Branched Chain Amino Acids explained
Nick Craft explains the benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs, which are commonly touted as the building blocks of the body.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (or BCAAs) are integral to the whole body for a multitude of different functions, including cell production, forming antibodies and aiding the body's hormonal system and hormone production. But for now, let us focus on the key role they play in repairing tissue, specifically muscle tissue.
Branched Chain Amino Acids make up 35% of muscle mass, so the importance of them for muscle growth speaks for itself. BCAAs come in both essential and non-essential form, meaning that some cannot be produced by the body (essential) and some can (non-essential), enhanced with the addition of solid nutrition.
At a molecular level, protein powder is made up amino acids, but also includes a number of other elements, such as carbohydrates, sweeteners and fillers, dependant on the product you are using.
However, the beauty of Branched Chain Amino Acids is that they are amino acids and nothing else, meaning that they can be absorbed quicker and accelerate the speed in which they are used by the body.
Given the fact that BCAAs make up 35% of muscle mass, the importance of ingesting BCAAs after strenuous weight exercise is undoubtedly high.
BCAAs encourage the production of insulin within the body, which in turn improves the muscles' ability to utilise the presence of amino acids.
It is also the job of Branched Chain Amino Acids to combine simple amino acids in order to produce complete muscle tissue.
During weight exercise, muscle fibres are torn and then re-built, so if more BCAAs are available, then this is where lean muscle mass increases can occur.
Essential Branched Chain Amino Acids
The three essential Branched Chain Amino Acids which are seen in BCAA supplements, and those that are present in the GoNutriton iBCAA
Leucine is the most predominant BCAA evident due to its enhanced role in muscle repair. It also has a key role in growth hormone production, energy regulation and has been proven to prevent muscle protein breakdown (something that we are more susceptible after strenuous weight exercise).
Essential for the production of haemoglobin and a key regulator of the body's blood sugar levels.
Maintains the body's nitrogen balance.
Combined, all three of the aforementioned amino acids share the ability to aid in tissue (muscle) repair and subsequent growth.
Benefits of BCAAs
Because leucine has more roles to play within the body, this amino acid is apparent in larger quantities to both isoleucine and valine.
For every gram of isoleucine/valine that is provided in a BCAA supplement
, the leucine content is doubled, tripled, quadrupled and so on depending on the ratio of the BCAA supplement.
For example, the GoNutrition iBCAA supplement has a ratio of 2:1:1 – 2.5g leucine: 1.25g isoleucine: 1.35g valine per 5g serving, with 10-25g recommended on a daily basis.
As well as the scientifically proven benefits of BCAAs, people pay tribute to the reduced DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) that they experience when consistently using Branched Chain Amino Acids as part of their supplementation programme. As everybody will respond to a variable degree when using BCAAs, I will provide information from a solely personal perspective regarding this suggestion.
How BCAA supplements helped me
I have trained both with and without the supplementation of BCAAs, during which, I maintained the same training programme, nutrition plan and also incorporated the same amount of rest and recovery time. The latter, I feel, is the most important aspect of BCAAs' use, given that they are essential in the role of repair and recovery.
When consuming 7g leucine pre-workout and 15g of BCAAs post-workout, I have found a significant difference between my recovery time and the DOMS experienced after training. A prime example of this are the DOMS experienced after a heavy, demanding leg workout; as when I trained without Branched Chain Amino Acids I experienced significant muscle soreness for two days afterwards and a reduced level of muscle soreness the third day after the aforementioned leg workout.
Conversely, when I conducted the same leg workout after being on my leucine/BCAA supplementation programme, I noticed significant muscle soreness the day after my leg workout, reduced level the second day and the DOMS had completely subsided by the third day.
In short, BCAAs help to reduce the DOMS I experience by a third. I can't say that this is solely due to the use of a BCAA product, as I also take a sole leucine supplement prior to my workout and ensure that I stretch and foam roll the worked muscles groups after a workout.
However, what I can confirm from a personal perspective, is that the benefits experienced from BCAA supplementation has been integral to my development and aided me to recover faster.
You may not experience the exact same results as me, but the proven benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acids speak for themselves and given that they are essential and cannot be produced by the body directly, then a BCAA supplement like GoNutrition's iBCAA supplement will help improve your ability to recover well, provide the body with easily absorbed muscle building components and help you achieve the goals you are striving for.