The BCAAs Breakdown
Here’s a hot topic we get asked about a lot: BCAAs. What are they? What do they do? Are they for you? What foods contain them? Will they help you get results? Let’s find out!
What are BCAAs?
Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAAs, are three amino acids that are structurally the same.
These amino acids are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. They are the major amino acids that are oxidized or broken down in skeletal tissue during ATP production. But they’re not just some random combination. These amino acids are known to provide benefits to the body especially the muscles which is why BCAAs are up there when it comes to popular muscle supplements.
What do they do?
BCAAs are simply taken for one specific purpose and that’s to grow muscle. They do this by promoting a biological process called protein synthesis. Protein synthesis, without being technical, is a naturally occurring process in the body where all sorts of proteins needed by the body are generated or converted into usable forms. If protein synthesis exceeds breakdown, muscle growth occurs.
Leucine plays a major role in protein synthesis while isoleucine promotes glucose uptake into cells. Valine helps stimulate the brain to improve mental function.
BCAA and Catabolism
People who are on a weight loss routine have more chances of losing muscle as they get leaner. This muscle loss is called catabolism and happens when the body holds on to fat and metabolizes protein instead. This is bad news for those who go on a strict diet and do tough exercise so they can reveal their abs.
What exactly is catabolism? Catabolism is a process that breaks things down and gives out energy. Using bigger things to make smaller things and releasing energy in the process.
This is the exact opposite of anabolism which builds things and consumes energy – making bigger things out of smaller things and using up energy in the process.
Catabolism occurs after we exercise and sometimes when the nutrients in the body aren’t enough, it opts to break down muscle protein to make glucose and this is not what bodybuilders want. They want to be in an anabolic state and BCAAs help achieve that.
BCAAs promote protein synthesis in the body which helps prevent your body from eating its own muscles by producing more than it can break down. BCAAs also help decrease the effects of catabolism.
Sources of BCAAs
Food sources for BCAA’s are whey, and milk proteins, beef, chicken, fish, soy proteins, eggs, baked beans, whole wheat, brown rice, almonds, brazil nuts, pumpkins seeds, lima beans, chickpeas, cashew nuts, lentils, and corn.
1. Activates Protein Synthesis
According to one study, BCAAs activate key enzymes in protein synthesis right after exercise. The study involved subjects who took BCAA supplements after a resistance training session. The results were in favor of taking BCAA since the absence of the supplement did not activate the enzymes needed for protein synthesis to initiate.
BCAAs also signals the human body to go into its anabolic state and helps promote muscle growth for the long term.
2. Reverse Muscle Wasting
One study noted the clinical effects of BCAAs particularly on muscle loss brought on by aging, disease, or drastic weight loss. According to the study, BCAAs appear to exert significant antianorectic and anticachectic effects, and their supplementation may represent a viable intervention not only for patients suffering from chronic diseases but also for those individuals at risk of sarcopenia due to age, immobility, or prolonged bed rest, including trauma, orthopedic or neurologic patients.
BCAA supplementation also appears to reduce the onset of muscle fatigue which also minimizes the effects of muscle soreness.
3. Reduce the Risk of Diabetes
BCAAs may reduce diabetes risk since it improves insulin levels in the body. BCAA supports insulin sensitivity and improves glucose tolerance. A study has even confirmed how individuals with the highest improvements in insulin sensitivity in a weight-loss trial also had the highest levels of BCAAs.
4. Carbohydrate availability
Adequate levels of BCAA can increase the availability of carbohydrates in the body which helps prevent exercise-induced protein breakdown. A diet rich in BCAA helps support strength, optimal muscle size, and overall performance.
5. Fat Burner and Performance Enhancer
A study confirmed the beneficial effects of BCAA and caloric restriction on weight loss and exercise performance. The study states the combination of the two factors lead to significant fat loss as well as allows the participants to maintain a high level of performance.
BCAA’s are muscle tissue-specific, providing energy during workouts and muscle tissue stimulation and recovery when consumed post-workout in either supplement or dietary form.
BCAA’s can be taken pre or post-workout for increased energy, recovery, and muscle tissue stimulation and stability.