If you are serious about fitness, you’ve probably come across the acronym BCAA. Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs for short, usually come up in conversations about building muscle and improving physical performance during workouts. But how do BCAAs work actually? Here’s why you should consider making BCAAs a part of your workout routine.
How Do BCAAs Work in the Body?
BCAAs make up a huge chunk of your body’s total amino acids. The branched-chain amino acids consisting of leucine, isoleucine, and valine represent around 35 to 40% of all essential amino acids present in the body and 14 to 18% of those found in the muscles.
Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are broken down in the muscle, not the liver. They play a role in energy production during exercise. BCAAs play other functions in the body too. The body uses BCAAs as building blocks for protein and muscle.
In addition, BCAAs help lessen fatigue during exercise by reducing the production of serotonin in the brain. BCAAs may also be involved in regulating blood sugar levels by preserving muscle and liver sugar stores and stimulating cells to take in sugar from the bloodstream.
Leucine has the biggest impact on the body’s capacity to build muscle proteins while isoleucine and valine are effective at producing energy and regulating blood sugar levels. However, the body doesn’t make these amino acids on its own. You have to get them from food sources or BCAA supplements.
Benefits of BCAA Supplements
Work Out Longer
How do BCAAs work? What makes BCAAs special is how your body handles them. BCAAs get sent to the muscles directly, so the muscle can use them for fuel and build or repair itself.
It gives BCAA supplements a 2-pronged relevance to strength training. During workouts, BCAAs act as a fuel source, and post-workout, they help build muscle tissue. When you get your BCAAs from a supplement, the good stuff gets to the muscles a lot faster, not to mention easier to consume.
Get Bigger and Stronger
Muscle tissue is made of protein. Research has shown that BCAAs, particularly leucine, boost muscle growth by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Leucine acts like a key which turns on the process of protein synthesis that strings amino acids together to build muscle protein.
Cortisol is one hormone that BCAAs influence to increase muscle growth and strength. People taking BCAA supplements have lower cortisol levels during exercise. Cortisol encourages muscle mass breakdown. As a result, those who take BCAAs recover more quickly and have less muscle breakdown after exercise. This translates to less post-exercise muscle soreness.
During exercise, serotonin (5-HT) signals to the brain that your body is fatigued. Tryptophan is involved in the production of 5-HT in the brain. BCAAs, particularly valine, compete with tryptophan. Taking BCAAs before workouts reduce the amount of tryptophan that enters the brain, therefore delaying fatigue.
For this reason, BCAAs can help in long-duration training sessions. The ability to delay fatigue also means that BCAA supplements are beneficial for the brain as well. By reducing levels of 5-HT in the brain, mental fatigue is also reduced, keeping you sharper mentally.
Branched-chain amino acids can also aid in fat loss. The exact mechanism for this is not yet fully understood. Researchers proposed that an increase in protein synthesis brought about by leucine significantly increases energy expenditure, helping to burn off fat. Also, leucine has been found to reduce hunger, making you eat less while burning more calories, ultimately leading to fat loss.
BCAA supplements provide impressive benefits in certain circumstances, especially when it comes to enhancing physical performance during training and workouts. Both men and women can take these supplements.
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