What Are Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’S)?
Branch Chain Amino Acids are the “Building Blocks” of the body. They make up 35% of your muscle mass and must be present for molecular growth and development to take place. Eight are essential (cannot be manufactured by the body) the rest are non-essential (can be manufactured by the body with proper nutrition). Besides building cells and repairing tissue, they form antibodies, they are part of the enzyme & hormonal system; they build RNA and DNA and they carry oxygen throughout the body.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. The difference between full spectrum amino acids and regular protein powders is that protein powders have fillers, sweeteners, dyes and extra carbohydrates. More than 20 amino acids are needed to build muscle, red blood cells, and hundreds of other molecules that sustain life. Your body can produce all but 8-10 amino acids which must be obtained through your diet or supplementation. A complete amino acid profile is needed by your body to reach your maximum fitness potential.
The Function Of BCAA’S
They act as nitrogen carriers which assist the muscles in synthesizing other amino acids needed for anabolic muscle action. In simpler terms, BCAA’s combine simpler amino acids to form a complex whole muscle tissue. In this action, BCAA’s stimulate production of insulin, the main function of which is to allow circulating blood sugar to be taken up by the muscle cells and used as a source of energy. This insulin production promotes amino acid uptake by the muscle.
How Do BCAA’S Work?
During intense weight training the body is normally in a highly catabolic condition. At this time glycogen stores are being rapidly depleted and the liver in turn must synthesize glucose by a conversion of L-Alanine. Alanine makes up over half of the amino acid content released from muscles during exercise.
The release of BCAA’s is generally recognized as the signal to the body to stop protein syntheses in the muscles, especially during times of stress. Providing the Branch Chain Amino Acids, especially during those times of stress may profoundly affect this signal and allow protein synthesis to continue onward.
Important Co-Factors In BCAA Supplementation
As with most nutrition, many bodybuilders overlook the importance of combining and inclusion of co-factors when supplementing. Below is a list of supplements that play a part in increasing the effectiveness of BCAA supplementation.
Chromium: The most desired form is picolinate which functions to increase the effectiveness of insulin, a hormone composed of 91 amino acids, manufactured in the beta cells of the pancreas. Insulin is the most essential link in the muscle building chain. Chromium enhances the rate at which protein is synthesized by the body, and promotes intracellular uptake of free amino acids from the blood and assimilation by the cells. It retards the rate of protein degradation by the body within the cells. This is an absolute must to include in a quality Branch Chain Amino formula.
Zinc/Vitamin B-6: Zinc is the regulator of insulin. The natural co factor to this element is Vitamin B-6. As Vitamin B-6 is an important intermediary in amino acid metabolism; those athletes whose diets are high in amino acids need additional amounts from the body. The transport of amino acids in the cellular interior is most dependant on an adequate supply of Vitamin B-6.
Vitamin B-12: Another important water soluble nutrient that must be present in the protein metabolism and in the synthesis of amino acids.
Blotin: This all important member of the B family has an important role in protein synthesis and the manufacture of glycogen.
How Much and When Should You Take Amino Acids?
With BCAA’s 4-8 grams before a work out and 4-8 grams after is optimal. Lesser amounts are effective but if increased performance and recovery are needed a higher dosage is more effective. Taking BCAA’s immediately before or during a strenuous workout or cardio session will increase performance.
Taking them after with a post work out meal or recovery drink will help speed the replacement of BCAA’s in the muscles, speeding muscle recovery and preventing overtraining. For optimum results in supplement form, it is desirable to take your BCAA’s separately from the other amino acid groupings for the fact that they totally dominate the race for entry into the bodies’ systems.
Branched Chain Amino Acids are among the most beneficial and effective supplements in any sports nutrition program. Although these supplements have been around for a long time and the scientific understanding in the exercise performance benefits of BCAA supplementation is rich, many people don’t know exactly how they exert their effects or how vital BCAA supplementation is.
One thing is definitely sure though, that anyone who is looking to put on more muscle or gain more energy naturally without any side effects should very seriously consider taking BCAA’s.
Expert Fitness “Amino Acids” 2003.
Elite Image Nutrition “What Are Branch Chain Amino Acids?” 2003.
Gastmann “Overtraining and the BCAA hypothesis. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” 30, 1173-8 (1998).
Protein Customizer “BCAA’S” 2003.
Author: David Galanis