What are BCAAs?
BCAAs are the branched chain amino acids Leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids are just three of the 9 essential amino acids that must be consumed through our diets. BCAAs have a different chemical structure to other amino acids and play a particular important role in individuals who are physically active.
Leucine is an essential amino acid and is the most common among the three BCAAs. Within muscle tissue, leucine has been suggested to have a main function of stimulating protein synthesis and building muscle, making it a popularly consumed supplement for individuals taking part in intensive training. For those physically active around 16mg of Leucine is advised per kg of body weight.
Isoleucine, like Leucine has been thought to enhance protein synthesis, however additionally to this isoleucine has been suggested to significantly increase glucose uptake and optimise the usage of glucose during physical activity. Isoleucine is therefore suggested to increase endurance and energy levels through an independent biological mechanism that differs from the chemical pathways of leucine and valine. Around 12mg of Isoleucine is advised per kg of body weight.
Valine is an amino acid that works closely with leucine and isoleucine. Valine is thought to enhance muscle repair and growth, whilst regulating blood glucose levels and stimulating the central nervous system. Valine can play a part in the central nervous system and cognitive functioning because it is known to contribute to the regulation and transport of molecules across the blood brain barrier. Around 16mg of Valine is advised per kg of body weight.
Sources of BCAAs
Leucine, isoleucine and valine can be consumed in the diet from many different sources, with the highest sources coming from egg whites, soy protein isolate, red meats, poultry, fish and dairy. However, for individuals participating in exercise the demands for BCAAs often exceed those that can be adequately met by diet alone, which is where BCAA supplementation can become an important part of your supplement regime.
The Benefits of BCAAs
Together BCAAs are known to be the essential recovery supplement for bodybuilders, whereby their ability to induce protein synthesis and muscle repair can reduce muscle soreness and accelerate the repair of muscle tissue.
The slightly more complex chemical structure of BCAAs means they are absorbed directly in the muscle, as appose to other amino acids that are generally absorbed and digested in the stomach. BCAAs are unique because they are the only amino acids that can be burned by the muscles as fuel. Therefore through a series of glucose regulating processes they can provide added sources of energy, an important factor in all types of exercise.
Therefore in reality BCAA provide a series of benefits for all individuals who are physically active including those looking to lose weight, increase endurance and increase strength.
BCAAs for Bodybuilders
During weight training muscles in the body undergo a series of contractions, whereby lifting more weight than our muscle fibres can hold, causes micro tears in the muscle tissue. In simple terms, these tears are needed for muscle growth; however they also cause a release of chemicals that are responsible for muscle soreness we often experience after training. This is where supplementation with BCAAs after a workout can be beneficial to bodybuilders, inducing a greater rate of protein synthesis and muscle repair.
Additionally, when carbohydrate stores fail to meet physical energy demands muscle catabolism can often occur, whereby proteolysis and the breakdown of muscle is induced to release amino acids as an additional source of fuel. Therefore BCAA supplementation prior or during a workout can act to increase blood and muscle levels of leucine, isoleucine and valine, providing additional sources of energy that can prevent muscle catabolism and maximise muscle growth.
BCAAs for Energy and Endurance
BCAAs are often thought to be a supplement for those looking solely to build muscle; however BCAAs are if not more, just as significant within endurance exercise such as running and cycling. During endurance sports and aerobic exercise the body’s main source of fuel is glucose. This glucose comes from direct sources of carbohydrates, what we eat prior to exercise or from glycogen stores in the liver. However, due to the large regularity and control of body composition, these stores are limited. Isoleucine in particular is known to be important for endurance athletes due to its independent biochemical pathway to enhance the uptake and usage of glucose.
Once glycogen stores and glucose stores are depleted, the body begins to look for a secondary source of energy – our muscles. When this happens our body can enter a catabolic state, breaking down muscle protein for an energy supply of amino acids. This causes both blood and muscle levels of BCAAs to decrease after exercise which can be detrimental within endurance exercise for a number of reasons. For example, whilst increasing muscle wastage muscle catabolism can also increase muscle soreness as well as the risk of injury and permanent muscle damage.
Supplementation with BCAAs before and during endurance exercise can therefore act to enhance glucose utilization and increase energy levels, whilst post- training supplementation can help repair muscles and prevent short and long term injury.
BCAAs for Strength and Recovery
During all forms of intense exercise a large degree of physical stress is imparted on the body’s muscles. This level of induced stress causes a series of small tears in muscle microfibers. This process is normal and causes a release of chemicals that are responsible for the muscle soreness and tenderness we feel the next day. In order to repair and reduce soreness muscle repair and protein synthesis is required, which can be accelerated and optimised through BCAA supplementation.
Supplementing with BCAAs is a fitness fundamental that allows amino acids to be directly available for muscle repair after physical activity. After exercise muscle and blood levels of BCAAs are decreased, whereby BCAA depletion can increase recovery time and also result in muscle weakness and fatigue. Therefore to increase strength and muscle recovery BCAA supplementation is strongly advised.
BCAAs for Diet and Weight loss
Whether you’re just beginning your weight loss journey or you’re an experienced bodybuilder looking to cut those last few pounds of fat, BCAAs can play an important role in your fat loss.
Supplementation with BCAAs before, during and after training can promote the conversion of fat into lean muscle, whereby an increase in muscle leads to a decrease in body fat.
For advanced athletes undergoing a cutting phase, as body fat percentage begins to drop to low levels the body’s metabolism adapts to try and conserve as much fat as possible. As a result, during training instead of utilizing body fat stores as energy, amino acids become a primary source of energy, stimulating a catabolic environment and causing muscles to begin to break down. By supplementing with Myprotein BCAAs the body’s muscle can receive an additional supply of amino acids to prevent muscle breakdown and promote the breakdown of fat as energy.
Myprotein BCAA tablets and capsules are perfect if you have busy schedule or an intense training regime. There small and compact size means they can be easily stored and brought with you wherever you go, offering a quick, mess free form of BCAA supplementation.
BCAAs in Powdered form
Myprotein Powdered BCAAs have an excellent mixability and now come in a range of fantastic flavours. Being in powdered form means these BCAA supplements can be added to your favourite Myprotein sports bottle with water or juice, making them ideal to consume before during and after your workout. Check out an even greater enhanced flavour in our instantised BCAAs.
BCAAs in your Supplement Regime
BCAAs can be consumed through the diet alone, however due to the high dosage required during physical activity individual diet is often not adequate to meet demands alone. Supplementation with BCAAs offers a quick and easy way to increase blood and muscle BCAA levels.
BCAAs can be provided through within a series of supplements including whey protein, however, this source of branched chain amino acids is less available than those found directly in BCAA supplements. For example, in other supplements BCAA exist as more complex compounds that need to be broken down in the stomach to be released, whereas BCAA supplements include free form BCAAs which are more efficient for muscle recovery and repair.
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.