Today I would like to talk about the last supplement I use. The past two articles were about collagen and creatine, the other supplements I take. BCAA is the third one. I take them in the water I am going to hydrate with during my workouts.
We’ll define BCAAs, figure out where they come from, how they help us, and whether it is worth taking them.
Let’s get started.
BCAA – What Are They?
There are 20 different amino acids that make up the thousands of proteins in the body.
Nine of these amino acids are considered essential (not produced internally).
Three of these nine are BCAA.
BCAA is the short form for Branch Chain Amino Acids, or Branched Chain Amino Acids. BCAA is an essential amino acid that has an aliphatic side chain with a branch (a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms).
There are three BCAAs – Leucine, isoleucine, and valine. As you can see from the diagram, they are each a little different from the others. They also have various, if not somewhat similar functions in the body. Let’s explore what they do.
BCAA – What Do They Do?
Leucine assists muscle growth by stimulating protein synthesis. It also helps regulate blood sugar, assists in growth and repair of muscle and bone tissue, and supports wound healing.
Isoleucine helps to regulate blood sugar and energy levels as well as having an important role in hemoglobin synthesis.
Valine helps support the central nervous system, supports cognitive function, helps repair tissue, promotes growth, regulates blood sugar, and helps energize the body.
To summarize, BCAA fuel your skeletal system by preserving your stores of glycogen, the primary fuel source for energy production in your muscles. By having enough glycogen stored in your muscles, your muscles will use glycogen for energy instead of breaking down muscle protein for energy. BCAA are a win-win, as they protect your muscles and help them grow by helping to store glycogen in the muscles for energy so your body will not use muscle protein for energy.
BCAA safeguard and sustain your muscles! Nice!
BCAA – Do I Make Enough?
The quick answer here is No. In fact, BCAA are an essential amino acid, meaning that your body does not produce them, even though 35% of your body’s muscle protein is made of BCAAs. That means that it is essential to have them in your body, especially if you are trying to build your muscles, but the only way you can get them is in the food you eat or by supplementation.
BCAA are available in many foods including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and cheese, nuts and seeds, tofu and tempeh, and peas, beans, and lentils. That is good news, and these are foods that we would normally eat. Here is a chart that list the amount of each essential amino acid in typical serving.
The average person needs between 5 and 12 grams of BCAA per day to maintain healthy cells. If you are exercising regularly, including lifting weights, you will need more. Remember, BCAA assist in storing glycogen in the muscles. Glycogen is the fuel needed by the muscles to complete the hard work they are doing when lifting heavy things.
In the case of athletes and weight lifters, you will need between 10 and 20 grams of BCAA daily. That will be difficult to do with food alone, so a supplement will be needed.
Emerging research shows that leucine is the major player in muscle protein synthesis, so it should be taken in a higher ratio than isoleucine and valine. Perhaps a 5:4:2 intake of leucine:valine:isoleucine. Check the label of the supplement you choose or eat accordingly.
BCAA – Should I Take It As A Supplement?
The quick answer here is Yes. Everyone should be taking BCAA to supplement a healthy lifestyle. Athletes and weight lifters especially need to supplement their daily food intake.
The first is increased muscle growth. Because they assist in the synthesis of muscle protein, they assist in the growth of muscles. All the essential amino acids are needed for this process, so be sure to include a supplement (or whey protein) to your daily regime.
Taking BCAA may also decrease muscle soreness. The soreness of muscles that shows up 12-24 hours after we exercise and lasts up to 72 hours is called delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS), and studies have shown that taking BCAA can delay the onset and severity of DOMS. Recovery time may also be sped up by taking BCAAs.
Another benefit of taking BCAA may be the reduction of fatigue after exercising. When we exercise vigorously, the level of BCAA in your blood decreases as it is used to fuel the muscles. As the levels of BCAA drop in your blood, levels of another essential amino acid, tryptophan, increase. When tryptophan reaches the brain, it is converted to serotonin, the chemical that contributes to fatigue during exercise.
Finally, BCAA may prevent muscle wasting. Muscle wasting occurs when the rate of muscle protein breakdown exceeds the muscle protein synthesis. Since BCAA account for 35% of the essential amino acids found in human muscles (and about 40% of the total amino acids required by the body), it is essential that we have enough BCAAs in our body to function properly.
If you are a weight lifter, you need to be certain that you have enough BCAAs so you can continue to grow your muscle. The only way to do this is to supplement your food intake with a BCAA supplement.
As you can see, BCAA are essential for muscle growth. I suggest that you add this supplement to your daily intake.
So there you have it.
BCAA are good for all and essential for weight lifters. As far as the Keto lifestyle is concerned, BCAA will not take you out of ketosis, and if you are practicing Intermittent Fasting, BCAA will not break your fast.
As always, I am not a doctor or nutritionist; I am just offering my opinion based on my experience. Please consult a physician if you have concerns.
If you have questions or comments, please include them below.
See you in the next post.
Have a great day!