Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are very popular in the fitness industry in recent times. What is BCAA? They are often taken as an independent powder, or pills, while they are also a key ingredient in many pre-workout formulas. What does BCAA do? They are considered the perfect complement for people looking to gain muscle mass. It is even better for people looking to reduce their body fat while maintaining as much muscle as possible.
WHAT IS BCAA AND WHAT DOES BCAA DO?
What is BCAA? There is a wide variety of supplements being used in the fitness world as a source of amino acids. The most widely used supplement is the one which supplies the three essential amino acids, namely Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. They are commonly known as ACCR, but are known more famously in the fitness world as BCAAs.
What does BCAA do? When you are cutting calories, your body is in a catabolic state. This means that your body is breaking tissue (fat, muscle, etc.) instead of generating it (what is known as anabolic). Loss of muscle mass will occur when you are cutting calories, as your body chooses to use amino acids that have otherwise been used in protein synthesis (to build muscle) as a source of energy.
In general, it is important to understand how the muscle building process works. To build muscle, your body’s protein synthesis rate must be greater than the protein breakdown rate. When it is the other way around, muscle loss occurs and when they are equal, your muscle mass remains the same.
So how do we avoid this?
BCAAs increase the rate of protein synthesis. BCAAs (such as leucine) stimulate protein synthesis more than dietary proteins. They have already broken down into the necessary amino acids that your body requires to carry out the reaction. Therefore the rate of increase in protein synthesis, in addition to the amount of protein synthesis that any particular cell can carry out. This is an explanation of how BCAAs can help maximize muscle recovery. Muscle repair = more muscle growth.
BENEFITS OF BCAAs?
If everything about muscle building is not enough to convince you, it also has other benefits that can help you with your fitness goals. BCAA supplements can help reduce tiredness, which can improve your training.
This is one of the key reasons why it is recommended to take BCAA before training and the main reason why they are included in pre-workouts such as THE Pre-Workout. They get it by inhibiting the production of serotonin, which often rises during exercise. Serotonin increases the “perception of fatigue”, which means you get more tired during your workouts. You can work longer, you will have more strength and you can lift even more weight!
BCAAs FOR MUSCLE GROWTH
When used correctly, BCAAs are an extremely powerful complement. They will help you increase your muscle mass by increasing the rate of protein synthesis, as well as preventing the loss of muscle mass during times of cutting calories.
- They offer a good source of energy during training and are ideal to take in advance, especially when you train on an empty stomach.
- BCAAs are also excellent for people who follow specific diets, or schedules such as intermittent fasting.
- For example: it is incredibly beneficial to take BCAAs before training during a fast to feed your muscles, as it gives you energy and encourages your growth, while burning fat.
- On the other hand, it has been shown that it is useful for reducing muscle pain, which means that the following days you can train in the same way.
- BCAAs reduce the amount of protein degradation
This occurs by reducing the amount of bases that are released that signal to break the protein. If this is taken into account along with the general formula for muscle building, it is easier to understand how BCAAs increase protein synthesis and reduce protein degradation. This in turn leads to the construction of more muscle.
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ARE BCAAs EVEN USEFUL FOR YOU?
As mentioned earlier, BCAAs are ideal for those looking to gain muscle mass, as well as those looking to lose fat. Anyone can take BCAA and will benefit in different ways. As people get older, creating an optimal environment for building muscle can be more difficult to achieve. BCAAs are a great way for those over 35 to increase the amount of muscle they can build. Younger lifters who want an extra advantage, would benefit from these amino acids, especially leucine, as it has been shown to increase protein synthesis by up to 145%.
BCAAs FROM OTHER SOURCES
Many people have argued that you can get the same benefits that BCAAs offer from other sources, such as whey protein. While whey protein is an excellent source of rapid absorption protein, it does not have the same effects as a concentrated source of BCAA.
The amino acids of Whey protein have to be broken, therefore, they are not as efficient as taking BCAA alone. This does not mean that the protein is bad, in any way, but if you are specifically looking for the properties of BCAAs, it will be worth having a higher dose.
SIDE EFFECTS AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS OF BCAAs
While BCAAs are generally harmless, if you find yourself in one of the following categories, it may not be the best for you. In these cases if you use them it is better to consult your doctor in advance.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is not recommended to take branched-chain amino acids, as there has been insufficient reliable evidence to suggest that it is safe to do so.
BCAAs have been shown to affect blood sugar levels, so it is not recommended to take them before having surgery. If you take them, be sure to stop taking them at least 2 weeks before having surgery.
Except for these cases, its consumption is completely safe.
APPROPRIATE DOSAGE OF BCAAs
Powdered BCAAs can be taken in doses of 5 g 2-4 times a day, when necessary. They can be consumed before, during and after training. It can also be taken throughout the day to help with delayed onset muscle pain.
The capsules have different dose recommendations, but for most supplements, an average dosage is 2-3 times a day. However, the doses are generally very similar and would vary depending on your lifestyle (active, very active, bodybuilder, etc.)