In our BCAA guide, you saw how the branched-chain amino acids build and protect muscle. However, we didn’t go into details as we had this post reserved for the purpose. We will dedicate this whole article to talking about how BCAAs bring a magical transformation to your fitness goals.
Here, we will deal with some specific properties of branched aminos related to building muscles. Most of us, including athletes and bodybuilders, are concerned only about branched chained aminos anabolic properties. We want to build and protect muscles, and can also use the energy boost from the essential amino acids.
In this post, we will cover how BCAA-
- Builds muscle
- Protect muscle
- Reduce muscle soreness
- Relieve fatigue
We will start by discussing the role of branched aminos in protein synthesis. Our discussions will be quite technical, so brace yourself!
How BCAAs Build Muscle
All of us have heard that branched-chain amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. And how do they build muscles?
Branched amino acids activate protein synthesis, which helps form new muscle fiber.
To find out how they do the job, we are going to take the help of a review journal.
The study is named “Branched Chain Amino Acids: Beyond Nutrition Metabolism“ and came out in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Let’s see what it has to say!
Branched-chain amino acids stimulate the synthesis of protein in our skeletal muscle. Among the three amino acids, leucine plays the biggest part in facilitating protein synthesis. How?
Leucine steps up the initiation of mRNA translation, consisting of Rheb, TSC2, and raptor in our mTOR pathway. Now, mRNA translation is responsible for controlling cell growth and cell proliferation (increase in the number of cells). Isoleucine and valine, however, don’t have any role in protein synthesis. The mTOR pathway also uses different signals to regulate metabolism, cell growth, and protein synthesis.
When we take branched amino acids orally, they activate mTOR signalling that promotes protein synthesis.
In simple words, BCAA stimulates our cell growth pathways to facilitate protein synthesis. Hence, we can say branched aminos are the foundation for muscle building.
Interestingly, the study found that branched-chain amino acid supplementation (5-grams) can promote myofibrillar muscle protein synthesis. The dosage is enough to provide the muscle-building benefits of 25-grams of protein and can make up for low-protein diets.
Leucine acts in some other ways to help in muscle building-
1. Amino acid supplementation increases muscle protein synthesis by catalyzing translation initiation.
2. It also increases the net amino acid fluxes across our skeletal muscles in the case of low-protein diets.
3. Leucine reduces the 3-Methylhistidine levels in our biceps femoris muscle. 3-Methylhistidine is a biomarker of protein breakdown. Hence, lower levels of 3-Methylhistidine may mean less muscle protein breakdown.
4. Various studies note the positive biochemical actions of leucine that stimulate protein synthesis, limit protein breakdown, and leverage the activity of the protein.
5. Leucine increases the availability of eukaryotic initiation factors. The factors regulate and facilitate ribosome biogenesis and translation. The ribosome is the site of physical protein synthesis, and having more of them means we can synthesize more protein.
6. Ingesting BCAA alone can increase myofibrillar protein synthesis by 22%. This happened even when researchers didn’t give the participants other essential amino acids.
7. Branched amino acid metabolites like glutamine, HMB, and BCKA, contribute to protein synthesis and reduce muscle protein breakdown. Interestingly, many BCAA supplements contain glutamine to improve their muscle-building capabilities.
8. Branched amino acids inhibit the activities of proteins like MAFbx and MuRF-1 that break down muscle.
Branched-chain aminos, especially leucine, contribute to protein synthesis and prevent protein breakdown through various mechanisms. Hence, you can build new muscles and protect your existing muscles effectively.
By now it must be clear that branched aminos-
- Facilitate protein synthesis and build muscle
- Reduce protein breakdown and prevent muscle loss
Now, we will see how the same essential amino acids reduce muscle soreness and alleviate fatigue.
The Role of BCAA in Reducing Muscle Soreness and Muscle Damage
1. Branched-chain amino acids protect your muscles and reduce muscle soreness in many ways. Research suggests branched aminos to reduce the levels of lactate dehydrogenase and creatine kinase in our bodies.
The two enzymes are responsible for damaged muscles, and having lesser amounts of them in your blood prevents muscle damage.
2. Branched aminos reduce delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMs, as seen in countless studies. An editorial published in the Journal of Sports Medicine & Doping Studies mentions at least studies that show branched amino acids to reduce DOMs and suppress muscle damage.
3. A study by VanDusseldorp, Trisha A., et al. (2018) found BCAAs to reduce muscle soreness within 48 – 72-hours of acute eccentric exercise. The participants taking branched amino acids also had lower levels of creatine kinase, the biomarker of muscle damage.
4. A Systematic Review of 11 studies published in 2017 found branched amino acids to have beneficial effects on exercise-induced muscle damage. However, the positive effects are applicable only if the muscle damage is low or moderate.
5. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found an interesting thing. The researchers concluded that amino acid supplements might increase the bioavailability of substrates to enhance protein synthesis. This can reduce the outcomes of secondary muscle damage.
6. Healthline notes at least 3 studies that show branched amino supplements to reduce muscle soreness by 33%. There are also 2 more studies that conclude branched-chain aminos to improve strength and performance.
From this discussion, it’s clear BCAA supplements reduce muscle soreness. They may also play a part in countering muscle damage resulting from exercise. Hence, we can say that branched amino supplements help in muscle recovery.
Now, we will explore the relation between branched-chain aminos and fatigue.
How BCAA Helps Relieve Fatigue
1. The three essential amino acids play a part in alleviating both mental and physical fatigue. This is more applicable for extended outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, skiing, and sailing.
2. The amino acid supplements can reduce neural fatigue that results from aerobic exercises. You can stay more focused and alert during the later part of your workouts or performance.
3. A 2011 study from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found branched aminos to counter the effects of glycogen depletion. The supplements provided a boost of energy to athletes who were low on glycogen or energy.
According to Healthline, branched-chain amino acid supplements can-
- Reduce fatigue by 15%
- Help you exercise 12% to 17% longer
BCAA supplements can reduce fatigue, provide energy, improve performance, lengthen workouts, and help you stay focused.
BCAA Summary of Benefits
As per our discussion, it’s clear that branched-chain aminos-
- Facilitate protein synthesis and help us build more muscle mass
- Inhibit protein breakdown and help protects muscles and aid recovery
- Reduce muscle soreness and muscle damage
- Alleviates fatigue
How BCAA Supplements Can Help
Branched-chain amino acids increase the availability of BCAAs in our muscles. As a result, our bodies can enjoy all the benefits we discussed above.
A review study notes that increased availability of amino acids vehemently increases muscle protein synthesis.
It also mentions at least 3 more studies that also draw the same conclusion.
Athletes and active people have a greater need for nutrients than the average person. Amino acid supplements can be the best way to get your required dosage of BCAAs. The supplements can help you build muscle mass, protect your muscles, and aid in recovery.
You can also gain energy, cut down fatigue, and reduce muscle soreness. As a result, you can work out longer and harder to build extra muscles.
Best BCAA Dosage
You need to consume 20 – 25-grams of BCAA before you exercise. Typically, a person needs to have at least 144mgs of essential amino acids per kilogram of body weight.
Also, it’s best to follow the 2:1:1 ratio, ensuring you get at least 2.5 – 3.5-grams leucine, and 1-gram of isoleucine and valine per serving.
BCAAs are the magical components that help you build and protect your muscles. The wonderful amino acids can also cut down muscle soreness and give you more energy. Of course, you should also have a proper diet and work out regularly, focusing on places where you want to build muscles.
We have also created a review of the best BCAA supplements to help you find the best products in the market. So, take your branched-chain amino supplement following our instructions and achieve your fitness goals successfully.
Is BCAA bad for the liver?
BCAAs are not bad for the liver as long as you don’t overdose yourself. Taking too much BCAAs can increase your free amino acids and can cause fatty liver and injury. However, you don’t need to worry as long as you stay within the suggested dose. You can take 20 – 25grams of BCAAs in each serving. Ideally, you should take 144mg per kilo of your body weight.
Are BCAAs better than protein?
BCAAs won’t supplement protein. You will need to consume enough protein to build muscles. However, if you are a vegetarian or eat only plant protein like soybean, then BCAA can be beneficial. Plant sources of protein are not very rich in BCAAs, which is found more in animal meat and dairy products.
Do I really need BCAA?
We need BCAAs to build muscles. If you can fulfill your BCAA requirements from your diet, you can do without BCAAs. But if you don’t eat a protein-rich diet, you can create a difference by using BCAAs. Additionally, vegetarians may benefit from BCAAs.
What do BCAAs do to your body?
BCAAs are part of protein. They do everything to your body that protein does. You can include effects like protein synthesis, muscle growth, more energy, and muscle healing. You can’t build or repair muscles without protein, and that includes BCAAs. You can say BCAAs help in the growth and development of your body.