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The 5 Benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acids

To fully understand the benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), it is crucial to recognise their role within the human body. The three BCAAs found in a top BCAA supplement are leucine, isoleucine and valine. Research has shown that these three BCAAs alone make up about 35% of your body's total muscle mass. They are also part of the group of 9 BCAAs that are considered to be ‘essential’ amino acids – in other words the body cannot synthesise them itself, so they must be obtained from food! As a result they are key for BOTH muscle growth and muscle maintenance. And let’s face it, we all want muscle.... The brilliance of these little acids doesn’t end there, and to explain further, here are my 5 key top benefits of BCAAs:

#1 A Great Energy Source

[caption id="attachment_3439" align="aligncenter" width="486"]Branched Chain Amino Acids can help you keep your hard earned muscle Branched Chain Amino Acids can help you keep your hard earned muscle[/caption] BCAAs can be burned as energy by the body to maintain ATP levels during glycogen-depleting exercise, such as weightlifting. Therefore, supplementation with BCAAs will increase your energy levels by literally saving your body glycogen. Some studies have shown that increased BCAA intake can reduce glycogen depletion by up to 25%.

#2 Enhanced Fat Loss

Fat is something that nobody wants, and for most it is their biggest fitness goal. Unfortunately the body is programmed to store fat at all costs, as it provides high energy levels and is easy to maintain (unlike muscle). So unless you are the new Einstein and have a clever plan to overthrow our caveman genetics, give BCAAs a try. Leucine is the key BCAA in the quest for fat loss, but only when combined with other BCAAs. Leucine increases energy expenditure and fat oxidation while isoleucine improves your body’s glucose tolerance. Ultimately, when combined with a healthy diet and regular training, these handy little amino acids really will boost your body’s ability to shed those last few pounds.

#3 Reduce Muscle Soreness

DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – those four words everyone who has ever been near a gym changing room will have heard, and most likely experienced. DOMS can really affect not only your training but just general activity (we’ve all struggled to get up the stairs after leg day!). BCAAs can greatly reduce general muscle soreness by providing your body with the necessary means to induce recovery by boosting protein synthesis. Dr Jim Stoppani, one of the industry’s leading supplement experts and biochemists, states that BCAAs “can be used to help prevent post-exercise muscle soreness by impeding exercise-induced muscle damage and helping stimulate growth and repair." Once again, Leucine seems to be the golden ticket here. It triggers muscle protein synthesis, the act of stringing together amino acids to build stronger protein in the muscles. It also is able to increase insulin levels, which can help to create an anabolic environment in the muscles, by perfecting the hormone balance within the muscle tissue.

#4 Reduced Fatigue

[caption id="attachment_3440" align="aligncenter" width="425"]Branched Chain Amino Acids help reduce fatigue meaning you can keep up your intensity Branched Chain Amino Acids help reduce fatigue meaning you can keep up your intensity[/caption] BCAAs inhibit the brains uptake of tryptophan, which is used to make serotonin. Serotonin is the hormone that regulates mood, and as such can cause central fatigue. Valine, one of the three amino acids found in BCAAs, is the amino acid that can help reduce these serotonin levels and as such dramatically reduce mental fatigue, which can be one of the biggest barriers to completing strenuous exercise

#5 Prevent Muscle Loss

Last and by no means least is a big one! As previously mentioned, the human body is constantly trying to ditch muscle, and there are two circumstances where this is especially true: during long duration exercise and during diets in which the body is in a calorific deficit. Any exercise that lasts longer than one hour, usually some form of cardio, puts great energy demands from the body. As a result, your body looks for any source of energy that it can find, and unfortunately it often starts grabbing muscles. BCAAs prevent this by providing an energy source. LISS, or fasted cardio has proved to be one of the most popular methods of fat burning in recent years, and research has repeatedly showed it to be very successful. It is key that before fasted cardio BCAAs are consumed, as they will immediately maintain muscle levels whilst allowing your body to continue burning fat. Now to the second circumstance: calorie-deficit diets. Dieting is naturally catabolic, and the leaner the body gets the more likely it is to lose muscle mass as it is desperately trying to hold on to fat. BCAAs combat this by reducing the rate of protein breakdown and increasing the rate of protein synthesis. I would recommend that anyone who is looking to get leaner whilst maintain muscle mass supplements their diet with BCAAs.

Final thoughts

To recap, BCAAs provide an energy source, improve fat loss, reduce muscle soreness, inhibit fatigue, and prevent muscle loss. It’s a truly winning formula. These magic three amino acids do the body a world of good, and are truly beneficial to anyone who is interesting in becoming fitter, healthier and happier. Whether you take your BCAAs in powder or tablet form, they are both are equally effective and it is simply down to personal preference and budget.
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