Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. For protein production in the body to occur, we need amino acids. To maintain and even increase muscle mass, we also need amino acids. Of course, to effectively do such things, our body needs more of the ‘essential’ amino acids, or those which are not produced in the body and must be obtained through diet and/or supplements.
Indeed, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids and include valine, leucine and isoleucine. All 3 are important, but of most importance is leucine. This can go on as a completely separate discussion as there is a lot to talk about with leucine, but just throwing it out there!
The benefits of BCAAs are vast and are particularly important when it comes to exercise. Like I always say, it’s best to focus on getting in your essential amino acids through food first, such as animal protein sources (since they have a high amino acid content, especially leucine). Nevertheless, sometimes we need to supplement with BCAAs, if say, our lifestyle doesn’t allow us to follow a proper nutrition program or if going through periods of heavy training. Having said that, let me dive deeper into the benefits of BCAAs supplementation:
1) Decreases muscle breakdown
During exercise, the muscle experiences a mixture of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown. Your nutrition impacts this ratio. To ensure your muscle produces more protein than it actually breaks down, supplementing with BCAAs is a great idea as it ultimately helps reduce muscle protein breakdown. So for those looking to put on some size, or even lose weight while preserving your muscle mass, BCAAs are an excellent choice to supplement with.
2) Repairs and grows muscle
Protein is responsible for repairing any damaged muscle tissue. It is also responsible building new muscle fibers and hence enhancing muscle growth. So what is needed for more protein? Amino acids! Essential amino acids are the main contributor for repairing and growing muscle, so supplementing with BCAAs will further enhance your post-workout recovery and help with your gains!
3) Reduces fatigue
Research has shown than an increase in serotonin production may lead to fatigue. Serotonin is derived from tryptophan, an amino acid, meaning that the more tryptophan in the blood stream, the more serotonin is produced. BCAAs are transported to the brain in the same pathway as tryptophan. By supplementing with BCAAs and increasing its availability in the blood supply, it will compete with tryptophan in its transport to the brain and essentially help reduce tryptophan transport, serotonin production and eventually fatigue.
4) Used by the muscle
Whereas non-essential amino acids are usually taken up by the liver and then distributed to the body for conducting various functions, BCAAs can be taken up and used by the muscle! So like I said, if you’re looking to increase muscle growth and strength while facilitating your post-workout recovery, BCAAs are the way to go!
There you have it, the benefits of BCAAs in a nutshell. If you’re taking my approach of food first, supplements second, opt for foods like animal meats, eggs and quinoa – they’re all quite high in essential amino acids. In either case, it’s important you incorporate BCAAs within your nutrition program – after all, they are essential😊