BCAAs are often thought to be the supplement of choice to build muscle when working out, we are true, however there are many other qualities associated with BCAAs.
BCAAs – Branched-chain ammino acids
The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
They are essential, meaning they can’t be produced by your body and must be obtained from food.
BCAA supplements have been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness.
They have also been used to prevent or slow muscle loss and to improve symptoms of liver disease.
Amino acids, often referred to as the building blocks of proteins, are compounds that play many critical roles in your body.
They’re needed for vital processes like the building of proteins and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters.
Some may also be taken in supplement form for a natural way to boost athletic performance or improve mood.
Health Benefits of Supplementing with Essential Amino Acids
While essential amino acids can be found in a wide array of foods, taking concentrated doses in supplemental form has been linked to several health benefits.
Improve Mood and Sleep
Tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin, a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter in your body. Serotonin is an essential regulator of mood, sleep, and behaviours.
While low serotonin levels have been linked to depressed mood and sleep disturbances, several studies have shown that supplementing with tryptophan can reduce symptoms of depression, boost mood and improve sleep.
Can Boost Exercise Performance
The three branched-chain essential ammino acids are widely used to alleviate fatigue, improve athletic performance, and stimulate muscle recovery after exercise.
Can Prevent Muscle Loss
Muscle loss is a common side effect of prolonged illnesses and bed rest, especially in older adults.
Essential amino acids have been found to prevent muscle breakdown and preserve lean body mass.
Essential amino acid supplements have also been found to be effective in preserving lean body mass in elderly people and athletes.
May Promote Weight Loss
This may sound contradictory to the message of muscle growth; however, some studies have demonstrated that branched-chain essential amino acids may be effective in stimulating fat loss.
For example, an eight-week study in 36 strength-trained men found that supplementing with 14 grams of branched-chain amino acids per day significantly decreased body fat percentage, compared to whey protein or a sports drink
Supplementing with certain essential amino acids may help improve mood, boost exercise performance, prevent muscle loss and promote weight loss.
One of the most popular uses of BCAAs is to increase muscle growth.
The BCAA leucine activates a certain pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of making muscle.
Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.
Therefore, while BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, they can’t do so maximally without the other essential amino acids, such as those found in whey protein or other complete protein sources.
BCAAs play an important role in building muscle. However, your muscles require all the essential amino acids for the best results.
Some research suggests BCAAs can help decrease muscle soreness after a workout.
It’s not uncommon to feel sore a day or two after a workout, especially if your exercise routine is new.
This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which develops 12 to 24 hours after exercise and can last up to 72 hours.
BCAAs have been shown to decrease muscle damage, which may help reduce the length and severity of DOMS.
Therefore, supplementing with BCAAs, especially before exercise, may speed up recovery time and may decrease soreness.
Just as BCAAs may help decrease muscle soreness from exercise, they may also help reduce exercise-induced fatigue.
Everyone experiences fatigue and exhaustion from exercise at some point. How quickly you tire depends on several factors, including exercise intensity and duration, environmental conditions and your nutrition and fitness level
Your muscles use BCAAs during exercise, causing levels in your blood to decrease. When blood levels of BCAAs decline, levels of the essential amino acid tryptophan in your brain increase
In your brain, tryptophan is converted to serotonin, a brain chemical that is thought to contribute to the development of fatigue during exercise
BCAAs can help prevent muscle wasting or breakdown.
Muscle proteins are constantly broken down and rebuilt (synthesized). The balance between muscle protein breakdown and synthesis determines the amount of protein in muscle
Muscle wasting or breakdown occurs when protein breakdown exceeds muscle protein synthesis.
Muscle wasting is a sign of malnutrition and occurs with chronic infections, cancer, periods of fasting and as a natural part of the aging process
In humans, BCAAs account for 35% of the essential amino acids found in muscle proteins. They account for 40% of the total amino acids required by your body
Therefore, it’s important that the BCAAs and other essential amino acids are replaced during times of muscle wasting to halt it or to slow its progression.
Several studies support the use of BCAA supplements for inhibiting muscle protein breakdown. This may improve health outcomes and quality of living in certain populations, such as the elderly and those with wasting diseases like cancer
Benefit People with Liver Disease
BCAAs may improve health in people with cirrhosis, a chronic disease in which the liver does not function properly.
It’s estimated that 50% of people with cirrhosis will develop hepatic encephalopathy, which is the loss of brain function that occurs when the liver is unable to remove toxins from the blood.
While certain sugars and antibiotics are the mainstays of treatment for hepatic encephalopathy, BCAAs may also benefit people suffering from the disease.
Liver cirrhosis is also a major risk factor for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer, for which BCAA supplements may also be useful.
Consuming protein-rich foods will also provide you with other important nutrients that BCAA supplements lack.
The best food sources of BCAAs include:
3.5 ounces (100 grams)
3.5 ounces (100 grams)
Whey protein powder
Soy protein powder
3.5 ounces (100 grams)
3.5 ounces (100 grams)
3.5 ounces (100 grams)
1/2 cup (50 grams)
1 cup (235 ml)
1/2 cup (140 grams)
Amino acids are organic compounds composed of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, along with a variable side chain group.
Your body needs 20 different amino acids to grow and function properly. Though all 20 of these are important for your health, only nine amino acids are classified as essential.
Unlike nonessential amino acids, essential amino acids can’t be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet.
The best sources of essential amino acids are animal proteins like meat, eggs and poultry.
When you eat protein, it’s broken down into amino acids, which are then used to help your body with various processes such as building muscle and regulating immune function.
Conditionally Essential Amino Acids
There are several nonessential amino acids that are classified as conditionally essential.
These are considered to be essential only under specific circumstances such as illness or stress.
For example, although arginine is considered nonessential, your body can’t meet demands when fighting certain diseases like cancer.
Their Roles in Your Body
The nine essential amino acids perform several important and varied jobs in your body:
As you can see, essential amino acids are at the core of many vital processes.
Though amino acids are most recognized for their role in muscle development and repair, the body depends on them for so much more.
That’s why essential amino acid deficiencies can negatively impact your entire body including your nervous, reproductive, immune and digestive systems.
One important benefit of exercise is gaining muscle and strength. Having a healthy amount of muscle allows to you to perform your best during exercise and daily life.
Three main criteria must be met for maximal muscle gain: eating more calories than you burn, consuming more protein than you break down and an exercise program that is challenging to your muscles
While it’s possible to meet all these criteria without taking dietary supplements, certain supplements may help you meet your goals.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) consist of three individual amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
They are found in most protein sources, particularly those of animal origin like meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and fish.
BCAAs are critically important for muscle growth and make up about 14% of the amino acids in your muscles
Just about everyone consumes BCAAs from food every day, but it’s also very popular to take BCAAs as a supplement.
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