of their “side chain” of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms. This makes them different in chemical structure to other amino acids but also means they’re more beneficial to people wanting to increase protein synthesis (and build lean muscle) or retain muscle mass when cutting calories. But don’t worry too much about the science – just remember the benefits which we’ll discuss next.
Benefits of BCAAs
Research has shown that the differing structure of BCAAs to other amino acids results in accelerated protein and muscle synthesis. Whilst a popular supplement for athletes, bodybuilders and anyone looking to improve lean muscle mass – the improved protein synthesis has meant that BCAAs have even been used clinically to speed up the healing process in burns victims.
Studies have also shown that use of BCAAs can reduce the effects of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This is the experience of sore muscles 1-2 days following intense exercise which can leave you with discomfort and pain, but may also prevent you from further exercise until the DOMS have subsided.
One of the best and most widely used benefits of BCAAs is to help protect our muscles against the catabolic (breakdown) effect of reducing calories when dieting, which may metabolise muscles for fuel. So if you’re trying to lose fat but wanting to maintain lean muscle mass, BCAAs can certainly help.
When should I take my BCAA supplements?
Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are extremely popular in the fitness industry for three reasons: they reduce protein breakdown; they increase protein synthesis and they increase energy available to cells. Therefore, it is recommended that BCAA supplements are taken prior to, during and after your workout. Dosage of BCAA’s can vary depending on your diet and intake of BCAA’s from food but we recommend taking 3-5 capsules before, during and after your training. BCAA supplementation on non-training days isn’t necessary unless fasting.
Taking BCAA’s in this way can help prevent muscle being used as the primary source of fuel during training, so that muscle mass is maintained.
Taken during your workout, BCAA’s increase the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate – the energy currency for your body) available to cells. ATP is the bodies energy molecule, and so increasing circulating levels will increase energy and reduce fatigue during your workout.
Finally, taking BCAA’s after your workout will provide the essential amino acids required to optimise protein synthesis. Supplementing BCAA’s will ensure an optimal pool is available as a supply for both energy production and protein synthesis.
We offer BCAA’s as capsules – to find out more and order online now please click HERE.
Signalling Pathways and Molecular Mechanisms through which Branched-Chain Amino Acids Mediate Translational Control of Protein Synthesis Scot R. Kimball and Leonard S. Jefferson.
Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise — effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids, European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. August 1991, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 83–88.
Changes in plasma concentrations of aromatic and branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise in man and their possible role in fatigue. E. BLOMSTRAND, F. CELSING, E. A. NEWSHOLME May 2016.