BCAAs or branched chain amino acids are essential for your body to function. We are able to get BCAAs through our diet, and more specifically through the proteins we eat. BCAAs are made up of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The main use of BCAAs that we are interested in is their ability to reduce protein and muscle breakdown during exercise and to increase protein synthesis after your workouts. Leucine has been shown to have the most dramatic impact on protein synthesis.
Whole Foods: BCAAs
So as I mentioned above BCAAs, and other amino acids, are found in the protein we eat. You have to eat dietary protein to have it turned into muscular protein through the process of protein synthesis. This can be entirely done through whole foods. That is the role of proteins. Now the process of breaking down the food you eat and freeing the BCAAs and other amino acids takes time. Often 2 to 3 hours.* This is fine during the normal routine of your day, but it may not be ideal post workout.
BCAA supplements differ from whole food protein sources in that the BCAA’s are “free form” rather than bound in the protein. They require no digestion for the amino acids to enter your blood stream. You may recall seeing amino acid information of the label of whey protein powders. You are still dealing with a protein so aminos will be present, but these are not automatically free form aminos. The BCAA’s in whey are peptide bound. They must be digested like whole foods in order to be released into the blood stream.* You might see BCAA blends with ratios of 2:1:1 or 4:1:1. Those are the ratios of leucine to isoleucine to valine. Remember that leucine has been shown to have the most dramatic impact on protein synthesis, so that is why these blends have a disproportionate ratio of leucine.
Using BCAA’s as an intraworkout can have a great effect on protein synthesis and the degradation of muscular protein. This is where I have been utilizing Purple Waarth (an EAA blend – Essential Amino Acid – includes BCAA’s). I take it during my workout to supply my body with what is essentially instant protein. It is already broken into the amino acids and gets right into my blood stream to fuel my muscles and prevent muscle tissue from being used for fuel. This can be extremely beneficial when you are losing weight. By taking BCAA’s you can maintain a level of fuel for your muscles that you can’t necessarily get at an extreme deficit. BCAA’s can help you maintain all of your mass as you get really ripped.
There is also a body of research that supports BCAA’s as a post workout drink. It seems completely logical. If BCAA’s are pre-broken down proteins, and whey still takes time for the peptide bounds to be broken, then why not get some instant fuel into your bloodstream to start the process of protein synthesis? Now if you are taking BCAA’s as an intraworkout, then they are already in your bloodstream and you are reaping the benefits much like taking it post workout.
I hope you like these takeaways and have learned something new that will help you in your health and fitness journey. What you should know about BCAAs? They are found in the protein you eat, namely meat and vegetable proteins. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the three that make up BCAAs. They aid in recovery by helping increase protein synthesis and preventing further breakdown of muscle.
Do you absolutely need to supplement with them? No, you can get all of your aminos from your whole foods. This is not a “Must Have.” If you do have some extra supplement budget, it could be wisely spent on some BCAAs. Popular brands are Xtend, Purple Wraath, and AmiN.O. Energy.
* A lot more information can be found from the work of Layne Norton, PhD. He writes regularly for Bodybuilding.com, Muscular Development, and his own site BioLayne.com. Check out: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bcaas-the-many-benefits-of-amino-acids.html
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