What are BCAAs and what are they for? Did you know that in the right amount, they can significantly increase endurance during exercise? This is true! Thanks to BCAAs, muscles regenerate and grow faster. Read about all 7 health benefits of BCAA supplementation that athletes will love the most.
What are BCAAs?
The body contains 20 amino acids, which form thousands of different protein chains. Nine of them are considered essential amino acids, which means that these amino acids cannot be synthesized on their own, but they enter the body through food or nutritional supplements. Three of these nine amino acids are called BCAAs.
BCAAs are responsible for many tasks in the body, such as protein synthesis, energy production, the formation of other amino acids such as alanine and glutamine, or the regulation of leptin. We will tell you all about the properties of branched-chain amino acids in the next lines of the article.
BCAAs are known in particular as nutritional supplements for athletes. Essential amino acids are essential for the proper functioning of chemical processes in the body. BCAAs will not only help you achieve your dream figure, but are also of tremendous importance for the body.
1. Increase protein synthesis and muscle growth
The amino acid leucine has the ability to activate and stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which supports muscle growth. This process makes BCAAs anabolic and anti-catabolic. This fact is confirmed by many scientific studies.
Muscle protein synthesis occurs when amino acids combine to form new muscle protein. Protein synthesis stimulates insulin production, allowing muscle cells to use blood sugar as an energy source. Insulin production also helps transport amino acids to muscle cells.
One study tested the effects of BCAAs on a group of people who took 5.6 grams of BCAAs after strength training. It turned out that their muscle growth score was 22% better compared to those taking the placebo.
Further research has shown that BCAAs when combined with whey protein can increase protein synthesis by over 50%. ] Whey protein, as a source of all essential amino acids, will enhance the BCAA’s effects on muscle building and growth. Therefore, in order to maximize the effect of BCAAs, it is necessary to obtain essential amino acids also in the form of protein or from food.
2. Reduce muscle pain
Research has confirmed that BCAAs reduce muscle damage after exercise. They can also help reduce the duration of muscle pain. Several studies have shown that BCAA consumption reduces protein breakdown during exercise and lowers levels of the enzyme creatine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage.
Study participants who took BCAA supplements before squat workouts significantly decreased muscle pain and fatigue compared to the placebo group. Therefore, taking BCAAs before exercise helps to speed up muscle recovery and regeneration.
3. Reduce fatigue after exercise
BCAAs can help not only reduce muscle pain, but also post-workout fatigue. Exercise exhaustion depends on several factors, including the intensity and duration of the exercise, the environment, or your fitness level.
Muscles use up the supply of BCAAs during exercise, causing them to decrease naturally in the body. When BCAA levels fall, the amount of tryptophan in the brain increases. It is converted to serotropin, a brain substance thought to contribute to fatigue during exercise.
Two studies confirmed that participants who took the BCAA had better concentration during exercise. This is how BCAAs work to reduce fatigue. However, this effect does not appear to improve endurance during exercise.
4. Support the formation of alanine and glutamine
The human body needs a lot of alanine and glutamine, especially during exercise. This is due to increased muscle protein breakdown, which can lead to muscle loss if there are not enough amino acids in the body. BCAA supplementation will provide sufficient amino acids for the formation of alanine and glutamine.
Intense strength training also causes increased protein catabolism. Glycogen stores are quickly depleted and the liver must synthesize glucose with L-alanine to produce enough energy. BCAA supplements help maintain the alanine levels needed for good endurance.
Drinking a BCAA drink can also help the body form the amino acid glutamine, which is found in skeletal muscle. Glutamine regulates protein synthesis and nitrogen balance. Learn more about the other effects of glutamine for athletes in our article.
5. Regulate leptin levels and promote fat burning
Taking leucine supplements stimulates the action of the hormone leptin. Leptin affects the regulation of metabolism, weight, and appetite. Leptin secretion is linked to body fat levels. A high amount of body fat causes higher secretion of leptin, while a low-fat level causes a decrease in leptin levels.
If you eat a low-calorie diet to lose fat, the amount of leptin you make is reduced. Accordingly, your body asks for food to replenish its fat stores. Leucine has the ability to activate the effect of leptin, due to which the body feels adequate calorie intake, which supports diet and metabolism. This way you can effectively reduce body fat and weight.
6. Prevent muscle loss
Proteins in muscles are constantly broken down and synthesized. The balance between these two processes is determined by the amount of protein in the muscles. Muscle loss or breakdown occurs when protein breakdown exceeds protein synthesis.
Loss of muscle mass is a sign of malnutrition and occurs in chronic infections, cancer, and fasting periods and is a natural part of aging.
In the human body, about 35% of the essential BCAA amino acids are found in muscle proteins, which make up 40% of all amino acids required by the body.  Therefore, BCAAs and other essential amino acids must be supplemented during muscle loss to prevent this process.
Several studies support the use of BCAA supplements to prevent muscle protein breakdown. According to research, BCAAs can improve the health and overall quality of life of older and sick people.
7. Relieve symptoms of liver disease
BCAA amino acids can improve the course of cirrhosis and therefore chronic liver disease. It is estimated that 50% of people with cirrhosis develop hepatic encephalopathy, a disease that causes impaired brain function. This happens when the liver is unable to remove toxins from the blood.
While some antibiotics are the main treatment for hepatic encephalopathy, BCAAs can significantly alleviate the course of the disease. An analysis of 16 studies on 827 patients confirmed that BCAA supplementation had a positive effect on the symptoms and signs of this disease.
Liver cirrhosis is a major risk factor for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer. The properties of BCAAs also have a positive effect on the symptoms of this disease.
Several studies have also shown that taking BCAA supplements may help prevent liver cancer in people with cirrhosis. Therefore, experts recommend taking BCAAs to treat liver disease and prevent complications.
Recommended daily serving of BCAA
The standard dose of isoleucine is 48 to 72 mg per kilogram of body weight. The recommended dose of leucine is 2 to 10 grams. This corresponds to approximately 20 grams of combined BCAA amino acids with a balanced ratio of leucine and isoleucine per day.
One dose of BCAA nutritional supplement should contain 5 to 10 grams, depending on the time.
Ideally, BCAAs should be taken 30-60 minutes before training and then immediately after training. At the same time, it is recommended to mix BCAA with water and take it during exercise in order to have enough energy and suppress fatigue.
The ratio of amino acids in BCAA
If you choose a BCAA nutritional supplement, you may be confused by the different amino acid ratios. The most commonly used ratio is 2: 1: 1, which is two parts of leucine and one part of isoleucine and valine. You can also find BCAAs in ratios of 4: 1: 1, 8: 1: 1, and 10: 1: 1. Leucine in too many doses is justified by its beneficial effects on muscle building. The fact, however, is that production in ratios of 8: 1: 1 and 10: 1: 1 is simply cheaper.
When it comes to a 2: 1: 1 ratio, this is the most typical BCAA regimen. The 4: 1: 1 ratio was also considered by the study, and the results showed an increase in protein synthesis of more than 30%.  Therefore, we recommend using BCAA supplements in a ratio of 2: 1: 1 and 4: 1: 1.
The negative effects of BCAA
There are no known side effects of BCAA supplements because these are the same substances that can be obtained from a protein-rich meal. BCAAs, on the other hand, induce feelings of fullness and satiety.
All in all, BCAAs have many beneficial effects on the body. They are most beneficial for athletes as they can help them reach their sports goals faster. BCAAs improve muscle regeneration, protein synthesis, and promote fat burning and the formation of other amino acids.
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