By: Kenna McHugh
What are amino acids? Amino acids serve as compounds that produce protein in your body. These compounds play a vital role in all metabolic processes that influence energy, brain function, mood and muscle performance (x). What do amino acids do for the body? Your body requires amino acids to grow muscular tissue, strong bones and healthy skin and hair. Without amino acids, your body could not function properly. Amino acids are also crucial in breaking down food and eliminating waste deposits associated with metabolism (x). Basically, the amino acids are essential to living a happy and healthy life.
There are a few different categories of amino acids and included in these categories are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). This group consists of three amino acids—valine, isoleucine and leucine. Studies indicate these compounds are already in many foods, but you can also choose to take BCAA supplements as well.
According to research, these amino acids work together in a way that may keep your muscles stable and restore them after exercise injury. They may also improve your athletic performance and support fat loss.
However, medical studies report a lack of evidence for whether these products can effectively cure or treat any disease or health condition (x). So it’s best to see your doctor for diagnoses, accurate medical information and permission before taking any supplements.
Amino Acid Categories
- Non-essential amino acids – Produced in the body naturally
- Essential amino acids – Not produced in the body
- Conditional amino acids – Usually not essential, except during times of stress, illness or if your body does not produce sufficient quantities to meet your individual needs
Since they are such an important part of the body, how many different amino acids are there? In total, there are 22 amino acids, nine of which are essential. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, valine, leucine, tryptophan, lysine, threonine, methionine and phenylalanine. Any food source that contains all nine amino acids are considered complete proteins (x). Any food that lacks one or more of the essential amino acids is called an incomplete protein. The idea is to complete them by combining them with other proteins (x).
What Are BCAAs?
BCAAs is an abbreviation for “branched-chain amino acids.” These are essential amino acids, meaning the body cannot make them on its own so it is essential to get them from diet or supplements. The amino acids that make up this category are leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are the only three amino acids that have a branched side chain, which is what gives the group its name.
BCAAs are naturally found in food, including (x):
These compounds break down in the muscles rather than the liver, assisting energy production and muscle synthesis throughout the exercise cycle. They play a uniquely fundamental yet unison role in your overall health (x).
Leucine exceeds in importance compared to the other BCAAs because it is broken down and assimilated into the body faster, allowing your body to utilize it faster than isoleucine and valine. It is responsible for developing and repairing muscle fibers by generating hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB), which is a positive reaction in the muscles to protect them and help them grow (x).
Isoleucine is responsible for causing hemoglobin synthesis. Hemoglobin is a protein molecule in red blood cells that moves oxygen from the lungs to your body’s tissues. The amino acid is also responsible for regulating energy and blood sugar. It regulates glucose consumed through food into the cells where it breaks down into energy. This process may help to improve athletic performance and function as a hypoglycemic agent, meaning it may lower glucose levels in blood (x).
Valine may give bodybuilders and athletes an additional boost for performance and prevent muscle breakdown by supplying the muscles with extra glucose. This may enable the body to produce more energy throughout an intense exercise. It also contributes to the BCAA group’s ability to possibly fight fatigue (x, x).
Why are They Grouped Together?
BCAAs work together as a group. They are the bulk of your body’s total amino acid supply. Collectively, they serve around 35 to 40% of all essential amino acids that exist in your body and 14 to 18% of those located in your muscles. Your body uses them to breakdown protein in the muscle instead of in the liver and store glycogen, a form of glucose associated with energy storage. Thus, your body uses BCAAs to naturally build muscle protein and generate energy while helping to fight exercise fatigue (x).
What are BCAA Supplements Used for?
Research claims that supplementing with BCAAs may help build muscle mass and the reports show evidence that the amino acids may be responsible for other health benefits as well. Still, more studies report that their protein-synthesizing results may lead to a direct increase in muscle mass and energy and reduced fatigue (x). Even though the science to support BCAAs’ role in building muscle and improving athletic performance by helping the muscle mass is somewhat limited, BCAA supplementation is broadly used in sports nutrition.
Building Muscle Mass with Protein Synthesis
Research claims that BCAAs may help build muscle mass, possibly because of the amino acids’ natural ability to synthesize protein. Some studies show that taking supplements with other whole proteins like whey protein enhances the anabolic effect. BCAAs naturally reduce recovery time after a strenuous workout and speed up muscle renewal. Leucine is especially excellent at triggering muscle protein synthesis. Some experts compare the process to a drill sergeant who lines up the other amino acids so they work together, forming new muscle fibers. The process is scientifically known as enhancing mRNA translation (x).
The body needs to be in a state of positive protein balance to build muscle. Your body is continuously going through muscle protein turnover. In other words, it happens during muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein breakdown (MPB). When the total muscle protein synthesis is greater muscle protein breakdown, you build muscle fibers. Looking at it the other way, if MPB surpasses MPS, it can cause muscle deterioration. Research suggests that utilizing supplemental BCAAs may help increase the natural speed of your body’s muscle protein synthesis. An increased MPS speed results in a positive protein balance and consequently raises the probability of an increase in muscle mass (x).
Preserving Energy with Glucose Metabolism
Another desirable advantage of taking BCAAs as dietary supplement is that they may help support and preserve body’s natural glycogen storage. Glycogen is the primary fuel that muscles utilize for energy production. Ample amounts of stored glycogen keep your body from using muscle protein for energy. For athletes, this may help sustain enough energy to continue strenuous exercise like running a marathon. When your body’s glycogen reserves run low, your body can use BCAAs for fuel. That is why these three essential amino acids are so popular with athletes and why they may help you achieve your workout goals (x).
In addition, a total of eight studies inferred that using these amino acids encourage passive but positive recovery. They may diminish muscle soreness and support muscle movement after an extensive workout. An astonishing thing occurs when you engage in vigorous exercise. Your body generates tryptophan, which stimulates the release of serotonin in the endocrine system. Studies indicate that serotonin may play a role in feeling fatigue after strenuous exercise (x).
How to Take BCAA Supplements
Serious bodybuilders or fitness enthusiasts frequently like to drink the supplement in powder form with water or shakes. Knowing when to take these supplements may also depend on what you want from your workouts. It’s up to you to determine what works best for you, with the help of a doctor or nutritionist, of course.
It’s crucial not only to get adequate amounts of all three BCAAs but when you take them, make sure you have the proper ratio. Common ratios include:
- 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine respectively
- 3:1:2 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine respectively
The recommended serving size for both supplement ratios is 1,500 mg three times a day before a workout. However, individual needs may vary depending on what you want from your workout routine, as mentioned earlier. In any case, it’s best to see a doctor before taking any supplements for approval, as well as accurate diagnoses and medical information.
Possible Side Effects of BCAAs
According to research, BCAAs are possibly safe as oral supplements in appropriate doses. You might have heard of the possibility of side effects from taking BCAAs (x). Research indicates that side effects are not very likely, but side effects can occur, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or diseases or if you use the supplement in excess. Common side effects may include (x):
- Loss of coordination
The supplements may not be safe if you have any of the following pre-existing conditions because they may cause complications (x):
- ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Kidney damage
- Heart problems
- Liver problems
- Branched-chain ketoaciduria
Other Warnings & Precautions
BCAAs are amino acids, so your body benefits from them in the correct quantities and ratios. If you are allergic to a specific food, have digestive problems or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid taking BCAAs. It also may not be safe for children to consume, as there are not enough studies concerning children taking BCAAs.
If you have a surgery scheduled, you should stop using the supplement two weeks before surgery. BCAAs may interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery, which can cause complications. Always see a doctor before taking any supplements in order to understand how these amino acids may affect your body (x).
Where to Buy BCAAs
You can purchase BCAAs in powder form at BulkSupplements.com. The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor for pure dietary supplements. BulkSupplements.com is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other brands that distribute food and other supplement products. All products at BulkSupplements.com are manufactured and tested according to current and proper manufacturing practices.
Are you interested in trying BCAAs as a dietary supplement to potentially increase muscle mass and preserve energy to give your workout routine an edge? Contact BulkSupplements.com to place an order.
The Bottom Line
Why take BCAAs? Supplementing with BCAAs can be advantageous to any bodybuilder, runner or anyone else looking to enhance their workouts. They might successfully improve your performance, delay fatigue, reduce recovery time and support the development of muscle tissue. The three amino acids included in this group are leucine, valine and isoleucine. They are essential amino acids that have a branched side chain, a characteristic that gives them their name.
You can and should get amino acids from an assortment of high-protein foods like eggs, dairy, meat and legumes. However, some athletes or those searching for an extra boost may rely on supplements to supply their bodies with additional building blocks to support the body’s natural processes. It’s your choice to make the best of your workouts while keeping your gains (x).
Supplemental BCAAs are likely safe to consume, but as with any supplement, they may cause unwanted side effects. They may also cause complications if the patient has any pre-existing health conditions. To possibly avoid side effects or health complications, consult a doctor before adding BCAAs or any other supplement to your dietary routine.
*** These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.