If you are a health buff or if you are conscious of your health and wellbeing, chances are you’ve encountered some of the critical components and compounds needed for good health and wellness. These include vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (or macros). In addition to health, those who are into muscle building and bodybuilding may have also encountered terms such as amino acids, whey protein, and BCAA. In this article, we will focus on branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). We will answer your question on what are BCAAs, how they work, and their health benefits.
What Are BCAAs: A General Overview
BCAAs or Branched-Chain Amino Acids are a classification of amino acids which include valine, isoleucine, and leucine. Supplements that contain BCAAs are usually taken by individuals who want to enhance their performance during exercise and to boost the development and growth of mu. Some individuals also take these BCAA supplements to reduce exercise fatigue and to improve weight loss.
As stated earlier, Branched-chain amino acids include valine, isoleucine, and leucine. These amino acids are grouped as they all have a side chain that branches to one side. These BCAAs are classified as essential since compared to their non-essential counterparts. These cannot be produced by the body and should, therefore, be obtained from the food we consume or take in.
What Are BCAAs: This is How they Work!
Branched-chain amino acids compose a huge part of our body’s total pool of amino acids. All of them in total, make up the body’s 35 to 40% of essential amino acids and around 14 to 18% of these BCAAs can be found in the muscles. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs can be further processed by the muscles instead of by the liver. As such, BCAAs can play a critical role in the production of energy while exercising or working out.
Aside from this, BCAAs can help the body in the accomplishment of its different functions. First, BCAAs can be used by the body for its muscle and protein building blocks. BCAAs can also be counted on in terms of blood sugar regulation by helping the body in the preservation of sugar stores in the muscle and the liver. BCAAs can also aid in the stimulation of the sugar into our circulatory system. Also, BCAAs can aid in the reduction of fatigue while working out through the reduction of the production of the brain’s serotonin.
From the three (3) identified BCAAs, leucine plays the biggest impact on the capacity of the body to come up with muscle proteins. On the other hand, both valine and isoleucine seem to be more effective in the regulation of blood sugar levels and the production of energy.
Possible Health Benefits of BCAAs
Below are some of the possible health benefits of BCAAs:
Reduces fatigue during work out/exercise
Taking in BCAAs can help individuals in the reduction of mental and physical fatigue. Studies conducted on test subjects showed that those who had BCAAs had 15% reduced fatigue while working out versus those who just took some placebos. These results also led to the BCAA group to exercise much more than the placebo group (exercise activity up by around 17%). In a different study, participants who during a cycling test, were placed under heat stress, and the subjects were asked to drink a supplement that contains just a placebo or BCAAs. The subjects who took in BCAAs were able to cycle 12% more than those who just took placebos.
It must be noted though that those individuals who are untrained or those who are not athletes got had better results in terms of reduced fatigue during exercise compared to those who were already athletic or well trained.
Supports in reducing muscle soreness
BCAAs can aid the muscles in terms of reducing muscle soreness after exercising. This is because BCAAs may reduce the levels of enzymes known as lactate dehydrogenase and creatine kinase in the blood. These muscles are linked with damage to the muscles. The said process can help ensure enhanced recovery and prevents muscle damage.
Several studies asked test subjects to rate the soreness of their muscles after performing exercises for strength training. 33% of individuals who took in supplements with BCAAs had muscle soreness, wh is lower compared to those who just took a placebo.
The effect of BCAA on muscle soreness may be dependent on protein content and gender of individuals.
Helps increase muscle growth
Most people who avail themselves of BCAA supplements do so primarily to increase the mass of the muscles. This is mainly because BCAAs have been shown to aid in the activation of enzymes. These enzymes are mainly tasked with the development and growth of muscles. Several studies indicate the effectiveness of BCAA supplements in terms of muscle mass increase especially if the supplements have higher levels of leucine than valine and isoleucine.
Helps reduce sugar levels in the blood
BCAAs may also manage and regulate the levels of blood sugar. Isoleucine and leucine are believed to increase the secretion of insulin. This results in the muscles taking in more sugar resulting in reduced sugar levels in the blood. However, please note that this is based on an animal study. Further research is needed to check if the same results can be applied to humans. Some studies show that the effects on individuals can also vary or differ from person to person.