BCAA or branch chained amino acids are a key element in our biological construction. When it comes to exercises and muscle building, many are oriented towards protein and their absorption and development. However, most do not understand that BCAA are equally important when discussing about muscle growth and how BCAA help you build muscle.
Why are BCAA important?
Nearly one-third of the muscles are made from BCAA, hence their critical role in muscle building and exercises optimization.
These amino acids not only function as muscle builders, but also play key roles in many other complex biological processes, such as DNA and RNA reconstruction, oxygen distribution and antibodies formation.
Our organisms need over 20 essential amino acids to develop muscle and produce many other important molecules that play an essential role in growth and development.
The human body complex is able to produce itself the majority of amino acids. However, there are 9 amino acids that we need to get from food or supplementation. These are known as essential amino acids.
All sources of protein, such as red meat and dairy products, are natural sources of BCAA.
However, different lifestyles (vegetarianism, for example) or medical complications (lactose intolerance, for example) can cause amino deficiencies and require additional.
What does BCAA do?
During intensive exercises, the body enters a catabolic state. This assumes that the body breaks glycogen stores (energy) and synthesizes them into glucose molecules with the help of the liver.
This process is triggered by the release of amino acids such as L-Alanine, which is a result of the stress of the muscles during exercises.
The release of these amino acids acts as a signal for the body so that it stops protein synthesis. By adding BCAA supplements, especially during this stressful interval, this signal can be reversed and protein production and muscle development can be restarted.
How BCAA help you build muscle?
An aspect that makes branched chain amino acids so special is how your body digests and uses them.
Normally, when you consume amino acids – either as protein powder or individually – they go through the liver for the first time. Here, the liver breaks down and uses them as a fuel, or sends it to muscle or other tissues to repair and increase them.
The BCAA evades the regular route (trough the liver), and goes straight to the muscle where it does its job.
Thus, the BCAA can accomplish two goals during fitness training:
- can be used by the muscle as a fuel
- when the training ends, BCAA starts repairing the damaged muscle tissue
That is why many coaches and experts in supplements recommend taking these amino acids before, during and after training.
As you know, muscle tissues are made of protein. And proteins are made of amino acids that are tightly bound together.
Muscles grow by aligning several amino acids together to create more protein. This process is known as the synthesis of proteins in the muscles.
Even though the 3 essential amino acids that are contained in BCAA are also in the essential amino acid range, their role is not just building blocks.
Studies show that BCAA, especially leucine, helps increase muscle mass by directly stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Leucine behaves like the key that starts the engine that creates new proteins in the muscle.
Besides, leucine stimulates insulin, a hormone that in turn increases the synthesis of proteins in the muscles.
Another way that branched chain amino acids improve muscle growth is to increase growth hormone (HGH).
Italian researchers found that athletes who consumed BCAA for a month had a higher level of HGH after training. The higher the level of HGH after training, the more you can expect a faster increase in muscle mass.
And there’s another way BCAA influences mass growth. There is a hormone with which we are all familiar, namely cortisol – the hormone of stress. During training, cortisol levels in the body increase.
Cortisol encourages the breakdown of muscle proteins (loss of muscle tissue) and takes the testosterone paper.
As several studies tell us, BCAA reduces cortisol and its negative effects. Thus, athletes consuming BCAA had a much lower rate of decomposition of muscle proteins, which encourages protein synthesis.
When should you take BCAA?
For the best results, you should take them at least before and after training. At least because during nighttime sleep, the body can enter a catabolic state (the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver) and that would mean a slower recovery or a few steps back for the muscle growth your aiming for, therefore it is recommended to take another dose of BCAA before bedtime.
How much BCAA to take?
Between 4 and 8 grams represents the typical amount.
Sure, this may vary, depending on the type of training, recovery time, and so forth. Obviously, supplementing with BCAA before and during training will increase performance, and post-workout supplementation will accelerate muscle recovery.