Few supplements on the market today tout strong backing from scientific research, of which Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCAA's) are one of them. They are immensely popular amongst the fitness community due to their positive effect on muscle building, as well as their use for staving off muscle breakdown while dieting. When utilized correctly in ones diet and supplement regimen, BCAA's can be one of the most integral additions to your proverbial supplement toolbox.
The amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are the family of building blocks that make up Branched-Chain Amino acids. These aminos are in a group known as essential amino acids, which are those that humans need to get from our diet and cannot produce on our own. BCAA's are unique because in free form, like found in Beast BCAA's or Aminolytes, are absorbed right into the bloodstream after digestion unlike intact proteins, which you will learn leads to many of their amazing benefits. Another interesting characteristic is that BCAA's can be metabolized by the muscle, providing immediate energy. Subsequently BCAA's have a strong anti-catabolic effect, in essence staving off muscle breakdown, and also a strong anabolic effect, driving protein synthesis to build muscle.
BCAA's are typically found in a 2:1:1 ratio. Research thus far has shown this ratio to be sufficient for performance, protein synthesis, and decreasing protein degradation. Higher ratios of Leucine are theorized to offset the uptake of valine, and Isoleucine, but as for right now that is nothing more than theory. Leucine is the heavy hitter of the bunch, activating key pathways in the body that regulate protein synthesis. Of which Leucine is a key regulator of the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway, which plays a critical role on skeletal muscle Hypertrophy, or the accretion of muscle tissue. Leucine can also help stimulate the Phosphatodyl-Inositol-3-Kinase pathway (PI3K) in addition to, but also independent of insulin, increasing glucose uptake and protein synthesis. Simply put Leucine is a rockstar when it comes to getting your muscle building machinery going, and prevents your body from using your muscle tissue for fuel during exercise or when in caloric deficit.
In addition to their muscle saving and building capabilities, BCAA's serve athletes and even liver disease patients in other ways! Research has shown that BCAA's can increase aerobic and anaerobic capacity, increase strength, power, and resistance to fatigue, as well as decrease muscle soreness from intense exercise. All these attributes would prove to be advantageous to almost any athlete. Stepping off the field of play, BCAA's have also been researched in clinically diagnosed liver disease patients. Liver regeneration, detoxification, and correction of plasma amino acid balance, are purported positive indications that BCAA's exhibit when administered to those suffering from liver disease. Read more about the importance of liver cleanse for optimal liver health and function in this guide on how to detox your liver holistically.
When it comes to timing there are several windows:
▪ Upon waking
▪ Between meals
▪ During your workout
▪ Immediately post-workout
▪ Before Bed
That may seem like a lot, but the above list is ideal, not necessarily always practical. Of the list the three most important times would be upon waking, during, and immediately post-workout. Recommendations for dosing will range from as little as 200-300mg of each BCAA to 2-5 or more grams at each serving, with some recommending 20 grams. It seems the lower range dosing offers the least amount to receive any tangible benefit, with increasing efficacy up to 20 grams. My basic recommendation to reap marked benefits would be to supplement 2-5grams at each serving. If you’re carrying a good amount of muscle or are dieting 5-10 grams per serving is a sufficient amount. A single serving of Beast BCAA's provides 2.4 grams of BCAA's in a 2:1:1 ratio, which is perfect for a waking dose, between meals, before bed, and even post-workout. Aminolytes contain 6 grams of BCAA's per serving and also add in electrolytes to improve your performance and extend your time spent in the gym. Coming in a powder form, Aminolytes are a great option in the peri-workout window; pre, during, and post-workout.
So there you have it. If you're looking to take it to the next level by gaining some more lean body mass, or want to keep your hard-earned muscle while acquiring that 6 - pack, BCAA's are the supplement for you. Remember a supplement is just that, a supplement to a good nutrition and exercise plan. Nail those down first then bring it to the next level. Until next time, get Big, be Strong, keep Fit, and stay Healthy!
Written by Adam Bisek