Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
What are BCAAs?
The body needs twenty-two amino acids for everyday functions, nine of which are considered essential, meaning they have to come from food sources. Of those nine essential amino acids, three are Branched Chain Amino Acids (isoleucine, leucine, and valine). These amino acids are found in high protein foods such as chicken, fish, and eggs, but they can also be supplemented.
How are they beneficial?
BCAAs are the preferred amino acids for oxidation during exercise. They are beneficial not only for protein synthesis, but they also prevent muscle breakdown during exercise as well, increasing net synthesis because supplementation provides readily available sources of BCAAs. So, the muscles use the supplemented BCAAs rather than breaking down muscle for energy. For someone wanting to build muscle, this is essential because it provides the most amount of muscle gain possible. In addition, it can reduce recovery time due to less muscle breakdown, decreased creatine kinase, and lactose dehydrogenase. Performance can be enhanced because of readily available sources of BCAAs as well as improving muscle oxidation levels. These amino acids may increase the lactate threshold and Leucine, one of the BCAAs, has been found to increase protein synthesis post-exercise as well. All in all, BCAAs can improve lean muscle mass.
Is it safe?
The byproducts that result from oxidation of these BCAAs can be toxic, but it is very difficult to reach this toxic level. As long as someone is taking the supplement in the directed amount, there are rarely side effects. Those with certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s, should not use BCAAs. Also, women who are pregnant may not want to use them due to the lack of research.
Who should use them?
BCAAs have been shown to decrease fatigue in shorter and longer-duration endurance exercise, improve recovery time, and increase muscle mass. So, BCAAs can be beneficial for anyone wanting to improve performance, recover more quickly, or gain muscle. Branched chain amino acids are mostly recommended for people wanting to lose fat while preserving muscle, though. In general, it would be more beneficial for those exercising frequently, not just a couple days a week.
Previously Fat Guy