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What are BCAAs and the benefits?

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Learn everything you need to know about BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) its benefits and what foods contain them in this article. 

 

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a supplement that could enable you to recover from an intense workout faster so that you could make faster gains and be less sore from workouts?  Let us introduce you to branch chain amino acids.  In the fitness and health space, they are often just called BCAAs or just “aminos.”  Many people are sore for days after a grueling workout, such as from heavy weight lifting or an intense HIIT session.  This can not only be unpleasant, but can keep you from getting back into the gym and adding more loads to your workouts.  This can set back your gains and leave you with an achy body.   

In the fitness and bodybuilding industry, branch chain amino acids have come to popularity and with good, scientific reasoning behind it.  Here is everything you need to about branch chain amino acids in relation to your fitness.

BCAA stands for branch chain amino acids.

What are amino acids?  In simple terms, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.  In the same way that bones make up the skeletal system or the way that

There are many different types of amino acids; many of them do not form proteins in nature.  However, there are 20 amino acids that do form proteins, of which 9 are essential for humans.  Essential just means that your body can’t produce them so you need to get them from your diet.  Of the amino acids, there are three that are referred to as the branch chain amino acids.  Those amino acids are: valine, isoleucine, and leucine.  They are called branch chain amino acids because they of their structure.  Without going into too much of the science, they are amino acids with a chain that is made up of three hydrogen atoms and one carbon atoms.

When you are working out at a high intensity, your glycogen stores become depleted.  Glycogen is the stored form of glucose in your body.  Glucose is a necessary component to energy and the glycogen stores exist as your body’s way of storing energy for use later.  When these stores begin to run low, the body relies on the three branch chain amino acids: valine, isoleucine, and leucine. 

As we mentioned earlier, these amino acids are not produced by the body, so they must come from one’s diet.  As your glycogen stores become depleted, these amino acids can run low.  It can be difficult during or directly after a workout to consume amino acids from food, so many fitness professionals recommend supplementing with BCAAs. 

ü  Valine – Aliphatic amino acid. Valine is hydrophobic amino acid and it is found in the interior of the protein. It is essential amino acid and is needed in the nutrition. You can find it in soy flour, fish, meats and vegetables. Valine supplies the muscles with extra glucose in order to prevent the muscle breakdown.

ü  Isoleucine – Essential amino acid not synthesized my mammalian tissues. It is hydrophobic and also found in the interior of the proteins and enzymes. Their main role is to help in the tertiary structure of macromolecules. It is the crucial amino acid when it comes to fat mobilization and utilization in our body. Receptors called PPAR are activated by isoleucine, and with that the fat burning is increased.

ü  Leucine - Hydrophobic aminoacid found also in the interior of the proteins and enzymes. Leucine has the ability to tie the glycine. He basically turns on the process of protein synthesis. Stimulates insulin release and reduces the protein breakdown. Also contributes to testosterone and estrogen production.

What happens during the workout that BCAAs affect? BCAAs are mainly enhancing muscle protein synthesis. How affect this on your workout? The combination of exercise plus taking BCAAs equals to maximum protein synthesis. This is like that because they activate a significant signaling pathway called mTORC1 that is extremely important for muscle building. Energy which is burned by the muscles is used to do higher performance. Consuming BCAAs during the workout will lower the muscle disintegration and stimulate continuity by contributing with a continual supply of energy. Is there anything better than having more energy during your training?

  

Check out the next thing. Many people after having spent some time training are feeling tired and ready to stop and go home. This is because there is one neurotransmitter called serotonin which transports signals to our mind that our body is weak and tired and he practically says to our mind: “Okay, it is time to stop training and leave”. But if you have consumed BCAAs, one of the three BCAAs – valine, feels when serotonin is prepared to deliver the message, so it crosses the pathway of serotonin and says: “I am here. No need to hurry up. I am giving more energy, so the workout will last longer”. Or to explain more detailed, valine is getting in a challenge with tryptophan (which is another amino acid, responsible for the releasing of serotonine) and wins the battle.

Another thing that BCAAs are doing during the work out is to lower the cortisol levels. Cortsiol is a steroid hormone which stimulates gluconeogenesis (the formation of glucose) and muscle glycogenolysis, and this enlarges the muscle breakdown. So, by decreasing the cortisol levels, BCAAs help in increasing the strength.

What are the benefits of BCAAs?  As said before, there are numerous advantages from consuming BCAAs. Here is a complete list with them:

  • Fuel for the muscles. Only a small amount from BCAAs is metabolized by the liver. The rest enters in the skeletal muscle, the adipose tissue and the brain. Here the protein synthesis is happening, and muscles are provided with better growth and they increase in strength.
  • Repair damaged muscles. The production of serotonin is reduced, which tends to rise during the training. When serotonin level rises, your body is feeling tired. BCAAs prevents this from happening. This means that you can train longer and harder.
  • Promotes muscle-protein synthesis. Muscles are designed to burn BCAAs for energy while the exercising, making the performance to last longer. Also, when you make a break or you are inactive for few days, BCAAs prevent fat gaining,
  • Gives many benefits for your general heath. Increases the concentration, improves the brain function and betters the liver function.
  • Promotes fat loss. Leucine increases fat oxidation, which enables fat loss.
  • Aids the hormonal level during the workout. The testosterone level gets higher, while the serotonin level gets lower. This makes the workout more effective.
  • Improves overall nutrition
  • Improving concentration

When to supplement with BCAAs? You can take BCAAs in different combinations.

You can take BCAAs 20-30 minutes before exercising if your priority is to keep your energy high during the workout. Also, it will prevent muscle degeneration.

Also, you can consume them after the training if you want to lower the muscle fatigue from the training and replace the lost glycogen. You can even make a shake and take smaller amounts between the sets while you do your workout.

On the other hand, you can take them in the morning or in the evening. It is all up to you, depending on what priorities. You can also combine and take them two to three times in a day.

Studies have shown that if you supplement with BCAAs before and after the training, your recovery time will be reduced, as well as the muscle soreness. This is because BCAAs are absorbed faster, especially if you take powder or capsules.

How much do you need?

It all depends on that how hard your training is. Most common dosage is 2-3 times a day, with a 5g in one dose.

The best ratio is 2:1:1 of leucine: isoleucine: valine. It is recommended for people that weigh 150 pounds or less, to take 5 grams per serving. If your weight is more than 150 pounds, you can use the same dose or you can increase the dosage up to 10 grams.

Or if you want to be more précised, you should take 42 milligrams of leucine 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of your body weight. The amount of isoleucine that you should take is 19 milligrams per kilogram and 24 milligrams per kilogram for valine.

Can women take BCAAs? Definitely yes. It is not true that if women take BCAAs, they will be more muscular. This is definitely not true because there is no testosterone in BCAAs. Many models take BCAAs as part of their everyday diet. So, if you want to lose some weight faster with your workout or achieve your desired bikini body, BCAAs are the right decision to take.

Food list of foods that contain all 3 of the BCAAs.

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Soybeans
  • Brown rice
  • Whole Wheat
  • Corn
  • Nuts

POPULAR FOOD BCAA CONTENT

Food

Serving

Protein

BCAAs

Leucine

Isoleucine

Valine

BCAA

Leucine

(per g of protein)

Chicken Breast

6oz

36g

6.6g

2.9g

1.8g

1.9g

0.18

0.08

95% lean beef

6oz

36g

6.2g

2.8g

1.6g

1.8g

0.17

0.08

Canned Tuna

6oz

33g

5.6g

2.5g

1.5g

1.6g

0.17

0.08

Wild Salmon

6oz

34g

5.9g

2.7g

1.5g

1.7g

0.17

0.08

Flank Steak

6oz

36g

6.2g

2.8g

1.6g

1.8g

0.17

0.08

Talapia

6oz

34g

5.9g

2.7g

1.6g

1.6g

0.17

0.08

Turkey Breast

6oz

40g

5.2g

2.8g

1.1g

1.3g

0.13

0.07

Egg

1

6.3g

1.3g

0.54g

0.3g

0.4g

0.21

0.09

Egg White

1

3.6g

0.8g

0.3g

0.2g

0.3g

0.23

0.09

Roasted Peanuts

6oz

12g

6.8g

3.1g

1.7g

2g

0.14

0.07

Table 1: all rights belong to www.bodybuilding.com

Do BCAAs have calories? Yes, they have. There are 4 calories per 1 gram of BCAAs. That is 20 calories in 5 grams of BCAAs.

Are there any advantages to taking BCAAs as a supplement vs. taking them as food? There is no scientific research or fact that can show whether is better to get BCAAs from food or as a supplement. But taking them with regular food is much cheaper and more available to people. You can see the right number of BCAAs contained in different food from table 1. Turkey Breasts include more proteins than any other per ounce. Please remember that per gram of protein, the highest level of BCAAs is provided from eggs and egg whites. Next thing you should do is to make your own meal plans, to calculate the calories intake and see whether you are achieving your goals depending of what you want to attain. If you think that you are not taking enough dosage of BCAAs from food or having a low protein diet, then you can take higher dose with supplementation. You can go with powder or tablets. Powder is better idea, because it has better and different testes. It is better to mix it with water and take it as a shake.

If you take supplement, then the best ways to take them is for six months and then take some time off. During the pause from supplementation, stick to quality nutrition full with proteins contained in food. You must remember that while you take supplementation, you should stay really high hydrated? You are asking yourself why? Because during the protein breakdown, we have nitrogen excretion which leads to water lost. So, by taking more water you will replace the lost one.

Important co-factors to take with BCAAs

There is a way to even increase the effectiveness of BCAAs with taking some other supplements. This is usually done by body-builders and people who want to increase their muscle mass notably. Here is a list with them:

  • Chromium – Chromium increases the effectiveness of insulin. Insulin is the most important linkage in muscle building. Chromium betters the uptake of glucose which is important for the blood circulation. When our body has significant level of chromium, it is easier to build muscles, burn more fat and gain more energy for these things.
  • Zinc – Vitamin B6 – It is important intermediary in amino acids in metabolism and it is the co-factor of the element Zinc, which is the regulator of insulin.
  • Vitamin B12 – Really important vitamin, because it is water soluble and needed for protein synthesis.
  • Blotin – Also important in protein synthesis

Vegetarian

Recommended daily dosage for vegetarians is 15 grams. They should separate the dosage in three ant drink it before the workout, during and after the workout. This way, they will reduce the muscle breakdown and decrease the feeling of weakness of the muscles. Vegetarians have short intake of proteins with the food they eat. That is why they need higher dose, compared with non-vegetarians. They can consume a lot of plants that contain proteins, but their absorption will not be the same. Meat, on the other hand has greater value of absorption.

Sport performance

Nowadays, athletes have very strict regime for nutrition. They should follow the rules in order to keep their body in greatest shape possible which would lead them to achieve better results. BCAAs are one of the most popular supplements between the people which perform sports. They are willing to achieve an anabolic effect which occurs when amino acids and sugars are taken up by the muscles. This happens under the role of insulin, which production is stimulated by the intake of BCAAs supplement. Other thing that is really important for athletes is to prevent fatigue of the muscles, which occurs with the help of BCAAs. Also, this regime of nutrition helps them to have enough dosage of proteins even if they cut proteins or carbohydrates from their daily menu. The best way to consume these is before or during the workout. You can even spare the dosage, and take a part of the dosage after the workout. Everything depends of what your priorities are. As mentioned before, if you want to achieve more muscle strength and increase your time of workout, it is better for you to take BCAAs before the training and during the training, between the sets. Also, if you want to lower the muscle fatigue from the workout, you should take a part of your daily dosage after the workout as well.

Serotonin

During the workout, exercising raises the serotonin level of release and makes our muscles fatigue. But, consuming BCAAs happens the opposite. They inhibit the level of tryptophan transport and with this they stop the serotonine synthesis in the brain. After this, the caused fatigue is reduced and the body can continue with the workout, without feeling tired.

Other positive effects from taking BCAAs.

  • Anorexia – Taking them by mouth reduces anorexia and improve overall nutrition.
  • Reduced symptoms of mania
  • Reduces symptoms of Tradive Dyskinesia (movement disorder)
  • Improve brain and liver functions

  

Side effect:

BCAAs are usually harmless, but in some strict cases may occur some side effect. Please, if you find yourself in the following categories, visit your doctor before you start to consume BCAAs.

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Before surgery or after surgery
  • Children
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Branched-chain ketoaciduria
  • Low blood sugar in infants
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s Disease

So, are you ready to train harder and recover faster? 

Amanda mndbckr@gmail.com

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