BCAAs, What Are They and Why Do I Need Them?

BCAAs, What Are They and Why Do I Need Them?

What the heck are BCAAs and why do I need them?  BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids.  There are 20 different amino acids that make up the thousands of different proteins in the human body.  Nine of the 20 are considered essential amino acids, meaning they cannot be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet.  Of the nine essential amino acids, three are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine.

“Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of BCAAs, which are found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat and dairy products. They are also a popular dietary supplement sold primarily in powder form and Body Fuse BCAA 3:1:1 is one of the most effective on the market.

Here are some benefits of BCAAs:

Increase Muscle Growth

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.  In one study, people who consumed a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their resistance workout had a 22% greater increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to those who consumed a placebo drink.

That being said, this increase in muscle protein synthesis is approximately 50% less than what was observed in other studies where people consumed a whey protein shake containing a similar amount of BCAAs.  Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle, Body Fuse Lean Protein offers 30 g of protein per serving.

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.

Decrease Muscle Soreness

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.  While the exact cause of DOMS is not clearly understood, researchers believe it’s the result of tiny tears in the muscles after exercise 

BCAAs have been shown to decrease muscle damage, which may help reduce the length and severity of DOMS.  Several studies show that BCAAs decrease protein breakdown during exercise and decrease levels of creatine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage.  In one study, people who supplemented with BCAAs before a squat exercise experienced reduced DOMS and muscle fatigue compared to the placebo group.  Therefore, supplementing with BCAAs, especially before exercise, may speed up recovery time.

Decrease Muscle Fatigue

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 n 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.

In two studies, participants who supplemented with BCAAs improved their mental focus during exercise, which is thought to result from the fatigue-reducing effect of BCAAs.

Prevent Muscle Wasting

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 s 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.

Bottom Line

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, like Body Fuse BCAA 3:1:1 have been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness.  The Body Fuse BCAA 3:1:1 ratio means that per scoop there is 3 times more Leucine compared to Isoleucine and Valine.  Research shows that this precise ratio is the optimal ratio for BCAA supplementation. Our 3:1:1 ratio maximizes anabolic activity while minimizing muscle catabolism.  

Written by Gaven Van De Wall, MS RD

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