What are BCAAs? Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are the building blocks of protein that help reduce muscle soreness, encourage muscle growth, and prevent protein breakdown. They are comprised of the essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are are not metabolized to any significant degree by your liver, meaning they are able to make it to your bloodstream intact to be used by your skeletal muscle.
When do you use BCAAs?
• Pre Workout • Post Workout • During Training
The best time to take BCAAs are before or during workouts to promote muscle building and prevent muscle loss. Another good time to use is as a meal replacement if you are trying to lose weight.
Why use BCAA supplements?
BCAAs are one of the more widely studied sports nutrition supplements. It’s popularity has continued to grow as more athletes are realizing the benefits. Whey protein naturally has only 20-23% total BCAAs per gram. As a result athletes are turning to high quality BCAA supplements to increase their intake.
BCAAs role in athletics has been widely studied in relation to sparing muscle mass while dieting, improving immune system function, limiting fatigue, and promoting protein synthesis. We’ll be taking a look of the few highlights of BCAA benefits.
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During workouts our body uses amino acids in our muscles for output. Replenishing the amino’s being used increases your performance, resulting in a reduction of fatigue and increased endurance in athletes. Amino enriched shakes increase muscle protein synthesis by a whole 30%. (Wolfe, 2018). The primary function of muscle protein synthesis is to help repair and build new muscle tissue. While you’re breaking down your muscles you’re also feeding it the nutrients it needs to repair itself.
Not only are BCAA’s physically beneficial they also help with mental performance and clarity. There were mental tests taken of two groups of marathon athletes, a group that BCAA’s were given during race, and a placebo group. Subjects that were given the BCAA’s improved their scores while the placebo group were similar before and after the race. (Blomstrand E., 2018)
BCAA’s are a great source of energy too. After your body has depleted its glucose store you can rely on the energy provided by a BCAA shake, giving you close to 40% more energy than having nothing. Studies show that aminos can compete as an energy source with glucose (Tessari P., 2018). So an amino acid shake during your workout or before will give you that extra energy to keep going. Who doesn’t want a secondary energy source?
As an athlete we’re looking at ways to get stronger. Not necessarily getting swole and bulky, but increasing our output. Increasing reps on lifts translates to being better equipped in our competitions. A study in 2009 showed that ingestion of supplements rich in BCAAs over a period of 8 weeks of resistance training increased the 10- rep max in participants bench press and squat (Stoppani., 2018). Taking BCAA’s while working out or 30 minutes before provides your body with the energy and strength to get the most out of your workouts.
It’s a given that if your able to exercise harder and longer than you’ll be able to burn more body fat. But a study in 2011 proved that BCAA supplementation enhanced lipid oxidation in glycogen-depleted subjects (Gualano AB., 2018). Taking BCAA’s between meals, especially on a diet will help keep muscle on and help your body remain in a fat burning state.
Immune System Benefits
Like glutamine, BCAAs are heavily involved in the function of your immune system. In one study of triathletes, BCAAs helped reduce the incidence of infections following a triathlon (6).
Reducing Central Fatigue
BCAAs may also help reduce central fatigue by preventing tryptophan from entering the brain, and keeping serotonin levels incheck. By maintaining BCAA levels high, athletes can perform long without becoming fatigued (7).
So that’s it. We covered the highlights of what BCAAs do as well as the research behind the benefits of supplementing with BCAAs. In future posts we’ll be covering what makes our plant-based BCAAs unique when compared to the traditional BCAAs out on the market.
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1. Tessari P, e., Inchiostro S, Biolo G, Duner E, Nosadini R, Tiengo A and Crepaldi G (2018). Hyperaminoacidaemia reduces insulin-mediated glucose disposal in healthy man. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3910497 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
2. Stoppani, J., Scheett, T., Pena, J., Rudolph, C. and Charlebois, D. (2018). Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss. [online] Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Available at: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-6-S1-P1 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
3. Gualano AB, e., Bozza T, Lopes De Campos P, Roschel H, Dos Santos Costa A, Luiz Marquezi M, Benatti F and Herbert Lancha Junior A (2018). Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21297567%20 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
4. Blomstrand E, Hassmén P, Ekblom B and Newsholme EA (2018). Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise--effects on performance and on plasma concentration of some amino acids. - PubMed - NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1748109 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
5. Wolfe, R. (2018). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality?. [online] Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Available at: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0184-9 [Accessed 15 May 2018].
6. Bassit RA et. al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and the immune response of long-distance athletes. Nutrition. (2002) 18(5):376-9.
7. Bloomstrand E. A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. J Nutr. (2006) 136(2):544S-547S.