There are many reasons that people may want to build lean muscle on their bodies. It helps to keep the weight off because muscle burns fat 24-hours a day, it supports the body’s skeletal system and lean muscle makes the body look good.
Instead of going to the gym and just lifting weights, some people that are serious about building up their bodies also take supplements like branched chain amino acids or BCAAs.
What are BCAAs?
To understand the benefits of branched chain amino acids, you must first understand what they are. Amino acids are the building blocks of the body. Most of the body, including cells, muscles and tissues, are made up of amino acids.
They act to help repair damage to the body, transport and store nutrients, as well as allow the body to function properly.
Branched chain amino acids are a group of essential amino acids that include leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are considered essential because the body cannot produce them.
BCAAs account for 40 percent of the daily requirement for the nine essential amino acids. They are only available in foods that have protein in them including eggs, beef, salmon, chicken and whey protein, all of which contain the highest concentration of BCAAs.
The Role of BCAAs
Along with being found in foods with protein, branched chain amino acids are also in supplements, which are used mainly by bodybuilders.
These supplements help to enhance muscle growth, help to strengthen muscles, promote the burning of fat and help to repair damage to muscles.
Each of the three BCAAs play a significant function in the many benefits of these amino acids.
Leucine, also called L-Leucine, is often referred to as the main BCAA because it is responsible for the most popular benefit to bodybuilders, which is muscle growth. This BCAA triggers a protein called mTOR and it helps to activate muscle protein synthesis.
Although the other two BCAAs can also trigger mTOR, leucine is more powerful than they are combined.
Isoleucine contains two important benefits for bodybuilders. It helps increase their endurance levels, which allows them to lift weights for longer, and it promotes healing of muscle tissue.
When people lift weights, it first tears down the muscle before rebuilding them bigger and stronger. Isoleucine helps to repair the tears in the muscle so they can get back in the gym and workout again.
Valine helps to keep muscles from breaking down by supplying them with glucose for energy during workouts. It also acts to remove nitrogen from the liver, where it could be toxic, and transports it to other organs as it is needed.
Along with being beneficial for bodybuilders and other athletes, valine has shown potential as treatment for liver and gallbladder disease caused by alcoholism and drug abuse.
The Benefits of BCAAs
Many athletes take supplements that contain BCAAs to build muscle and strengthen their bodies. These essential amino acids have several benefits for athletes, especially bodybuilders.
Increases Muscle Size
While exercising, especially weightlifting, taking supplements containing BCAAs can help athletes increase the size of their muscles. BCAAs triggers protein synthesis, which is essential in muscle growth.
Research suggests that muscle is designed to burn BCAAs for energy during intense exercise, so it is important to use supplements with BCAAs to replace the energy used during workouts.
In addition to helping build muscle, BCAAs may also help prevent muscle loss when athletes need to take time off training because of an injury or needing to give their body a break.
BCAAs trigger protein synthesis even when you are not working out, so by preserving your lean muscle mass, they help to maintain metabolism levels and prevent fat gain during times of inactivity.
Promotes the Burning of Fat
Studies have shown that people who have a higher BCAA intake in their diets have less body fat, more lean muscle and better body composition that those with lower BCAAs in their diet.
While isoleucine helps to improve glucose tolerance, leucine helps to increase fat oxidation and energy use. This allows for a more flexible metabolism, which helps to burn more fat with diet and exercise.
Increases Endurance and Decreases Fatigue
Taking supplements with BCAAs can help athletes get through a long intense workout routine and decrease muscle fatigue. They can be burned as energy to help maintain energy levels during exercises that deplete glycogen levels. In addition, since they may help burn fat, BCAAs can act to help increase available energy.
BCAAs may help to stave off fatigue by preventing the uptake of tryptophan by the brain. Tryptophan is responsible for making serotonin in the brain, which increases fatigue and tiredness.
However, studies have shown that participants who increased their levels of BCAAs for three days and participated in an intense workout routine showed greater resistance to fatigue when compared to those who took placebos.
Improves Body Composition
The three BCAAs support insulin sensitivity and help to maintain the metabolic rate to help improve body composition.
Studies have shown that people who had a higher level of BCAAs in their diet lost the most weight during weight loss trials and they also had the best improvements in insulin sensitivity. Diabetics need to be cautious about taking BCAAs as they can increase insulin levels.
Supplements containing BCAAs help to increase the levels of these essential amino acids in the body are available in both powder and pill form. They can be taken by themselves as supplements or they are often found in protein powders as well.
BCAA supplements are taken by athletes because they enter the blood stream faster than foods containing high levels of these essential amino acids.
Athletes use BCAA supplements about 30 minutes after a workout to help their bodies recover. They help the muscles repair themselves during the recovery period.
It is recommended that 3,000 milligrams of leucine be taken after a workout to stimulate protein synthesis as well as help your muscles and other tissues repair themselves after any workout.