Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs have become immensely popular in the past few years, due to their alleged positive impact on physical performance. And it’s true that they offer a lot of benefits. Let’s delve deeper into their structure and the science behind why they’re deemed a great sports supplement.
First of all, amino acids are what makes up the molecule of a protein. Our bodies break down the protein we ingest into separate amino acids and the chains that connect them together, called peptide bonds. Amino acids have lots of key roles in our bodies, like creating new tissue, (muscle tissue), strengthen the immune system, improve hormone function and many other processes. Taking this into consideration, we will take a more in-depth look at amino acids, especially branched-chain amino acids, and how consuming them can help both recreational lifters as well as professional.
Proteinogenic amino acids
As a species, we need to consume 21 proteinogenic amino acids in order to synthesize various specific proteins and hormones which are essential to our bodies’ proper functioning. Of these 21, 9 amino acids are deemed essential, which means that our bodies can’t produce them on their own and they must be obtained via diet. The other 12 are deemed non-essential or sometimes essential because they can be produced inside our bodies using substrates when necessary.
BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAAs)
From the essential group of amino acids, 3 of them, leucine, valine, and isoleucine are usually known as branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs, because of their molecular structure. Numerous studies have suggested that L-leucine might be the most effective amino acid in terms of stimulating protein synthesis inside the muscle tissue and preventing catabolism (tissue breakdown). BCAAs possess many unique physiological properties in that when consumed they are directly taken up by the skeletal muscles instead of being metabolized by the liver first.
They can also be an efficient source of energy for your muscle during training, which means they can increase the capacity to endure longer training sessions. Studies have also shown that consuming BCAAs pre and post-workout has a positive impact on reducing recovery time and improving muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs can be found in nature, mostly in protein from various foods, especially animal meats, and they appear in 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, iso-leucine, and valine respectively. But, a lot of BCAA supplements change the three amino acid ratio, despite studies repeatedly concluding that the 2:1:1 is the most ideal.
Why getting BCAAs from your diet only isn’t enough
A lot of people make the assumption that BCAA supplementation is pretty much useless since they already eat a diet which has a high amount of protein. However, food processing tends to diminish the amount of protein usually found in domestic meats and many other rich protein sources, which is why most people fail to meet their daily BCAA needs. Which is why it is advised to take a BCAA supplement even if you think you’re consuming enough protein from your diet.
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