BCAA’s: why should you include them in your supplement plan?

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What are BCAAs and why do we need them?

BCAA is an abbreviation for branched chain amino acids that results from the combination of three amino acids: leucine, valine and isoleucine. These components represent one third of the total amount of amino acids you can find in muscle tissue. They are essential for every synthesis of the muscle tissue and are amongst the 9 essential amino acids for the human being. The body can’t produce them, its only source are foods (beef, pork, eggs, cheese, etc) that you eat daily, and supplements (you can find them in capsules or powder).

During a long strength or resistance workout, the body needs nutrients to use as an energy source. In order to produce energy, the body uses carbs and amino acids. If the body is deprived from these energy sources, it will steal the amino acids it can find in the muscles to overcome that deficit. That’s why the body is pleased to convert BCAAs (the most abundant amino acids in muscle fiber) into energy, because the bigger the amount of amino acids in your muscles, the smaller the chances for muscle cells to destroy muscle fibers in order to produce energy.

Usually, high intensity sports demand more BCAAs storages than aerobic activities. Although complete protein sources like meat contain BCAAs, there are a few studies that state that physical activity promotes the loss of those amino acids. Therefore, it is essential to use a BCAA supplement before and after working out.

What are BCAAs for?

1) They increase protein synthesis.

Every recent research reveals that it is necessary to take 3g to 5g of leucine to have an increase in protein synthesis. The BCAA ratio is usually 2:1:1 (for each 4g, 2g are leucine, 1g isoleucine and 1g valine), which means that, with 5g of BCAAs you’ll probably increase protein synthesis.

2) They avoid the catabolic effect (loss of muscle mass).

uring weight exercises or exercises that demand a lot of physical effort, the body goes into a catabolic state and if it doesn’t find the necessary nutrients for its replenishment during the workout, it will look for amino acids in the muscles so energy can be generated. The result is the degradation of muscle mass.

3) They maintain and stimulate muscle growth. 

The intake of BCAAs can have a positive impact over testosterone levels when taken before working out. During an intense workout, it is normal to face an increase in testosterone levels and to have them get back to their normal state after working out. Some studies have revealed that, when athletes take BCAAs before working out, the post-workout testosterone levels stay high for a few hours. Any individual whose goal is to build muscle mass will want testosterone levels to stay high and minimize cortisol release.

4) They increase performance.

Improving the performance translates into having more strength and resistance, lifting more weights, performing more reps and, consequently, obtaining a bigger muscle growth.

5) They speed up the recovery process in muscle tissue.

A study performed with rugby athletes has stated that BCAAs speed up the recovery process and improve performance. The athletes took BCAAs, arginine an glutamine during a 10,30 and 90 da period. In the end, the investigators stated significant improves in muscle recovery after the workout, a reduction in muscle fatigue and a bigger oxygen transport into the cells.

Another study published in 2009 reveals that 12 long-distance marathon runners were tested and by taking BCAAs, it was registered that they had less pain and muscle fatigue. Investigators found that BCAAs decreased the indexes of muscle damage, like inflammation.

6) They enhance fat loss.

A few researches reveal that BCAAs seem to maximize fat loss when you’re already following a hypercaloric plan. In any fat loss diet, carbs need to be reduced. The BCAAs have the ability of sparing glycogen and increasing insulin sensitivity, which may help speed up the results. Besides that, they’ll help keep the muscles, because as with any caloric restriction plan, you should take the loss of muscle tissue into account.

A study performed with wrestling athletes showed that the branched chain amino acids can also contribute to fat loss. 25 volunteers were divided into groups, and they all reduced the caloric consumption, but only one group took BCAAs during the study period (19 days). Conclusion: those who tooks BCCAS registered a 4kg weight loss.

READ ALSO: 9 reasons to take glutamine

When should we take them?

They can be taken 30/40 minutes before starting your workout to increase performance and immediately after working out to stop post-workout catabolism. If you want, you can also take them during the day to heavily decrease mass loss or even during the workout. Taking BCAAs as soon as you end your workout along with Isolate Whey Protein is a great option to help with a fast and efficient replenishment of amino acids in the muscles and speed up recovery.

What’s the adequate amount for each person?

Several studies came to the conclusion that, the recommended BCAA amount for those who do intense workouts is approximately 0.20g per kg of bodyweight, daily.

For example:

A person with 60kg should take 60×0,20= 12g of BCAA per day.

That amount should be divided 30/40 minutes before working out, during the workout and after working out. However, if your diet is rich in natural BCAA sources and if you’re taking Whey Protein or any supplement containing BCAAs, it is ok to reduce the amount.

People with 80kg or less: 3g of BCAA before, during and after working out (Total: 9g)
People with 81kg or more: 5g of BCAA before, during and after working out (Total: 15g)

Who should take BCAAs?

This supplement is recommended for any individual who plays sports and wants to increase muscle mass, prevent catabolism, speed up the recovery process after a long period of physical effort, improve performance and results.

Frequent Question

If the protein I already take has BCAAs in it, should I use an additional BCAAs supplement anyway?

Yes. Accordingly to a study published in 2000, taking BCAAs even when you’re already taking hey protein (high in BCAAs) is good for you. Some experienced bodybuilding athletes were part of this investigation and were divided into groups of two. One group took 40g of whey, the other took: 40g of whey, 5g of glutamine and 3g of BCAAs.

After 10 weeks of workout performing bench press and leg press exercises, the group who only took whey could only do, in average, 2 more reps on the bench press and 5 on the leg press. The group who took whey, glutamine and BCAA group did, on average, 8 more reps on the bench press and 9 more on the leg press. This means you can increase your performance and maximize results in the long term.

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Info: The advantage of taking BCAAs as a supplement is that they require no digestion, quickly entering the blood stream.

READ ALSO:

Learn how to pick the best Whey Protein to increase muscle mass

What are the best supplements to increase muscle mass?

What to eat to build muscle mass?

References:

N/d, BCAA Supplements Expert Guide: How to Use BCAAs For Optimal Results, n/d, translation an adaptation of the original version
Layne Norton, BCAAs: The Many Benefits Of Branched Chain Amino Acid Supplements, 1st of March 2012, translation an adaptation of the original version
Fernando Ribeiro, Os BCAAs tornam os treinos menos cansativos, 29th of November 2011, translation an adaptation of the original version
Fernando Ribeiro, Tudo acerca dos BCAAs, 22nd of June 2011, translation an adaptation of the original version
Mourier, A. et. al., Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite wrestlers, International Journal of Sports Medicine, January 1997, translation an adaptation of the original version
Matsumoto, K. et. al., Branched-chain amino acid supplementation attenuates muscle soreness, muscle damage and inflammation during an intensive training program, Journal of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness, December 2009, translation an adaptation of the original version
Ohtani, M. & Sugita, M. & Maruyama, K., Amino Acid Mixture Improves Training Efficiency in Athletes, Journal of Nutrition Vol. 136, February 2006, translation an adaptation of the original version
Colker, C. et. al., Effects of supplemental protein on body composition and muscular strength in healthy athletic male adults, Current Therapeuthic Research, January 2000, translation an adaptation of the original version

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