Everyone is talking about branched chain amino acids, in fact, more and more people are taking advantage of the effects of BCAA’s on the performance. Not in vain, their intake is steadily increasing in the fitness world, as well as in many other sport disciplines. After all, it has unique and extraordinary properties that no other supplement has.
They are a great product when it comes to increasing the muscle mass and dieting. All in all, amino acids are some of the most valuable products among athletes, together with protein. If you find this topic interesting, then this post will be the complete guide about the BCAA’s you have been looking for. We will answer all your questions regarding:
- What are they
- Main functions and effects
- Who can benefit from them
- How and why take them
- 1 What are the BCAA’s and what are they used for?
- 2 Who should take them?
- 3 Which ones are the BCAA’s?
- 4 The effects of unique amino acids on muscle growth
- 5 What are the best sources of these essential amino acids?
- 6 BCAA’s to…
- 7 Find out some of the curious facts about the BCAA’s…
- 8 Use of the branched chain amino acids for sports
- 9 When is the best time to take BCAA’s?
- 10 What is the adequate dose of branched chain amino acids?
- 11 Which is the best BCAA ratio?
- 12 BCAA’s vs Glutamine
- 13 Do these amino acids have side effects, contraindications or interactions?
What are the BCAA’s and what are they used for?
First of all, you should know that the BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids are a trio of essential amino acids. Above all, they are made up of Leucine, Valine and Isoleucine.
What are the essential amino acids? To put it briefly, they are those that our body cannot synthesize. Therefore, you will need to take them through the diet and/or with the help of supplementation. To illustrate how important they are, just picture that they make up almost a third of the skeletal muscle!
How do the branched chain amino acids work?
These amino acids are the most important ones for your organism for the reasons we have already mentioned. Shall we review their main functions?
- Gaining muscle mass.
- Stimulating the protein synthesis.
- Stimulating the release of insulin and, consequently, improving the amino acid transport.
- Decreasing the fatigue, which is why they are beneficial for periods of overexertion.
- Helping to keep the immune system on point.
- Enhancing the physical capacities in long duration sports.
- Producing energy (through oxidation).
- Buffering the muscle damage caused by constant physical exercise.
- Supporting the muscle recovery.
After reviewing the benefits of taking branched chain amino acids. Let’s continue analyzing these amino acids.
Who should take them?
If you fit any of the following categories, you should take BCAA’s:
- Athletes who practice strength sports or bodybuilding.
- Athletes who practice endurance sports.
- Vegans or vegetarians.
- People who undergo physical or mental stress.
- Patients who suffer muscle weakness.
- Patients who follow a diet.
Which ones are the BCAA’s?
We have already mentioned them, but now we are going to make a brief exposition about each one of them. Thus, you will start to become familiar with a group of amino acids that are commonly known as BCAA’s (Branched-Chain Amino Acids). They are becoming quite popular in endurance sports due to their properties for triathlon running, trail and ultra trail. Without further ado, here they are:
Leucine, the “limiting nutrient”
It is one of the most powerful natural supplements to gain muscle mass nowadays. In fact, this ingredient allows you to grow clean, solid and dense muscle mass. Above all this is due to its indispensable role in the activation of the protein synthesis (mTOR pathway).
This is due to its ability to retain nitrogen, providing a balance that will trigger the anabolism.
Think that, if you do not provide enough leucine to your body, it will not signal the several tasks to create new tissues. Consequently, the rest of the protein will not be used.
Did you know that leucine is labelled as a “limiting nutrient”? The reason is that the organism needs it to utilize the remaining amino acids properly.
Valine, indispensable for the nervous system
This amino acid plays an indispensable task on the nervous system and the cognitive function. In fact, it helps to treat sleep disorders (insomnia), nervousness and certain disorders related to the muscle tissue. In addition, taking it will also improve the functioning of the immune system.
Extra fact: it can also enhance the sport performance, since it stimulates the growth hormone together with the other two BCAA’s. And, to top it all, it provides the necessary energy to repair the tissues that are damaged during a physical activity.
Isoleucine, for the post-workout recovery
A leucine isomer, it is fundamental when it comes to regulating the blood glucose levels, apart from being involved in the blood coagulation processes.
It is crucial for those who want to achieve a perfect recovery. In fact, it is an excellent support for those who suffer physical weakness, since their muscle mass can be compromised by weightlifting.
At the same time, the body needs a positive nitrogen balance.
The effects of unique amino acids on muscle growth
You should obtain BCAA’s from the diet and supplementation since they are essential components for the muscles. Therefore, we will manage to develop new muscle tissue or avoid losing the existing one.
Regardless of your objective, either lose fat or gain muscle mass, the branched chain amino acids will stimulate your organism. In fact, they will help you reach your goals faster.
Above all, they are very important for demanding workouts, since they will prevent the body from breaking down the muscle mass to produce energy.
In addition, they allow us to gain muscle mass more effectively after the workout while burning fat simultaneously.
What are the best sources of these essential amino acids?
Are you interested in knowing what are the best sources of BCAA’s? The three essential amino acids (leucine, valine and isoleucine) are mainly available in animal protein.
In general, you can take them from any food that contains protein. For example, egg and meat are their most important sources. Perhaps you are wondering about how good would it be to use amino acid supplements. If that is the case, you should know that BCAA supplementation will depend on your activity.
Comparison between Evobcaas 2.0 by SportSeries (1 serving) and the Main Protein Sources (per 100g)
Comparison between Evobcaas 2.0 by SportSeries (1 serving) and Main Protein Sources (per 100g)
Comparison between Evobcaas 2.0 by SportSeries (1 serving) and Main Protein Sources (per 100g)
Here you have some interesting information about this group of amino acids which have the support of important organization such as the European Food Safety Authority.
- To gain muscle mass. This is the “star” benefit from this type of amino acids. At this point, you probably know that you have to start using sources of BCAA’s if you want to gain muscle mass. However, these amino acids are the ones that are mostly involved in the synthesis of muscle tissue.
- For a better anabolic hormone environment. The branched chain amino acids do not only stimulate the growth of muscle mass, but they also establish a hormone environment in the whole body. Said environment does not only stimulate the growth of muscle mass, rather, it also stimulates the fat burning processes and produces lean mass almost simultaneously. To top it all, it shortens the recovery processes and relieves the muscle damage.
- To burn fat. As long as you follow a hypocaloric diet (cutting phase), you can enter the catabolism. What does this mean? To put it briefly, it means that the muscle tissue runs the risk of being compromised. Above all, this is due to the fact that the body lacks enough calories and it tends to get rid of everything that may be a burden, that is, the muscles.
High BCAA levels
But what does this all mean? Quite simple: the body tends to break down the muscle fibers when there is a lack of calories, obtaining glucose from the amino acids. After reaching this point, you will experience what we know as catabolism, which is something that any “muscle builder” wants to avoid at any cost.
At a molecular level, the body breaks down the amino acid chains to obtain energy. If you do not have enough energy, the body will need to obtain it from some source. Therefore, we need to contemplate two factors: your fat percentage and which part of the body will be more affected by said catabolic process.
A fact: many studies have proven that those who take a high dose of BCAA’s in their diet have: less obesity and fat percentage, apart from a better physical composition. When it comes to leucine, it increases the energy expenditure and improves our tolerance to glucose.
Find out some of the curious facts about the BCAA’s…
- They are anti-catabolic substances. When the protein synthesis is equal or lower than the muscle mass used as energy, we will have a “negative nitrogen balance” caused by a lack of energy. However, this phenomenon is caused by the body itself in order to eliminate as much fat as possible.
- You do not have to digest them! Once you take BCAA supplements, your intestines will absorb them directly without having to be metabolized by the liver. Therefore, they will be available for the cells through the bloodstream.
- They help us save glycogen. One of the unique features of these essential amino acids is the fact that they “donate” nitrogen in the formation of l-alanine, a substance that provides glucose to the body when there are situations that affect the muscle glycogen.
Use of the branched chain amino acids for sports
Are you an athlete? If your answer is yes, then keep reading to find out the uses of the BCAA’s for the protein synthesis.
This is the reason why the branched chain amino acids are used as food supplements in those sports where we synthesize muscle mass. For example, fitness, bodybuilding or weightlifting.
In terms of sports, taking BCAA’s is ideal to…
- Decreasing the fatigue of the central system. Branched chain amino acids are the main competitors of another essential amino acids, L-Tryptophan when it comes to crossing the blood-brain-barrier. Then, once it reaches the brain, it will become the neurotransmitter serotonin. However, BCAA supplementation will reduce the amount of Tryptophan that reaches the brain, lowering the production of serotonin.
BCAA’s vs Serotonin
After 30-40 minutes of physical exercise, the serotonin levels will start increasing the feeling of fatigue. Consequently, this phenomenon will hinder your physical performance.
How can we counter this negative effect? Using BCAA supplementation will decrease the fatigue of the central nervous system, so that we can prolong the effort. Another positive point of using this supplementation is the fact that it will buffer the tissue breakdown and improve the recovery!
- Shortening the post-workout recovery. Who has not experienced muscle soreness after a demanding workout? This phenomenon is also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Above all, it is due to microscopic damage to the muscle tissues. The good news is, even though you cannot avoid them, you can still shorten the time it takes to recover.
After all, the BCAA’s relieve the muscle pain associated with high intensity physical exercise. Then, the question is quite simple: the sooner you recover from a hard workout session, the sooner you will be able to face the following one. Therefore, if you are one of those that feel as if exercise flows through their veins, take BCAA’s before and after the workout! Only then you will be able to shorten the recovery and muscle growth processes.
Once we have explained the uses and benefits of BCAA’s for athletes, we only need to tell you how to take them.
When is the best time to take BCAA’s?
Branched chain amino acids are extremely versatile, performing different functions depending on when we take them.
There are several supplementation protocols available, so we can talk about Peri-workout Supplementation (before, during and/or after the workout). We truly believe that this is the best choice, although this issue is completely subjective since it involves individual factors.
Before the workout
First of all, let’s talk about training on an empty stomach. This practice will considerably improve if you decide to take these amino acids.
We have already explained how branched chain amino acids help to save muscle glycogen and preserve the tissues after intense activities.
But, unless you train with an empty stomach, you can replace this serving and use it directly during the workout.
During the workout
Sometimes, if you have sweetened BCAA powder, you can use it as an intra-workout drink. How? You just have to mix the product in a bottle of water and drink small sips during the workout.
- Mix: 1 scoop of Evocarbs 2.0 every 400ml of water. Add ½ scoop of Evobcaas 2.0
- Take: Every 45 minutes of intense activity
- Mix: 1 scoop of Evocarbs 2.0 every 600ml of water. Add ½ scoop of Evobcaas 2.0 and 1 scoop of Evopept 2.0
- Take: Every 45 minutes of intense activity
The main formats of branched chain amino acids are: chewable tablets (chewable BCAA’s), capsules or tablets (together with an absorption cofactor such as vitamin B6) and powder. The latter will allow you to measure the dose more accurately, specially if you take higher doses.
After the workout
The workout is over and you need to find an efficient way of taking BCAA’s. Here you have some useful ideas to get you started!
Taking branched chain amino acids after the workout will mean that they will go directly to the bloodstream. Then, they will nourish the muscle cells directly. This would be similar to drinking a post-workout protein shake, but protein needs to be digested and the process would much slower. What then? Well, BCAA’s will slow down the muscle catabolism faster!
In fact, you can even take protein shakes and other added amino acids (like glutamine or creatine) to create a synergy that will enhance the protein synthesis and regulating the nitrogen balance!
What is the adequate dose of branched chain amino acids?
Currently, this is the big question when it comes to the essential amino acids. We will try to give you a concise answer.
The experts in nutrition suggest that the recommended dose of BCAA’s is 144mg x Kg of body weight. For instance, if you weigh 75kg, you will have to take around 11g of BCAA’s.
- A dose under 3g daily provides significant results in some people. On the contrary, others who weigh 50kg of fat report remarkable benefits with doses of around 10g.
- Therefore, a good dose would be between 20-30g for 2:1:1 formulas. You have to distribute that dose throughout the day.
The ratio refers to the amount of leucine, valine and isoleucine from a branched chain amino acid supplement. For instance:
- A-> amount of leucine
- B and C-> amount of isoleucine/valine
This would be an example of a 2:1:1 BCAA
BCAA Ratio: when and why?
Which is the best BCAA ratio?
At HSN, we believe that the 12:1:1 ratio is the best since it provides more Leucine
We go for the highest ratio due to the latest research and reviews:
“…From all the interest surrounding the BCAA’s, leucine is the main amino acid in charge of stimulating the protein synthesis. In fact, Dreyer et al. and other studies have proven that a post-workout leucine supply after a strength workout will enhance the mTOR signalling and the protein synthesis…”
“…Particularly, a good dose of leucine (3-6g), will activate the mTORC1 complex…”
BCAA’s vs Glutamine
This is a classic topic that we are going to try and clarify with the formula that we think is the best: BCAA’s + Glutamine.
Branched chain amino acids, together with glutamine, create a synergy. While the BCAA’s are the most abundant amino acids in the muscle mass, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the blood plasma and muscle cells.
There is correlation between the glutamine concentration in the body and the protein synthesis ratio.
If you want to achieve notorious results, combine both nutrients! Decrease the tiredness and fatigue with the combination of these two ingredients in order to reach your goals.
Do these amino acids have side effects, contraindications or interactions?
There are no known side effects or serious interactions caused by the intake of the BCAA’s. Moreover, if there are any they would be related to high doses that exceed the recommended doses. You must never exceed the recommended dose by any means.
In any case, if you suffer a pre-existing medical condition you could experience some side effect, which is why we suggest not taking branched chain amino acids. In any other case, this product is regarded as safe.
We believe that we have provided enough useful information to solve any questions you may have had about the BCAA’s. However, we may have forgotten about something, or maybe you are curious about something in particular. If that is the case, drop us a question, we will answer as soon as we can!.
- Stipanuk MH. (2007). Leucine and protein synthesis: mTOR and beyond.
- Jim Stoppanir, Timothy Scheett, James Pena, Chuck Rudolph and Derek Charlebois (2009). Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss.
- Norton LE1, Layman DK. (2006). Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise.
- Mero A, Pitkänen H, Oja SS, Komi PV, Pöntinen P, Takala T.(1997). Leucine supplementation and serum amino acids, testosterone, cortisol and growth hormone in male power athletes during training.
- Erdman J., Oria M., Pillsbury L. (2011). Nutrition and Traumatic Brain Injury: Improving Acute and Subacute Health Outcomes in Military Personnel.
- Blomstrand E. (2006). A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue.