Why Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's) are Essential for Athletes? [PART 1]


5 Dicembre 2008
Do you know that branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are of a special importance to athletes and body builders? Why? Because they can provide optimal energy levels, enhance sports performance by building protein and muscle tissues, reduce fatigue, and much more. Besides, BCAA has found its application in the treatment of such serious diseases as muscular dystrophy, cancer and cirrhosis.

What is bcaa?
BCAA is a combination of essential branched chain amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine that are of special importance for bodybuilders and athletes because these amino acids are used by the body to build up protein.

Because BCAA’s are essential amino acids, they are not produced by the body in the same way as non-essential amino acids, but are rather obtained from our diet and nutrition. That is why, it is suggested that bcaa supplementation is of significant importance to athletes because they can alleviate any deficiencies that the body alone cannot synthetize.

Due to the way of BCAA’s metabolism, which occurs in the muscle rather than the liver, the effect of these branched chain amino acids is much quicker and efficient than of any other amino acid. After bcaa are digested, protein breaks down into individual amino acids that can either be used to build new proteins or become some sort of a fuel that produces energy for the body, thus enhances sports performance in a natural way. If your diet is balanced, branched chain amino acids will be used for protein synthesis, essential for endurance athlets and strenuous workouts.

BCAA's are also used to reduce fatigue in both anaerobic and endurance sports. Because of its anticatabolic properties and vital role in protein synthesis, leucine is considered to one of the most critical BCAA.

What is bcaa used for?
Numerous studies on BCAA’s were done in the past several years, demonstrating practical and theoretical use for these amino acids. Although there are a few reseaches showing mixed results, in most cases BCAA supplements have shown quite favorable results both in animals and humans.

Increase protein synthesis. Several studies demonstrated the ability of BCAA’s to provide beneficial results on protein synthesis, which resulted in bigger muscles. In addition, BCAA supplements increase the level of such hormones as growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin, which adds to the benefits of these amino acids.

Under certan conditions, including extreme stress (e.g. strenuous long-term exercise in mountains), 10 grams per day of BCAA supplements demonstrated the ability to increase muschel mass.

Endurance. BCAA’s ability to serve as a donor of nitrogen in the formation of l-alanine, shows benefits for the whole body. It provides the tissues with glucose after glycogen stores are depleted, which may enable you to train at higher intensities for longer periods of time. BCAA supplementation may also keep your energy at higher levels, even when you are on a low carbohydrates diet.

Faster recovery. Studies show that BCAA supplementation results in the increase of metabolic recovery, meaning that the recovery period between workouts is much faster.

Fat Loss. At least two studies demonstrate the ability of BCAAs to significantly promote visceral body fat loss, which is usually hard to lose under normal circumstances. 25 wrestlers participated in this study. After 19 days of BCAA supplementation, the group with a high dosage of BCAAs lost the most body fat (mostly in the abdominal region), about 17% in average. This may give credence to BCAAs effectiveness at fat loss in the abs part. The second study showed that when in extreme stress (e.g. hiking) , people saw muscle mass gain as well as fat loss.

Immune System Boost. When your body experience strenuous workouts, stress, or illness, your immune system suffers and you become more prone to infections and strength loss. BCAA’s cam help reverse glutamine loss, which is very important for the immune system. In addition, these amino acids can help prevent the body’s catabolic state, and this also improves faster recovery and less damages to your body cells. With the help of BCAAs, muscle proteins aren’t burned for fuel, thereby this supplement spares breaddown of muscular protein. This helps the body train more hard and increase protein synthesis, which means more muscles for you. A study done on obese patients, who were put on a starvation type diet, the administration of BCAA helped induce anabolism and nitrogen sparing, which made the body burn fat instead of lean muscle mass, thus sparing muscle protein.

BCAA supplements for therapeutic uses
There is some evidence that BCAAs may be beneficial for appetite improval in people undergoing cancer treatment. Appetite improved in 55% of those taking BCAAs (the dose was 4.8 g daily) compared to only 16% of those who took placebo.

BCAA supplements may also reduce the symptoms of lateral sclerosis, however not all studies proved its positive results on this health condition.

A series of small studies show that the supplementation of BCAAs may decrease the symptoms of dyskensia, which is a movement disorder caused by long-term usage of antipsychotic drugs. The branch chain amino acids also were found to be promising in helping with the recovery from traumatic brain injury.

One double-blind study found that leucine (one of the BCAA’s amino acids) was ineffective at the dosage of 0.2 grams per kilogram in 96 patients with muscular dystrophy. The subjects were studies on a long-term basis (over 12 months) with no significant differences between the leucine and placebo groups.

Who uses bcaa?
Because of their vital importance in a proper muscle tissues functioning, BCAAs are widely used and popular among body builders, endurance athletes, and other people wishing to stay healthy and strong. Due to its metabolism in the muscle, athletes and body builders supplement BCAA during workouts and trainings requiring endurance and vigour. Even if you exercise a little, this may cause the BCAA’s levels to drop speedily leading to the increased catabolism (muscle breakdow), and fatigue. If you want to build muscles or if you train hard and for a long period of time, BCAAs can be a good choice to ensure that your energy is produced not from the muscles that you’ve worked so hard to build.

BCAA-Rich Foods
What foods supply the most bcaa?
BCAAs can be found in most protein-rich foods, with its greatest content in dairy products and red meat. The higher the quality of protein source, the higher amount of BCAAs you get. Whey protein as well as egg protein are rich in branched chain amin acids.

Isoleucine can be found in most food sources and it is particularly high in meat, fish, and cheese products.

The food sources of leucineis mainly such quality protein foods as beans, brewer's yeast, caseinate, brown rice bran, and corn.

Valine can be found in soy flour, fish, meats, cottage cheese, grains, mushrooms, peanuts, and vegetables.

How many bcaas are in a banana?
Banana is rich in many essential amino acids, including BCAAs. The content of leucine is 320 mg per gram, isoleucine – 250 mg/gm, valine – 260 mg/gm.

How bcaa powder looks and tastes?
Branch-chain amino acids (BCAA powder) is a white grainy powder. Its taste is slightly bitter, although this bitterness can be hidden with any juice you usually take (banana, orange, apple juice) or any other whey or protein supplement.

What are bcaa soluble in?
BCAA are readily soluble in formic acid, but they can hardly be soluble in water, and are practically insoluble in ethanol. BCAAs can be soluble in dilute hydrochloric acid. For a better supplementation, you can mix BCAA powder with a smothie, protein supplement or any other drink in about 30 minutes before workouts.

What is the best way to take bcaa?
The most common form of BCAA supplementations are powder, pills, and liquid drinks. Both forms are effective, however their difference lies in the speed of the amino acids absorption.

It was reported that when you ingest protein and leucine with carbohydrate, this stimulates protein synthesis in the muscle tissue, as well as optimizes the body’s protein balance when compared with the supplementation of only carbohydrates alone after 45 minutes of strenuous workouts. There is some evidence that orally-ingested BCAAs have an anti-catabolic effect during and after workouts.

Several clinical studies demonstrated that BCAAs can increase protein synthesis and reduce protein degradation. However, many people presume that if they increase their consumption of whey protein, which is rich in BCAAs, will lead to the same effect as pure BCAA powder supplementation. Unfortunately, they are not right. BCAAs in whey are bound to other amino acids and must be freed through digestion and only then they are absorbed into the bloodstream to exert their effects. Even though whey protein seems to be comparingly fast digesting, it still takes several hours for all the amino acids to be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, pure BCAA powder requires no digestion as it is rapidly absorbed into the body’s bloodstream, providing much more effect than peptide bound amino acids.

Even if you take just a few grams of BCAAs, your blood plasma will be spiked to a much greater extent than a 30 gram dose of whey protein. Protein synthesis will be felt in much more greater degree. The reason why pure BCAA powder has such a powerful effect on blood levels of the amino acids, is because of the metabolism of BCAA, which passes directly to the blood stream rather than digesting in small intestine or the liver. Therefore, an oral BCAA supplementation is considered to be of the same effect as injection, because it reaches the bloodstream very rapidly.

Best time to take BCAAs
When to take bcaa powder?
The effectiveness of BCAA supplementation depends on a few factors. If you eat much with lots of protein, the benefit of these amino acids may be limited. Unless you are very skinny or obese, you should follow more a dialed in re-comping approach that involves adding small amounts of muscle and dropping small amounts of fat at the same time.

Taking into account these circumstances, there may be a good value in adding high doses of BCAA, especially during and after workouts. In this way the total calories will be kept lower to minimize fat gain while still keeping protein synthesis high. All this is done thanks to the benefits of the mTOR cascade. Several scientists suggest that daily calories can be reduced by about 300-500 and thanks to the supplementation of BCAA powder (the intake of which must be high enough around workouts), the body will not lose lean muscle mass, but will burn fat instead.

Furthermore, high doses of BCAA during workouts (about 30-40 grams) may significantl reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). In addition, there is some evidence that athletes had reduced soreness after a squat workout. The BCAA intake may be able to help athletes effectively train 3-4 extra days thanks to accelerated recovery.

How many teaspoons are 5 grams of bcaa equal to?
A regular BCAA dose for people, involved in not so strenuous workouts as body builders, is equal to approximately 5 grams. If measured in teaspoons, 5 grams of BCAA powder will be 1 teaspoon with no heap.

How many grams of bcaa powder should you take?
The typical therapeutic dosage of brainched chain amino acids (BCAA) powder is from 1 to 5 grams on a daily basis.

How long do bcaa last in solution?
To increase the anabolic effects of exercise, you should take BCAA powder 15-30 minutes before and after workouts. Due to the way BCAA is metabolized in the body, it comes directly to the blood stream resulting in more strength, endurance and muscle recovery.

When will i notice results from taking bcaa?
The effect from taking BCAA is usually felt in 30 minutes when the amino acids reach the blood stream and release their energy.

How long do bcaa's stay in your body?
After consumption, BCAA’s stay in your body for 3 to 4 hours reducing fatigue from low intensity and long duration exercise.

Where are bcaa metabolize in the body?
BCAA metabolism is not the same as other amino acids. It differs in two ways:

The oxidation of each three amino acids that comprise BCAAs are catalyzed by two common enzymes: an aminotransferase which produces branched-chain-keto acids (BCKA) and a dehydrogenase which metabolizes the BCKA;
The body metabolizes BCAAs as a group of amino acids. Their cirulating concentrations correlate with each other closely – when one branched-chain amino acid is reduced, so are the other two and vice versa.
BCAA are very energy-rich. While they are oxidized, they produce significant quantities of cellular energy known as ATP.

Physical workouts are associated with increased BCAAs oxidation, although these amino acids remain minor fuels when compared with carbohydrate or fat.

BCAA is mostly catabolized in skeletal muscle. This represents an important difference between brainched-chain and other amino acids that are primarily digested in the liver and intestine. When you eat a protein-rich meal, the BCAA account for a disproportionately high fraction of the increase in circulating amino acid levels. This increase in the levels of BCAA enables these amino acids to serve as regulatory signals for a variety of cellular processes.

What is recommended bcaa powder dosage?
Dosage recommendations for BCAA powder as well as pills vary widely and more research is required before confirming the final recommended dosage of BCAA’s. One of the most recent researches suggests that that BCAA’s dosages typically range from 200-300 milligrams (mg) of each BCAA daily to 2 and 5 grams of each on a daily basis. Another study showed that BCAA is effective in smaller doses, too. Therefore, the dose of 150mg of each leucine, isoleucine, and valine daily may have positive health effect.

Many body builders and marathon runners recommend the intake of BCAA using this scheme: 5 grams before, 5 grams during and 5 grams post workout. Several resources mention this type of scheme:

Before exercise you should take 10 grams of BCAA’s along with 10-15 grams of whey hydrolysate and 20-25 grams of high GI carbohydrates.

During exercise it is recommended to take BCAA at the dose of 10 grams, whey hydrolysate - 10-15 grams, and high carbohydrates drink or foods - 20-25 grams.

After exercise athletes recommend 10 grams of BCAA, 40 grams of whey isolate and 50 grams of carbohydrates

How much bcaa gram do you need for recovery?
The usual dose of BCAA’s for recovery is 5 to 10 grams after workouts.

How many mg of branched chain aminos should i take after workout?
The same answer as to the above question – 5 to 10 grams of branched chain aminos.

What is the maximum daily dose of branch chained amino?
For most people, diets provide a significant amount of BCAAs, which is about 25-65 milligrams per 2.2 pounds of the body weight. You can take approximately 3 to 5 grams of BCAAs during exercise to delay fatigue and improve exercise performance. The maximum daily dose of branch chained amin acids shouldn’t exceed 30 grams.

How much powdered bcaa should be taken daily by women?
BCAAs are a great supplementation when it comes to a low calorie diet, when your goals are to lose body fat and gain muscle mass at the same time. In a nutshell, when exercising the body usually uses protein stores as in muscle mass for energy. When you take your dose of BCAAs before cardio or training, this will provide amino acids and protein for your body to use as energy. Therefore it doesn’t have to use your precious muscles.