What is BCAA?
Branched Chain Amino Acids
The Arabic scientific name is BCAAs, which are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The name "Branched Chain Amino Acids" is derived from the structure of these compounds. Each one has a branched bump that looks somewhat like a branch, hence the name BCAAs.. The three branched chain amino acids are incredibly basic and actually fall into the category of essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are amino acids that the body cannot manufacture on its own, and therefore adequate amounts must be obtained through dietary sources. In fact, although there are about 20 amino acids that muscles use for growth, branched-chain amino acids make up roughly one-third of the amino acids within muscle tissue. So if muscle growth is your goal, BCAAs are a must.
BCAA performance improvement
Improving performance while training is extremely important no matter what your goals are. If you are an athlete, the improved performance will help you in the sport of your choice during the actual competition. Improved performance is just as important as bodybuilding because improved performance translates to more weight lifted, which ultimately translates to more muscle growth.
These acids have been proven in numerous studies to be a powerful performance enhancer and, as mentioned earlier, are a great source of energy for muscles due to their unique metabolism. This can have a positive effect on performance but not only can BCAAs be used as energy in their own right, but they also promote lipid oxidation in glycogen depleters. This allows individuals to train more vigorously for a longer period without fatigue due to meeting higher energy requirements. This applies to both high intensity training as well as endurance training.
Another way BCAAs can boost performance is through their ability to spare glycogen during training. Glycogen is found as a carbohydrate stored in muscle tissue and the liver, and is the preferred fuel source for muscles doing high-intensity exercise. This makes the availability and maintenance of glycogen vital if you want to continue with hard training for longer periods of time. Studies have shown that by taking these amino acids before and during training, a 25% reduction in glycogen levels can be avoided. Eating them is believed to boost blood levels of alanine, which is converted into glucose in the liver and then returned to working muscles for use as fuel. Providing glycogen will not only allow for longer, more intense training sessions, but will also allow for a faster recovery resulting in a better workout tomorrow.
The BCAA Fat Loss
The effects of eating these amino acids on fat loss is something that has only been explored in recent years. Recent research shows that BCAAs can have a positive effect on fat loss. This does not mean that you can eat pizza at every meal with a side of BCAAs and it will melt the fat. BCAAs appear to maximize fat loss when a person is already on a fat loss diet.
In any fat loss diet, carbohydrates should be reduced somewhat. It appears that this amino acid's ability to spare glycogen and increase insulin sensitivity may play a role in accelerating the results of a fat loss plan.
This amino acid should also be used as a supplement during any fat loss plan due to its muscle-preserving effects. In any calorie-restricted plan, muscle tissue loss is a serious concern that must be addressed. All the positive effects that BCAAs have on muscle growth will also work to protect the muscles during periods of calorie restriction. It is always important to remember that anything that builds muscle will also maintain muscle.
Increase protein conversion
BCAAs (which are the essential amino acids valine, isoleucine, and leucine) stimulate muscle protein conversion, possibly more than natural protein alone. Protein conversion is the metabolic process when your body makes new muscle protein, also known as gains.
Reduce protein breakdownIncreased levels of amino acids also work in your favor by reducing the rate at which protein is broken down. They do this by decreasing the activity of the protein breakdown pathway, and also by many of the complexes involved in protein breakdown. (It reduces the amount of messenger RNA produced by the gene that codes for these components.)
If we reconsider our original equation for muscle mass, it is clear that increasing synthesis and decreasing breakdown would equate to gaining or maintaining muscle.