Benefits of Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAA’s are quite a popular supplement and have been for some time now. They are typically used as an intra-workout supplement to aid in muscle recovery, maintain muscle mass while losing body fat, and increase protein synthesis.
As popular as they are, BCAA’s have been made in many different forms. This can be in a capsule form, powders, and other pre-made drinks. They are added to some pre-workout supplements and even to protein powders. BCAA’s are not difficult to get access too.
Their use is often as an intra-workout supplement that is consumed during a workout. This is to provide the body with almost a constant drip of amino acids. They can, however, be consumed throughout the day.
The point of this article is to detail the many benefits of BCAA’s. Let’s dive in!
Benefit #1: Muscle Recovery
Muscles get damaged when we overload them or use them in excess. You may have done a workout and woke up sore the next day. This is due to some metabolites in the body, however, it’s primarily from the damage that was done. We have to recover from this damage if we expect to heal, but also to grow the muscles bigger and stronger.
Therefore, muscle recovery is a very sought-after by-product. People want bigger and stronger muscles! It is only natural that we look to find what helps best.
This is where supplementing with BCAA’s can be helpful (1). As mentioned before, BCAA’s are branched-chain amino acids. They are often referred to as the building blocks of protein due to the fact that they connect to create a protein. Similar to how wooden boards create a house.
When consumed, proteins are broken down in the body into amino acids and they are dispersed to do their individual jobs. This may mean synthesizing new proteins or acting on various tissues, structures, or the metabolism. However, the primary job happens to be repairing any damaged muscles.
The idea is that the more amino acids that are present in the body, via eating more protein or supplementing with BCAA’s, the better we can recover from exercise. The goal is to optimize recovery for maximized gains.
This can also aid in lowering the risk of overtraining syndrome. This is when you take the body to the brink. You work so hard that your body eventually can’t catch up. Recovery gets behind and problems start to arise. These problems can manifest as lack of sleep, detraining, and even injury. Obviously, these are things we try to avoid, and easily can by taking recovery seriously. By using BCAA’s you are taking a forward step towards better muscle recovery.
As someone looking to optimize your recovery, BCAA’s are highly recommended.
Benefit #2: Maintaining Muscle Mass in a Cut
You may be wondering what a “cut” is. This is just a period of attempting to lose weight or body fat. This comes about by altering one’s diet in a way that allows for the loss of weight. Typically, this is done by means of eating a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit means just eating below your maintenance level calories. Basically, whatever you eat to maintain your current weight, eat less than that.
However, as we begin to lose weight and cut body fat, we can also lose some muscle mass. The body sometimes likes the way that it is, and it will fight to stay the same. It may end up pulling from your existing muscle for calories and other fuel sources.
During a period like this, you should be prioritizing a high protein diet. This will help to ensure the maintenance of your muscle mass. Another way to aid in this process is to consume BCAA’s. By providing the body with a direct source of amino acids, you are keeping the attention off of your current muscle mass.
This is a very useful quality of BCAA’s and one that has persuaded many to include them in their regime. It is thought that consuming them during your workouts gives the best effect, because that is when you are burning the most energy. However, if you are getting them in during the day during a cutting period, you should have no problem!
Benefit #3: Protein Synthesis
This is one that has been debated on for some time now. There are claims that consuming BCAA’s can increase protein synthesis and even be anabolic. These claims should be taken lightly as there is not any definite research to support this. BCAA’s are indeed not anabolic as they are claimed to be (2).
However, they can aid in protein synthesis when consumed post-exercise. There is a study showing an increase in the stimulation of the mTOR (part of the protein synthesis process) pathways when individuals consumed a BCAA drink post workout. This can lead to an increase or maintenance of muscle mass (3).
So long as an individual is consuming them around their workouts they shall benefit.
However, this is all in line with a good diet. An individual won’t benefit by taking BCAA’s alone. It’s all part of a balanced, high protein diet and a solid workout program.
Branched-chain amino acids can be a very useful supplement. They can improve your recovery leading to all sorts of gains. BCAA’s can also help you maintain muscle mass if you are looking to cut some weight but want to stay muscular. If looking to increase you muscle mass, they can also play a very large role.
They can be consumed in various forms and you should definitely choose one that will increase your chances of taking them. If you are better off with capsules, that may be the better route for you. Or you may prefer to consume them throughout the day in your water.
Regardless of how you get them in, BCAA’s make a great addition to your supplement stack. Of course, they are only a supplement. You should make sure that you have your diet in check and a balanced training plan in place to see the maximum results.
1) Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review
Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review. (2017). Nutrients, 9(10), 1047. doi:10.3390/nu9101047
2) Jackman, S. R., Witard, O. C., Philp, A., Wallis, G. A., Baar, K. and Tipton, K. D.
Jackman, S., Witard, O., Philp, A., Wallis, G., Baar, K., & Tipton, K. (2017). Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans. Frontiers In Physiology, 8. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00390
3) Wolfe, R. R.
Wolfe, R. (2017). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality?. Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition, 14(1). doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0184-9