Having toned and strong muscles is becoming more and more fashionable. That's why millions of people choose protein and amino acid supplements to reach it faster. Among the most popular are the BCAA amino acids or branched chain amino acids.
Clinical studies demonstrate the efficiency of BCAAs to increase muscle strength, as well as improve aerobic and anaerobic performance. In addition, it is a permanent recommendation in groups of experts in sports nutrition.
High performance athletes and sportsmen seek it. Also men and women who strive every day to have a slender and well-shaped figure.
Therefore, I invite you to learn more about them with the following information. .
What are BCAA amino acids?
Branched chain amino acids or BCAAs what is it.
They are a type of amino acid that has a non-linear aliphatic compound, made up of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.
They are called essential because the body cannot produce them on its own, but must be obtained from the foods we eat, such as dairy products, lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, whey protein (Whey), lentils, nuts, and soy. . Also through food supplements.
The combination of leucine, valine and isoleucine make up one third of the skeletal muscles in the human body and play a very important role in protein synthesis.
Also, they intervene as signalers that help activate metabolism so that muscle begins to be built through the well-known mTOR metabolic pathway, which is much more sensitive to leucine than to any other amino acid.
And unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are metabolized directly in the muscle, unlike other substances that must be broken down by the liver before reaching the organs. In fact, that is the reason why they quickly enter the bloodstream, becoming activated in the tissues.
Functions of the three amino acids that compose it
The BCAA, which is known for its anti-catabolic and anabolic function of muscle metabolism, can cause problems when it is in deficit, such as muscle weakness or difficulty in regenerating tissues and making them work properly.
- Leucine : stimulates muscle protein and proper muscle maintenance, as it is involved in the regulation of protein metabolism.
- Isoleucine : allows the cells to absorb glucose avoiding the catabolism of the muscles. By giving the body the energy sources it needs, loss of muscle mass is prevented.
- Valine : directly affects the energy of both the body and the mind. Maintaining adequate levels of this amino acid helps us prevent both physical and mental fatigue. This is of particular importance to increase physical performance and to recover after a workout.
What is n used for ?
The BCAA as a supplement is used in order to increase the ability to perform and improve physical performance in intense training. Reason why it is so used by athletes and bodybuilders.
Studies show that BCAAs have the following benefits:
- Increase in muscle mass: the administration of BCAAs before exercise increases the synthesis of growth hormone and testosterone. In turn, they achieve an increase in insulin secretion, increasing muscle development. The amino acid leucine is key in stimulating protein synthesis.
- Protection of muscle mass in endurance sports: sports that produce a depletion of glycogen stores (contraction of fluid volume), suffer greater oxidation of branched-chain amino acids. BCAA supplementation can prevent muscle catabolism.
- Reduced fatigue during exercise – Combining small amounts of BCAAs along with carbohydrate solutions during exercise is one strategy to reduce the nervous system's feeling of fatigue.
- Promote recovery : the contribution of BCAAs accelerates the recovery of muscle tissue and glycogen stores after intense physical exercises and in both resistance and strength sports.
- Protection of the immune system: long-term physical exercises and overtraining can cause a decrease in plasmatic glutamine and have consequences on the immune system. BCAAs have been shown to increase the synthesis of endogenous glutamine (which is obtained from external sources), improving the response of the immune system.
Also, they are used in patients who have had a surgical operation, people who suffer high protein catabolism, to preserve muscle mass in weight loss diets and, even, in therapies with patients suffering from dyskinesia (abnormal movements in nervous diseases).
And because of their leucine content, they help control metabolic disorders such as diabetes and high cholesterol.
Benefits of BCAA amino acids when we train
The scientific community linked to the world of sports and physical training recognizes the benefits of BCAAs in endurance or long-term sports:
1. Increased physical capacity in long-term sports: the increase in oxidation provided by the consumption of branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs decreases the production of lactic acid during endurance sports, so the athlete's body suffers less stress and less decrease in the capacity to make a continuous physical effort. So you can keep a steady pace for longer.
2. They produce energy (oxidation) : studies show that skeletal muscle oxidizes between 1-5% of the total energy from amino acids, mainly BCAAs.
3. They reduce muscle damage caused by continuous exercise: eccentric muscle contraction for hours causes micro-tears in muscle fibers, which is why in long-term sports muscle pain, cramps and protein destruction (proteolysis) can develop. Research conducted in endurance athletes indicates that BCAA supplementation may reduce muscle damage and suppress proteolysis.
4. BCAAs decrease central fatigue: Endurance athletes who subject the body to great physical stress release high levels of serotonin and tryptophan causing central fatigue (physical exhaustion originating in the central nervous system). This produces general fatigue and decreased physical performance. Well, BCAA supplementation increases the release of neurotransmitters, counteracting the negative effects of serotonin and tryptophan, allowing the athlete to maintain their physical performance for longer.
5. Branched chain amino acids help muscle recovery: BCAAs have anabolic effects on skeletal muscle during the muscle recovery period after long-term sports, as they increase protein synthesis after exercise. This favors the repair of muscle fibers and prevents the destruction or catabolism of proteins.
Food sources of BCAA amino acids
Branched-chain amino acids are components of protein, therefore foods with higher protein content will have higher amounts of BCAAs.
In this group we have meat and meat derivatives, fish and shellfish, milk and dairy products, eggs and their derivatives.
They are also found in legumes, cereals (rice, wheat, barley, oats, corn, etc.), and nuts that contain good amounts of BCAAs.
|lean red meat
|Fillet of beef
Table 1 - Protein food sources (taken from FoodData Central of the United States Department of Agriculture -USDA)
How and when to take it?
The best option is to take them from food, but to achieve the daily requirements it is recommended to consume it as a supplement, especially when training on an empty stomach, since at this time there is little glycogen and amino acids in the blood and there is a danger of loss of muscle mass.
The recommended daily dose is between a minimum of 5 g and a maximum of 10 g, divided into 3 doses as follows:
Pre-workout : if you consume BCAAs before training, your efforts will be better rewarded. Consuming it on an empty stomach causes muscle glycogen to be saved and better tissue conservation. You can administer 1-3 g of BCAAs, 15 or 20 minutes before training.
Intra-workout : the powder version has very good solubility and can be mixed in a shaker with water and drunk in short gulps during training. These amino acids, together with a product that provides energy and hydration, can be of great help to carry out more intense and demanding workouts. Administer 1-3 g during training.
Post-workout: a very good option is to consume BCAAs after training to support protein synthesis from the end of training, thus restoring nitrogen balance. Administer 1-3 g after training
General recommendations for supplementing with BCAA amino acids
Finally, I want to make several recommendations for you to take advantage of the benefits of this incredible nutritional supplement.
The first is that you do not consume more than what your body can metabolize. If supplementation is excessive, the body will eliminate it, causing more kidney work.
Remember that an excess in the dose maintained for long periods of time can cause bone alterations, with a decrease in bone mineralization and a greater probability of injuries or fragility.
The second, and very important, is that you accompany your BCAA supplementation with plenty of fluids so that dehydration does not occur.
Finally, it would be ideal for any supplementation plan to be supervised by a health professional or sports nutrition expert who evaluates all these factors globally.