Are the building blocks of proteins and their English acronym stands for Branched Chain Amino Acid: branched chain amino acids as their chemical structure has a termination that resembles a branch.
But what are, what are benefits and when should they be taken?
Let's find out right away
There are 20 amino acids that make up a muscle protein, including 11 non-essential and 9 essential.
Essentials cannot be synthesized by the body and must be consumed through the diet.
Its necessary to secure them to the body through noble foods from a protein point of view or by combining different protein sources in order to obtain a complete amino acid spectrum.
Three of the 9 essentials are also known as branched-chain amino acids; BCAA precisely and are:
Leucine: the most important amino acid
Its considered a fundamental amino acid as it is directly involved in the production of muscle proteins (protein synthesis).
Helps in muscle growth, prevents catabolism from occurring during intense or long-lasting physical activity and supports metabolism during fasting periods.
Valine: the energy that stops muscle breakdown
Its the amino acid that converts into energy and the one capable of blocking the breakdown of muscles.
Performing the function of tissue reconstruction, especially muscle, valine is indicated in sports where maximum physical and degenerative effort is required for the muscles.
It has the characteristic of being quickly assimilated by the intestine and this factor makes it immediately available.
Isoleucine: energy and muscle building
Its the amino acid that has a double function: to produce energy and allow muscle building.
Isoleucine is linked to glucose requirements as, in the event of a deficiency due to intense physical activity, it is used as a substitute energy source.
Its also able to stimulate the cells that produce insulin and is, for this reason, ideal for diabetics.
These 3 amino acids are said to be essential as the body is unable to produce them by itself and therefore need food or be integrated through targeted supplementation.
BCAAs: what are they for?
Branched-chain essential amino acids are of particular importance for athletes as they are the major constituents of muscle tissue proteins, contributing about 20-25% of the total protein intake.
In recent years, their use has become very widespread, especially among bodybuilders and in endurance sports such as cycling, swimming, etc.
In fact, they have specific characteristics that differentiate them from the rest of the amino acids:
- fiber repair
- immediate recovery
- anabolic effect
Are metabolized directly by the muscles rather than in the liver and, within the muscle tissue, BCAAs are used by cells to rebuild proteins damaged by the mechanical stress resulting from intense physical exertion, ensuring very rapid fiber repair and immediate recovery.
BCAAs: benefits for athletes
Their positive characteristics make them a valuable support, especially when workouts are intense as they prevent the loss of muscle mass. Ensure effective muscle development, in particular, in the post workout and also stimulate the loss of fat mass.
The anabolic effect makes BCAAs the most used supplements by athletes.
When taken together with carbohydrates, they are able to release insulin. In fact, several studies have shown an ability to stimulate the insulin response up to 66%.
Furthermore, many researches have established a relationship between branched chain amino acids and reduction in fat mass.
One study, in particular, looked at a group of people who, by taking BCAAs for 8 weeks, lost 2.2% of their body fat and increased their muscle mass by 4.2 kg.
Integrating with BCAAs means not using, during training sessions, the amino acids of the muscle reserves for energy production, resulting in optimal muscle protection.
Therefore for all those athletes who want to avoid a reduction in muscle mass and strength, an adequate intake of BCAAs will allow them to avoid unwanted effects such as muscle catabolism and inadequate growth.
Perhaps the biggest benefit for athletes who train hard is the increased metabolic recovery that comes with supplementing with BCAAs.
Most athletes feel a substantial decrease in post-exercise muscle soreness soon after starting BCAA supplementation.
This means faster recovery from exercise-induced protein damage which in turn results in faster strength gains.
BCAA: 2: 1: 1, 8: 1: 1, 12: 1: 1 what are we talking about?
When we are faced with the choice of BCAA supplements, have all, surely, read these numbers regarding the relationship regarding the three amino acids.
We are referring, practically, to the parts of the 3 amino acids mentioned above contained in each tablet.
For example, if we choose BCAA 2: 1: 1 we will have 2 parts of leucine, 1 of valine and 1 of isoleucine.
Therefore, when the first number is growing this means that the leucine has increased and the higher its value, the better the protein synthesis and recovery.
When to take them?
BCAAs can be taken before and during training to get more energy and not only focus on recovery but also during and after a training session, ideal for covering energy needs and those of muscle recovery.
Certainly, given the wide range of choices, the factor to be taken into consideration is, of course, leucine for its central function of stimulating protein synthesis in the whole organism.
The choice between the different types of BCAAs is not absolute and there is no better combination than another but it varies according to the personal choices of the athlete.
A conscious choice is given by experimentation to determine which is the moment that, for specific needs, adapts to our body.