What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids?
Branched chain amino acids are one of the biggest, most marketed supplements in today’s fitness industry, and are recommended by fitness and health professionals for good reason. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are three different amino acids that have a certain molecular structure that separate them from the rest of the amino acids. The three amino acids that make up BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine and they come from different sources such as plants, whey, milk, and different meats. Again, BCAAs are said to be almost required by any avid gym goer, weightlifting athlete, and fitness and health professionals because of BCAAs role on metabolism and skeletal muscle, which we will get into in the next section.
What Do BCAAs Do and Why Are They So Special?
BCAAs play a major role in our body’s metabolism and building and preserving skeletal muscle. Specifically, BCAAs promote protein synthesis and turnover, different signaling pathways for energy and metabolism of glucose, and oxidation of fatty acids (Md. Monirujjaman, 2014).
Leucine has a couple roles in our body, but mainly it is to help with oxidation and glucose uptake for energy, and is also what is called an “mTOR activator.” mTOR is a regulatory protein that takes care of different cellular processes like protein synthesis, cell growth, just to name a few. Leucine has been found to slow the breakdown of muscle tissue by increasing the synthesis of muscle proteins (Lydie Combaret, 2005).
Isoleucine’s main role is helping with oxidation of fatty acids through different pathways. Isoleucine can be converted to a couple of different enzymes to help convert different things in to glucose. Isoleucine also has a pretty big role in helping with ketosis since it can help with the production of ketone bodies and fatty acids.
Valine’s big role is to help with energy production through the citric acid cycle. Valine goes through a couple of steps to convert it to a couple different enzymes so it can eventually go through the citric acid cycle and then turn those enzymes into some energy for our bodies to use in our workouts. (Mathews, 2000)
So what makes BCAAs so special? The combination that these three BCAAs have all together can be a great addition to any kind of athlete, especially for sports that require size, muscle mass, power, and speed. The combination of being able to keep on muscle size, strength, and energy production that comes from BCAAs makes it almost an absolute necessity for any serious athlete.
How to Take BCAAs.
Since BCAAs do come from meats, eggs, and certain plants, it is possible to get an adequate amount of BCAAs through our diet, especially those with a high protein intake throughout the day. That being said, the standard does for BCAAs is 20 grams of a balanced ratio of leucine and isoleucine. That’s why you see different supplement companies saying that they’re specialized 10:1:1 ratio of is better than another companies 2:1:1 ratio and vice versa.
BCAAs come in usually two forms, powder, which can either be flavored or not, so you can either just throw it in a bottle or glass with some water, or in your post workout shake or morning juice. Whatever works for you. The other form is capsule form where it’s just as simple as swallowing a couple capsules once or twice a day.
BCAAs are a great supplement to help take someone to the next level that they could be pursuing, or help keep an already great athlete where they’re at in the off season and repair for the upcoming season. Especially for weight cutting athletes like bodybuilders, wrestlers, or fighters, BCAAs can help retain muscle mass while providing energy and necessary tools for them to be successful in whatever athletic field they compete in.
-Tyler Giery BS, CPT