Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are the building blocks of muscle.
Your body uses around 20 different amino acids to grow muscle. Some can be produced by your body, others cannot. Ones that can’t are known as essential amino acids, ‘essential’ because they must be put into your system via diet. Three of these essential amino acids are the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), ‘branched’ because of their molecular structure, which resembles a tree branch. These three essential amino acids account for a third of skeletal muscle. Once ingested, BCAAs bypass the liver and go straight to the muscle tissue, quickly transforming into an available energy source – exactly what you need when working out.
Types of BCAAs
The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. They work together to prevent fatigue and to maintain muscle mass and strength during times of physical stress, including intense workouts.
- Leucine has anti-catabolic properties and is possibly the most important of the three BCAAs because of its capacity to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
- Isoleucine is both glucogenic and ketogenic. It helps prevent muscle wastage and promotes tissue repair – important for anyone on a training programme. It’s also important as it helps maintain blood glucose levels.
- Valine promotes nitrogen equilibrium, repairs tissue, and can stimulate the central nervous system – essential for optimal cognitive functioning.
BCAA supplements come in various forms. You can buy powder in packs of 500 g or 1 kg, or there are tablets, capsules and pills. The optimal ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine is 2:1:1.
Reasons To Take a BCAA supplement
If you work out at the gym, run, cycle or swim on a regular basis you could potentially use more BCAAs than you get from your food. That’s where a supplement can be useful. Having a sufficient supply of BCAAs is essential for bodybuilders, weightlifters and endurance athletes.
Without adequate BCAAs, molecular growth and development can’t take place. If you aim to build muscle you should ensure you ingest enough of these three very important amino acids.
Because they are metabolised in the muscles, BCAAs are quickly absorbed and provide a rapid, available source of energy just when you need it most.
The Benefits Of BCAAs
When combined, these three powerful amino acids can:
- Support the action of insulin
- Trigger protein synthesis
- Regulate blood sugar levels
- Allow you to train harder for longer
- Enhance mental functioning during periods of stress
- Act as a readily available energy source
- Aid rapid recovery
- Increase testosterone levels post-workout
- Assist with fat loss
How To Use BCAA Supplements
Because BCAAs offer a quick energy source, and aid in the repair and building of muscle, the best time to take them is on your training days. Every product will list recommended dosages so do read the instructions carefully. For example, something like
Matrix BCAA RAW drink should be taken in the following way:
- Mix one scoop (approximately 10 g) into 200-250 ml of water
- Drink post-workout
Extra benefit in terms of protein synthesis and muscle preservation can be derived from taking BCAAs at other times of day, but this should be in addition to the above, not instead of. BCAAs are best taken on an empty stomach.