BCAAs: What, When and Why
The benefits of branch chain amino acids range from increased muscle to decrease soreness all the way to increased endurance. But what are branched chain amino acids? Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Only three of the nine essential amino acids are branched chain. Leucine, isoleucine and valine cannot be made by your body must be obtained in your diet through protein rich foods such as eggs and meat.
For our clients here at E3 BCAAs are most commonly used to reduce fatigue during workouts. Let’s be honest, working out is hard. That’s why many of enlist the services of a bootcamp or personal trainer. However, working against resistance or pushing your aerobic capacity will always feel like a daunting task. Thankfully, BCAAs can be used by the muscles for energy during exercise. Not only does this help on a cellular level, but increased amino acid levels in the blood prevent the onset of tryptophan. Tryptophan is known to increase as BCAA levels decline in the bloodstream. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin in the brain and causes increased fatigue levels and an overall tired feeling.
For those of us who are more acclimated to working out, but are still experiencing muscular soreness, BCAAs can be a way to prevent or reduce the duration of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Resistance training should tear muscle fibers to increase lean muscle (through protein syntheses, post-workout). And, increased muscle leads to overall metabolic function. But, some soreness can be caused by protein breakdown. BCAAs decrease the breakdown of protein during exercise, allowing the muscles to incur the tiny tears that cause growth, without the soreness.
Increased Lean Muscle
Whether you’re looking to gain size or reduce your body fat, all of us could use more lean muscle. Increased muscle directly correlates to increase strength, which makes life easier. Also, added muscle is the only true, proven way to speed up your metabolism. BCAAs, specifically leucine, activates pathways in the body to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It is for this reason that leucine is in a 2:1:1 ratio to isoleucine and valine. It is for the same reason that protein shakes can be a great addition, because whey is known to contain all of the essential amino acids needed to build muscle. In fact, adding in whey protein shake to your post workout routine can increase protein synthesis by up to 50%, versus BCAAs alone.
With so many options in the market today, how do you choose the right BCAA for you?
1. Be sure to choose one that contains a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine.
2. Don’t be discouraged by sodium, potassium, or electrolytes. These assist in cellular transport and can help assist in the uptake of BCAAs from the blood stream to the muscle.
3. Look for arginine, or citrulline malate as they help to vasodilate blood vessels and circulate BCAAs to the muscles that need or will store BCAAs for future use.
4. If using BCAAs for decreased soreness, look for one that contains glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that will reduce soreness and is also known to assist in immune function and intestinal health.
5. Be sure that your supplements are low in carbohydrates and calories if you are on a weight management, low-carb or keto diet.