What is BCAA?
BCAA, according to wikipedia, is a branched-chain amino acid having aliphatic side-chains with a branch (a carbon atom bound to more than two other carbon atoms). Among the proteinogenic amino acids, there are three BCAAs: L-leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine. Branched-chain amino acids are essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are amino acids that the body cannot synthesize on its own and therefore must get adequate amounts through dietary sources. In fact, even though there are about 20 amino acids that the muscles use for growth, the BCAAs comprise roughly a third of the aminos within muscle tissue. So if muscle growth is your goal BCAAs are a must. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein and have various functions related to energy production during and after exercise so they are needed in adequate amounts.
How does Branched-chain Amino Acids work?
Branched-chain amino acids stimulate the building of protein in muscle and possibly reduce muscle breakdown. Branched-chain amino acids seem to prevent faulty message transmission in the brain cells of people with advanced liver disease, mania, tardive dyskinesia, and anorexia.
Benefits of taking BCAA supplements:
BCAAs trigger protein synthesis, increase energy expenditure and have been shown to improve glucose tolerance. The key benefits of BCAA is attached for your reference:
1)BCAAs Enhance Muscle Protein Synthesis
A study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that BCAA supplementation can contribute to an anabolic environment in the body. Leucine-enriched BCAAs (a BCAA mixture that is 40 percent leucine) was shown to elevate and prolong protein synthesis after resistance training. There was evidence of a dose-dependent response to BCAAs, meaning that more is better, which is why I suggest taking them before, during, and after training.
Another great benefit of BCAAs is that if you have to take time off from training due to injury, a need for a break, or lack of time, they will minimize muscle loss and fat gain. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that giving BCAAs to rats who had their hind-limbs immobilized for six days helped preserve protein synthesis that regulates cell growth. The BCAAs didn’t completely prevent protein degradation and muscle atrophy in the rats’ hind limbs, but they helped preserve the muscle to a greater extent than a placebo. The BCAA-fed rats also had lower body fat levels following immobilization.
2) Higher BCAA Levels Correlate With A Lean Body Composition
Research shows that individuals with a higher BCAA intake in their diets have lower rates of obesity, lower body weight, and better body composition. Researchers suggest that leucine increases energy expenditure and improves glucose tolerance. A review in the journal Aging found that BCAAs, and in particular leucine, “appear to have unique obesity-reducing effects” because they decrease food intake and body weight by increasing the gene signaling of that mTOR pathway that I mentioned in #1.
3) BCAAs Result in a Better Testosterone to Cortisol Ratio and Muscle Building
BCAAs will minimize the cortisol response that comes from the stress of exercise. This is ideal because cortisol degrades the muscles and can lead to greater fat gain. Less cortisol means a more favorable testosterone to cortisol (T:C) ratio that will result in faster recovery and more muscle development.
Two studies highlight the role of BCAAs in decreasing muscle protein degradation. A 2010 study found that taking BCAAs in conjunction with resistance training produces significantly higher testosterone levels than a placebo. Participants who took BCAAs also had a lower cortisol response. This is significant because both strength gains and a decrease in protein degradation are more correlated with a better testosterone to cortisol ratio than total testosterone levels.
4) Greater Strength Gains from Taking Leucine with Training
A British study showed that taking the leucine actually translates into greater strength in addition to the protein synthesis effects I’ve already mentioned. Previously untrained participants ingested 4 grams of leucine a day in conjunction with a 12-week resistance training program and increased strength by 41 percent. A placebo training group had strength increases of 31 percent after completing the same training program.
5)BCAAs Result in Lower RPE and Greater Endurance Performance
Researchers from Sacred Heart University compared taking a BCAA supplement with consuming a carbohydrate beverage prior to a 90-minute endurance cycling trial at 55 percent of maximal oxygen uptake. The BCAA supplement significantly lowered participants’ rating of perceived exertion during the exercise trial in comparison to a placebo group and the carb-supplement group. Additionally, BCAA supplementation raised blood amino acid levels during exercise, a factor that likely has the effect of reducing muscle damage. Researchers suggest that BCAAs can be added to a carb supplement to help lower RPE and allow for more intense training at the same relative level of exertion.