WHAT IS BCAA?
One of the most essential macronutrients for the body is protein, mainly attributed to how much it is able to keep you feeling full longer without any adverse effects even when taken in more than moderation, compared to the other macronutrients like carbs and fats. And what makes up this super nutrient is amino acids, organic compounds in your body that combine as a building block from the breakdown of protein, which in return helps your bodily functions, mainly with muscle repair and growth. If you didn’t know already, amino acids branch out into three kinds; non-essential, essential and conditional. Non-essential amino acids are the ones that are readily produced within your body. Whereas essential amino acids need to be derived from food, exactly the kind that BCAA is.
Before we delve into BCAA benefits, here’s a rough picture on how it works. BCAA consist of three amino acids, namely valine, leucine and isoleucine. Compared to the other types of amino acids, BCAA easily constitute about 35-40% of the amino acid content in your body.
Also, unlike other amino acids, BCAA is not metabolised by the liver prior to converting them into respective nutrients and their functions. For this reason, BCAA holds the ability to directly influence muscle growth.
Owing to its effectiveness in inducing muscle repair and growth, BCAA stars as a crowd favourite among fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders and anyone generally looking to repair muscles and tissue. With the growing need for it, BCAA can now be supplemented with powder and pills too, in effort of trying to make it more accessible at much lesser hassle. BCAA supplements make for a great option for those who struggle to consume the amino acids in whole from natural sources of food.
1. Fuels body during workout
Remember how we mentioned BCAA consists of three components of amino acids? Two of it, namely isoleucine and valine, are directly capable of producing energy and regulating blood sugar levels. Like we mentioned earlier, these amino acids do not metabolize in the liver but are instead broken down in your muscle itself, thus proving its significance in producing energy. This makes BCAA ideal for intense workouts because it will be used as an additional source of energy to keep your body fueled and going without tiring you out. These amino acids are also able to increase and preserve better your storage of glycogen, the component that keeps your body fueled and energized. All in all, BCAA helps fuel your body during intense workouts, prevents the breakdown of muscle protein while doing so, and preserves your body’s storage of glycogen.
2. Increases muscle growth
Consuming BCAA supplements will not only help speed up your muscle growth, but also protect and preserve your muscle mass. This links back to how the breakdown of muscle protein is prevented when BCAA is present in the body. As a result, the muscle proteins remain preserved and unconsumed, protecting your muscle mass overall. Thanks to leucine, BCAA benefits your body by stimulating muscle protein synthesis and activating enzymes functional to build muscle, caving way for faster growth though studies have proven that other amino acids still need to be present in the body in order for the result to be at its optimum. Weightlifters especially can benefit from these amino acids to a great extent when taken in combination with wholesome, protein-rich diets.
3. Reduces fatigue and muscle soreness
We all know what the aftermath of an intense workout is-the soreness and fatigue you get afterwards can be such a distress! A study consisting of a team of people involved in strength-training exercises found that participants who were put on BCAA supplements rated their soreness 33% lower than those who were put on a placebo. This has been associated with BCAA’s ability to prevent muscle protein breakdown as well as muscle damage; the amino acids have been proven to bring down the level of creatine kinase, one of the main indicators of muscle damage. BCAA also contributes to the conversion of serotonin in your brain from the amino acid tryptophan, thus maintaining a “feel-good” mood while and after you work out.
4. Benefits people with liver diseases
This one deserves a special mention in our list of BCAA benefits. Though they may not have a direct effect on mortality, these amino acids have been proven to help with the symptoms of chronic liver disease called cirrhosis. One of the main symptoms of the named disease is hepatic encephalopathy, in which the brain loses its capacity to filter toxins from the body and many other functions, risking your body into coma in some cases. At such instance, BCAA has been able to help reduce and delay such symptoms without causing any detrimental effects to the body except mild nausea and diaorrhea.
5. Boosts immunity
A commonly overlooked benefit of BCAA is its ability to boost the immune system tremendously. Not only are these amino acids used by muscles to fuel and grow themselves, but they are also used as a source of fuel for the immune cells to regenerate themselves and fortify the immune system in the long run. Having a stable immune keeps your health in check at all times and prevents you from falling ill easily.
SOURCING BCAA NATURALLY
As we mentioned earlier, because they are essential amino acids, BCAA needs to be primarily sourced from food. Here’s how you can source the amino acids naturally in events where you are not looking at BCAA supplements.
|Food||Serving Size||BCAA content|
|Whey Protein Powder||1 scoop||5.5g|
|Soy Protein powder||1 scoop||5.5g|
|Parmesan Cheese||½ cup||4.5g|
|Greek Yogurt||½ cup||2g|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 ounce||1g|
Now that we have covered BCAA benefits, and sources, what about the dosage? How much is safe to consume? That will gravitate back to your needs and goals.
However, according to the World Health Organisation, it is within recommendation to consume 1g of BCAA for every 10kg of your weight. For instance, if you weigh 50 kg, then your suggested dosage for BCAA intake would be 5g daily. That said, if you are going with BCAA supplement, it is best you consume it before or after a workout session, followed by a low-calorie diet for best results.