10 Reasons You Need BCAAs

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are made up of three essential aminos including L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine. They are essential because the body is unable to synthesise them out of other amino acids, therefore they must be consumed in sufficient amounts in order to maintain good health.

As well as in supplement form, BCAAs can be consumed through a range of protein-rich foods such as red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, whey protein, certain nuts (e.g. peanuts and almonds), lentils and certain beans. Although it is important for everyone to consume foods that are rich in essential nutrients, athletes who frequently undergo long and intense training sessions may need additional supplementation to fulfill the higher nutritional requirements.

BCAAs are a very popular supplement. With individuals looking to increase their strength and/or muscle mass, several studies suggest that they can assist with muscle recovery and growth while providing an energy source to the muscle cells.

Here are the top 10 reasons why, as an athlete, you may consider taking BCAAs:

1. BCAAs make up around 35 per cent of the amino acids in muscle tissue and can also be burned as an energy source. This is why you need to increase your intake of BCAAs if you undergo intense and frequent exercise, as energy production and muscle recovery processes are required to be performed in a capacity that exceeds the diet’s ability to support it.

2. Research has shown impressive results that have been achieved through use of BCAAs, particularly when it comes to endurance exercise. It appears that the most superior results will be achieved through daily ingestion, plus a dose both before and after training. For long and/or intense sessions, an additional dose every hour may be recommended. Each dose will ideally provide around 6g of BCAAs in total.

3. BCAAs have been shown to have a protein-sparing effect during the recovery period after exercise and, as BCAAs can be converted into glutamine, it has been shown that they actually preserve glutamine levels too. This effect is beneficial not only to muscle recovery, but also to maximising immune function.

4. L-leucine has a significant ability to stimulate muscle growth, improving strength and increasing strength exercise capacity. Taking high doses of L-leucine (together with other amino acids and carbohydrates) after a training session has been shown to improve performance at subsequent training sessions.

5. BCAAs consumption has been shown to support the repair and growth of muscles and also reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is likely due to their ability to promote healing, and through attenuation of the muscle damage that occurs during exercise. If you are someone who likes to complete multiple hard sessions per week, or more than one session in a day, here is another reason why BCAAs supplementation may be beneficial to you.

6. BCAAs have been shown to enhance energy metabolism in muscle cells, contributing to their ability to support both performance and recovery. They have also been demonstrated to enhance the activity of the enzymes involved in muscle protein synthesis (e.g. mTOR, p70s6k) which aids in stimulating the growth and recovery processes.

7. BCAAs down-regulate factors involved in muscle atrophy (e.g. MuRF-1, MAFbx) during the recovery period, ensuring that muscle health isn’t compromised by suboptimal repair.

8. BCAAs have a branched chain that simplifies the job of converting each amino acid into energy during intense exercise. The more BCAAs that are present in muscles, the more they will be used for energy, slowing the breakdown of muscle cells and helping to prevent muscle loss.

9. Combining BCAAs with resistance exercise results in protein synthesis because they both trigger mTORC1, a pathway essential for muscle building. BCAAs, glutamine, alanine and aspartate are all taken into the muscle tissue for energy and it is suggested that the muscles are designed to burn BCAAs for energy during exercise, making it essential for performance.

10. If you need to take time off training due to injury or illness, BCAAs may be helpful in minimising your muscle loss as they trigger protein synthesis even in the absence of exercise. The preservation of lean muscle tissue can be beneficial for keeping your metabolism even.

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