If you are trying to build muscles, you must have heard about BCAA.
Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs are the building blocks of muscle and can drive you towards your fitness goals. Many athletes and bodybuilders regularly take the “essential” amino acids in supplement form to increase muscle mass. The magical amino can also reduce fatigue and prevent muscle breakdown.
Let us start by saying the hype around branched amino acids is justified. A vast body of research supports the muscle-building results of amino acids. In fact, we all know essential amino acids go on to synthesize protein and promote muscle growth.
In this post, we are going to go deep into Branched-chain amino acids and tell you everything you need to know.
What are Branched Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids consist of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are found in our bodies in large amounts among all amino acids (35% – 40%). Our muscles store 14% to 18% of the total branched amino acids in our body.
We call these essential amino acids as we must get them from food. Sources of protein contain these amino acids, and animal sources are especially rich in leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Interestingly, our livers don’t break down BCAAs– it’s our muscles! And that is exactly where all the benefits of these essential amino acids lie.
Among the branched amino, leucine has the biggest role in muscle protein synthesis. Isoleucine and valine play a role in energy production that may provide the boost to work out.
Next, we are going to discuss the exact role of branched-chain amino acids in-
- Building muscles
- Protecting muscles
- Reducing muscle soreness
- Alleviating fatigue
BCAAs Build Muscle Mass
The essential amino acids influence enzymes responsible for muscle growth. They achieve anabolic or muscle-growing effects by activating the mTOR pathway that induces protein synthesis.
When you take branched amino supplements, your muscles synthesize more protein and grow in mass.
Among all branched amino acids, leucine is the most significant for protein synthesis, aka muscle building.
Isoleucine and valine act indirectly to fulfil your muscle growth goals. They limit the depletion of glycogen, the main fuel our muscles use to produce energy. As a result, you have more energy to push yourself harder, lift more weights, and grow more muscles.
You can take branched-chain amino acids in the form of supplements. But the best way to get them is from dietary protein sources like meat or soy. You may also get all necessary essential amino acids from supplements like whey protein.
BCAAs Protect Muscles
The branched amino acids play a big part in protein our muscles and preventing muscle breakdown. The amino acids suppress the activities of MAFbx and MuRF-1, the proteins responsible for breaking down muscles. As a result, we lose less muscle when we work out or exercise.
Branched amino help muscle protein synthesis indirectly by preventing muscle breakdown.
Tip: Consume brown rice and whole wheat foods to get more leucine naturally.
BCAAs Reduce Muscle Soreness
You already know branched amino acids prevent the breakdown of muscle. Now scientists say they can also protect muscles from damage.
By lowering levels of harmful enzymes, branched amino acids protect our muscles from damage and facilitate recovery.
In studies, participants who took essential amino acid supplements reported 33% less muscle soreness than the placebo group. Researchers also found branched amino acid supplements to improve performance in strength-training by 20%.
However, a person’s total protein intake and gender can make a difference in results.
The gist: Branched-chain amino acids promote muscle growth, prevent muscle breakdown, and reduce muscle soreness.
BCAAs Cut Down Fatigue
Branched aminos can have a role in reducing physical and psychological fatigue. Various studies show the same results when athletes take amino acid supplements.
Supplementing with essential amino acids may reduce mental and physical fatigue that results from prolonged outdoor activities. You can think of things like sailing, skiing, and hiking.According to Examine.com
In the case of aerobic exercises, branched-chain amino acids can cut down neural fatigue. As a result, athletes can maintain their focus in the later stages of working out.
Many athletes take branched amino supplements before or after workouts to facilitate recovery. You can pair up your amino acid supplement with your best creatine supplement for enhanced recovery and more power.
You can read in detail how branched amino acids help you achieve your fitness goals, almost magically!
Additional Health Benefits of BCAAs
The branched-chain amino acids have additional health benefits. However, they are not really useful for your fitness or muscle-building goals.
May Regulate Blood Sugar
In some studies, branched aminos decreased blood sugar levels. This may suggest the role of BCAAs in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.
However, some studies have found no effects of branched amino acids on blood sugar.
May Facilitate Weight Loss
Some researchers believe branched aminos to have a positive effect on weight loss. Consuming more essential amino acids may reduce the risks of becoming obese.
Participants taking amino acid supplements lost weight and body fat in some studies. Here too, other studies didn’t find the same results.
May Help in Liver Problems
Research suggests that essential amino acid supplements may help people with liver disease. The supplements can reduce the time of stay in the hospital, improve liver function, and lower risks of complications.
As you can see, BCAAs can help us build muscle and reduce muscle breakdown. They can also reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, especially in untrained people and novice athletes.
Branched Chain Amino Acid Dosage
Current research suggests we need a high dose of essential amino acids. You may need more amino acids like leucine if you actively want to build muscles.
The recommended dose is around 144mg per kilo of body weight.
If you weigh 70-kgs, then you will need around 11grams of BCAAs every day. You can multiply your body weight (kgs) with 144mg, and divide the result by 1,000 to find your ideal dose.
Some athletes take high doses of essential amino acids. It’s not uncommon to take 20 to 50grams of branched aminos for recovery purposes.
For more information on dosage and the best time to take BCAA, click here.
Best BCAA Ratio
We need to take branched amino supplements to build muscles. We also know how much we need it. But in what ratio should you take the three amino acids- leucine, isoleucine, and valine?
Among the three aminos, leucine is the leader of building muscles. So we definitely need more of it. Along with that, you also need isoleucine and valine to maximize protein synthesis.
The best ratio of BCAAs is 2:1:1 (leucine: isoleucine: valine).
That means your branched amino dose should contain 50% leucine, 25% isoleucine, and 25% valine.
Many supplement companies spike up the amount of leucine to ratios like 8:1:1, or even 10:1:1. However, research shows you need all three aminos for optimum protein synthesis.
For every dose, ensure you take at least 1-gram isoleucine and 1-gram valine. To get more leucine, you can take at least 5-grams of your supplement. That will give you 3 grams leucine while providing 1-gram of other two amino acids.
You can read all about the nuances of BCAA ratios right here.
Branched-chain amino acid supplements are safe even in higher doses. Only people who have ALS or problem breaking down amino acids should consult a doctor.
BCAAs have turned out to be one of the most popular supplements to build muscle. You can achieve lean and strong muscle mass by combining your supplement with a proper diet and exercise. Branched amino acid supplements are safe, and you can take them regularly for long-term muscle building.
If you are looking for the best BCAA supplement, check out our review of the top BCAA brands in the market. And don’t forget to leave your comments!
Is it okay to drink BCAA without working out?
You won’t be building any muscles if you drink BCAA without working out. Additionally, if you drink too much BCAA, you might push your free amino acid levels beyond healthy limits. This will lead to catabolism in your body, including organs like the liver. However, if you’re drinking BCAA for medical reasons, follow the advice of your doctor.
Does BCAA help lose belly fat?
Reducing carbohydrates and increasing protein consumption leads to weight loss. As BCAAs make up protein, they also have the same positive effects on body fat. However, just drinking BCAAs won’t melt your belly fat away. You need to exercise along with consuming BCAAs.
Does BCAA increase weight?
BCAAs can increase weight in only one way- by adding muscles. So, any increase in weight will be due to the growth of lean muscles. You don’t have to worry about body fat.
Is BCAA better than whey protein?
You will always need to include protein in your diet to build muscles. BCAAs help, but they also need the additional amino acids present in protein, which includes whey. Work out your protein requirement and then regulate your protein and BCAA intake to fulfill your needs. Also, you shouldn’t eat unhealthy limits of protein.