Branched-chain amino acids are essential amino acids that have a branched chemical structure and include leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids are not manufactured by the body and are only obtained through diet. Although BCAAs are found in meat, fish, eggs, legumes and other protein-rich foods, most individuals don’t get enough from what they eat. BCAA supplements are a convenient source of the nutrients. The supplements containing leucine, isoleucine and valine in a 2:1:1 ratio. They are retailed as capsules or powders that can be mixed into water and shakes. Research into BCAAs has revealed several benefits of the nutrients.

Enhance muscle growth

Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. BCAA bypass the liver and are readily taken up into muscle tissue. The amino acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis and leucine, in particular, has been shown to play a significant role in initiating the process. On average 2-3 grams of leucine is enough to achieve maximum muscle protein synthesis. The effects of BCAA make the supplement a favourite among weight lifters and bodybuilders.

Avert muscle wasting

BCAAs regulate protein turnover by controlling muscle catabolism and muscle synthesis. Wasting happens when muscle breakdown tops synthesis. Such a state occurs in malnutrition, chronic infections, and cancer. Aging is also a natural cause of muscle wasting. BCAAs inhibit muscle catabolism and increase protein turnover. 35% of essential amino acids in muscle tissue are BCAAs, therefore, replacement by supplementation slows down the progression of muscle wasting. BCAAs protects the muscle tissues despite high catabolic conditions in exercise.

Reduce fatigue during prolonged exercise

Fatigue stops you from getting the most from your workout. Although breaks and rehydration help, dealing with muscle fatigue is difficult. BCAA inhibits peripheral and central fatigue that arises during a workout. During exercise, the body yields energy from glycogen stores. BCAAs provide additional energy once glycogen reserves are depleted and consequently delays the onset of peripheral fatigue. By lowering tryptophan levels in the brain, BCAAs also delay central fatigue and improve mental focus.

Reduce muscle soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness develops 24 hours after working out and can last for up to three days. As a result, getting back to the gym becomes difficult. The science behind delayed onset muscle soreness is not fully understood. However, micro-tears that develop in muscle tissues after exercise have a strong association with the muscle soreness. BCAAs reduce muscle breakdown as revealed by the low serum creatine kinase levels after a workout while on the supplements. The BCAAs reduce the severity and length of delayed onset muscle soreness while improving recovery time.

Other benefits

Long term BCAA supplementation has been shown to improve the immune system. BCAAs are an energy source for immune cells in the gut. They promote cellular metabolism and replication. In liver disease, BCAA supplementation improves signs and symptoms. Although it does not affect the mortality, the supplements prevent complications of liver disease. Studies also show that BCAAs protect patients with liver cirrhosis from progressing to liver cancer.

BCAAs are essential for athletes, individuals on restrictive diets and anyone at risk of muscle tissue catabolism. Take BCAAs before, during or after work out to maintain optimum amino acid levels. If your food protein intake is not enough, supplements are certain to give you all the BCAAs you need.