Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are among the most popular supplements within the fitness industry. They come in tablet form or in powders and are often a key ingredient within pre and post-workout supplementary formulas.
BCAA’s are a key supplement that we recommend should be included with is your dietary and supplementary plan. Its uses range from athletes and people looking to build muscle mass, and it can also aid in the reduction of body fat while maintaining muscle mass.
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Branched-chained amino acids (BCAAs) are three of the nine essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. We call them “essential” because our bodies cannot synthesise these amino acids by itself, it must acquire them through dietary or supplementary sources. They account for approximately 35% of essential amino acids in your muscle protein. Such sources include meats and dairy products but, supplementary sources of these vital amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins, include BCAA formulas. BCAA formulas does allow for a more precise intake amount of these essential amino acids which may be more difficult to measure with everyday food sources.
How Dieting Causes Muscle Loss?
Dieting or specifically cutting calories will lead your body to being in a catabolic state. Bt catabolic we mean that it can lead do a breakdown of tissue – desirably fat and undesirably muscle tissue.
The leaner a body gets, the more likely it will lose skeletal muscle as the body turns to muscle to ratify its energy needs and holds on to the last remaining fat stores.
If you goal is to build muscle, your body’s rate of protein synthesis must be greater that the rate of protein breakdown. However, when it is the opposite way around, muscle loss will occur, and when the rates are equal, you will neither build muscle or lose muscle mass, you will likely stay the same.
There is a basic equation for muscle mass, which is: Muscle mass = rate of protein synthesis – rate of protein breakdown.
Why Take BCAAs
Increase Protein Synthesis
Protein synthesis is the metabolic process when your body produces new muscle proteins which leads to an increase in muscle mass. Branched-chain amino acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis, potentially more than a normal protein on its own.
Reduce Muscle Breakdown
BCAAs also help by reducing the rate of protein breakdown. This is done by decreasing the activity of the protein breakdown pathway.
BCAAs are present in many pre-workout formulas. The benefits of the BCAAs can include more intense workouts. Branched-chain amino acids compete with the amino acid tryptophan for entry into the brain, where the tryptophan can be converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Increase serotonin levels can make you feel more fatigued, meaning that you will lose that edge in the gym.
Supplementing with BCAAs reduces the tryptophan that gets through the blood-brain barrier, therefore reduces the serotonin secretion and in turn slows the onset of fatigue, allowing you to work harder, longer and lift more weight.
They have shown to reduce muscle soreness, which could signify faster muscle recovery, but the reduced soreness will also allow you to workout the muscle again much sooner after a workout.
Are They Suitable For Me?
If your aim is to increase muscle mass or you are on a calorie deficient diet and want to maintain the muscle mass that you have, then BCAAs should be included into your supplementation plan.
BCAA’s and Whey
Often sceptics say that BCAAs are unnecessary and that whey protein is a sufficient supplementary source for overall protein intake as they are naturally rich in BCAAs. However, whey supplementation on it own isn’t the most effect strategy for muscle growth and development or fat loss.
BCAAs in whey protein are found peptide-boud to other amino acids. For the branched-chain amino acids to be raised in the blood stream, the body must first break the peptides bonds through digestion. While whey is fast digesting, it may take a few hours for the amino acids to be broken down and absorbed into the blood stream.
Branched-chain amino acids in powders or tablet supplementary form, are un-bound or free form, and require no digestion, and can be rapidly absorbed into the blood stream, spiking blood amino acid levels greater and mush quicker.
BCAA powder can be taken in 5-7g dosages, 2-4 times daily, whenever needed. Consume pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout, or during the day to help with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).