BCAAs: What They Are and Why to Take Them

BCAAs or branched chain amino acids are represented by leucine, isoleucine and valine and make up for 35% of the amino acids present in the muscles. Unlike most of the other amino acids, BCAAs bypass the hepatic metabolism (liver) and are directly involved in muscle work, where they serve as donors of nitrogen for the synthesis of other important amino acids, such as glutamine and alanine.

By doing so they are directly involved in the anti-catabolic processes that take place in the muscles.

The administration of BCAA, therefore, allows the following advantages :

1. Greater stimulation of protein synthesis

2. Increased muscle strength due to the opposition of the entrance of free tryptophan in the brain. The latter is an essential amino acid which in the last stages of physical activity, the moment when BCAAs begin to act as an energy substrate, enters the brain, where it is converted into serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that imparts the feeling of fatigue ( this is a good reason to take BCAAs before a workout )

3. Limitation of the formation of ammonia ( Which is a very toxic substance to the tissues and prevents protein synthesis ).

4. More energy during workouts. This is due to the fact that BCAAs during their oxidation form alanine, which is the most important precursor of gluconeogenesis (formation of new glucose , therefore energy) in the liver , while maintaining stable blood glucose. Not to mention that the synthesis of glutamine depends on the branched chain amino acids.


5. BCAAs work best when the muscle is in a catabolic state, for example due to a low calorie diet, so they can help prevent muscle loss during strict diets.

6. Faster recovery.

7. Stronger immune system.


Taking BCAA before a workout

· Taking the branched chain amino acids before a workout triggers the response of some anabolic hormones, particularly growth hormone, insulin and testosterone.

· In addition, BCAAs block the entry of tryptophan into the brain (mentioned earlier), so we get more energy during an intense workout.

Taking BCAA in the middle of a workout

· Taking BCAAs could decrease protein degradation that occurs in skeletal muscle during intense exercise.

· For the reasons mentioned, the administration of BCAA during exercise can also be used to reduce some of the difficulty encountered during long training sessions.

Taking BCAA after a workout

· To restore the energy reserves and to facilitate the protein synthesis, thus decreasing the catabolism post-workout.


As a rule of a thumb, you should take 1g of BCAA per 20lbs of body mass. So, a person weighting 200 lbs should take 10g of   branched chain amino acids, divided in three parts – before, during and after the workout.


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