BCAA's - What are they and why are they supplemented?

Emily Singer


Written by Scott Mosher
BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids) as a whole play a crucial role in a vast array of physiological/biological processes in our body. They are basically the building blocks and foundations which make up a large percentage of our cells, muscles and tissue. There are 20 important amino acids that are vital in protein structures. The three in question are
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine. These are
These are members of essential amino acids.

How are these different to the other aminos?

  • They are unique as the aminos have an aliphatic side-change which is branched (central carbon atoms bound to 3 or more carbon atoms).
  • They make up the largest percent (around 35-40%) of dietary essential aminos acids in the body's protein and in terms of total amino acids in muscle protein, between 14-18% are found in muscle tissue (Shimomura et al, 2006). So these three have a major role in supporting the body's protein structure and are key to muscle growth.
  • They can be naturally found in food sources that contain high protein such as eggs, chicken and fish. However when the body is placed under physical stress or injury state it can be adventurous to supplement additional amounts.
  • So if you engage in sports, physical activity, take fitness classes regularly or engage in a training regime in the gym, it is highly likely that BCAA's will be beneficial.

Why supplement them?

Evidence has found that supplementing BCAA's has an anabolic affect on protein metabolism. This is beneficial in promoting muscle mass through an increased rate of protein synthesis (Bohe, et al. 2001). This also decreases the rate of protein degradation (Nair, Schwartz and Wellesley, 1992). Protein synthesis means that the body produces new proteins vital for muscle growth. In addition this protein degradation decreases which is the breakdown of proteins. This is also advantageous as it reduces the amount of muscle wastage/catabolism,. Having a positive balance of the formation of protein synthesis results in generation greater levels of lean muscle mass.
  • It aids muscle recovery after multiple types of training/exercise, reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) (Shimomura et al, 2006, Williams 2005).
  • It has been shown to increase fat oxidation (Shah et al, 2012 and Gualano et all, 2011).
  • Increases time till exhaustion in endurance training (Mittleman et all, 1998 and Helfer et all, 1995).
BCAA's are usually taken in 5-10g portions mixed with water or juice. BCAA's can be taken throughout the day before, during and after exercise. The amount varies on the individual but up to 25g is a reasonable amount per day.

Tagged: Nutrition

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