Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA): Get the Scoop!

Amino acids are essential to our body’s muscle growth.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are basically part of the nine essential amino acids (EAA).

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they are essential to muscle growth. There are different categories of amino acids, among these include branched chain amino acids.

There are about 20 amino acids that make up the thousand different proteins in the human body. Nine out of these 20 amino acids are categorized as essential amino acids (well known as EAA), and 3 out of the 9 EAAs are called branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are classified as BCAA because of their chemical structure that are found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy products. Each of them have their own unique function.

  • Leucine: Leucine is the amino acid responsible in protein synthesis. It is critical in hormone and enzyme production as well as the absorption of calcium. In addition to that, it has a major role in the immune function and assists in the production of energy, collagen, and elastin.
  • Isoleucine: This amino acid is important in energy regulation, immune function, and hemoglobin production. It is also heavily concentrated in muscle tissue and involved in the muscle metabolism.
  • Valine: Valine has its function in stimulated muscle growth and regeneration. It is involved in energy production.

As BCAAs can stimulate the building of protein, it is indeed related to the muscle benefits; but aside from that, BCAAs have other functions for the body. It helps to improve certain diseases in the body and assist much when doing exercise. See some of the benefits of BCAA and decide to take some scoop for yourself.

Increase muscle growth

Leucine is considered as the responsible BCAA in the process of making muscles. Leucine activates a certain pathway in the body, and the pathway stimulates muscle protein synthesis. This process leads to the making of the muscles.

There was a study where people consumed 5.6 grams of BCAA’s after resistance training. The result made a 22% greater increase in muscle protein synthesis of the participants.

In another study, participants consumed whey protein shake containing a similar amount of 5.6 grams of BCAAs. The participants have an approximately 33% increase in the muscle protein synthesis. According to the study, whey protein contains all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.

Decrease muscle soreness

The feeling of soreness is not uncommon especially after working out a day or two. The soreness is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which develops 12 to 24 hours of exercise. It can last up to 72 hours.
The exact cause of DOMS is not clearly understood by the researchers, but it is believed that it is the result of tiny tears in the muscles after training.

The BCAAs has the capacity to decrease muscle damage. It may help reduce the length and severity of DOMS.
Several studies even prove that BCAA can decrease protein breakdown during exercise. If you a familiar with the term creatine kinase, which is the indicator of muscle damage, BCAAs have the ability to decrease the level of it as well.

Supplementing with BCAAs before an exercise may help to a speedy recovery. A study shows that people who were supplemented with BCAAs before a squat exercised, experience a low level of DOMS and muscle fatigue.

Reduce exercise fatigue

It’s not just soreness where BCAA is helpful with. BCAA can also reduce exercise-induced fatigue.

Nutrition and fitness level, exercise intensity and duration, and environmental conditions are the factors that can affect your exercise duration. Meaning to say, on how quickly or slowly you get tired from training.

Serotonin is the brain chemical that can contribute to the development of fatigue during exercise. Tryptophan is the amino acid that can be converted into serotonin.

During training, the muscles us BCAAs which cause blood levels to decrease. Once the blood levels of BCAAs decline, levels of the EAA tryptophan in the brain increase.

There are two studies wherein the participants are supplemented with BCAAs. The study shows that the participants improve mental focus during exercise. The mental focus is thought to be the result of the fatigue-reducing effect of BCAAs.

On the other hand, the decrease in fatigue is unlikely to translate to improvements in exercise performance.

Prevent muscle breakdown

Muscle proteins are constantly broken down and synthesized (rebuilt). Muscle breakdown occurs when protein breakdown exceeds the muscle protein synthesis. Muscle breakdown is also a sign of malnutrition and can occur with chronic infections, cancer, periods of fasting, and also a natural part of the aging process.

Branched-chain amino acids also help in preventing muscle wasting or breakdown. There are several studies that support the use of BCAAs supplements as it can inhibit muscle protein breakdown.

Overall, it may improve health outcomes and quality of living such as the elderly and those with wasting diseases.

Improves brain function relating to cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a chronic disease in which the liver does not function properly. Positively, BCAAs have a major role in improving the health of people with cirrhosis.

Fifty percent of people with cirrhosis is estimated to develop hepatic encephalopathy. This condition is the loss of brain function that occurs when the liver is unable to remove toxins from the blood.

By taking branched-chain amino acids by mouth, brain function seems to improve. With this, it is believed that BCAA can also improve mental function or reverse comas in the people with this condition. However, BCAAs don’t appear to reduce the chance of death in people with this condition.

Assist with anorexia

Anorexia is a certain illness related to having a poor appetite. Taking BCAAs by mouth seems to improve a patient’s appetite. Additionally, it can help in an overall nutrition of people with kidney failure, liver disease, or cancer.
Reduce symptoms of tardive dyskinesia
Tardive dyskinesia is a muscle disorder. By consuming branch-amino acids by mouth, the disease seems to reduce its symptoms.

Reduce symptoms of mania

Consuming a drink that contains BCCAs are also believed to reduce the symptoms of mania, a mental illness marked by periods of euphoria, delusions, great excitement, and overactivity

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