All About BCAAs: Harmful, magical or plain simple Amino acids.

If a list of the most misunderstood terms are made up, BCAAs will not be far below.   Majority of the people hold the opinion that BCAAs are some sort of steroids which acre taken by colossal body builders to accord their muscles which has a lot of side effects including hair loss, damage to the kidneys, cancer and what not.  On the other hand a few handful of people also think BCAAs are some magical portion which when consumed will lead to drastic weight loss. Both of which are incorrect.

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What exactly is the BCAA?

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The human body consists of twenty different types of amino acids that make up the umpteen number of proteins throughout the human body. Nine out of these twenty Amino Acids are considered as essential, meaning our bodies cannot assemble them and therefore they have to be injected in the human body through a balanced diet or supplement. BCCA or Branched Chain Amino Acids are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

 Branched chains refers to the chemical structure of these Amino Acids. Leucine plays a vital role in muscle protein synthesis, whereas isoleucine prompts glucose uptake into cells.  The role of Valine is branched chain amino acids are yet to be found.

BENEFITS OF TAKING BCAA:

1. Increase muscle growth:

The leucine stimulates the muscle protein synthesis, which is the method of making muscle in the body. In a recent research people who consumed BCAAs after their workout had a 22.2% increase in muscle protein synthesis when compared to those who had plain mocktails.

Even though BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, other amino acids such as those found in whey protein or other complete protein sources (eg: meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy) are required to achieve optimal results.

2.  Decrease muscle soreness:

It is quite often that after a frantic work out , especially when starting a new routine that a person feels sore. This phenomenon is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which generally develops 12 to 24 hours after the workout and can even last till 72 hours. Although the precise reason of DOMS is yet to be discovered, it is robustly believed that it is because of the tiny tears in the muscle.

BCAAs dwindle the protein breakdown during working out and, hence, diminish levels of keratin kinase( indicator of muscle damage) resulting to decreased muscle damage and less DOMS.

In a nutshell, consuming BCAAs before a workout will decrease muscle soreness by reducing the damage in the muscle group that you decide to work on.

3. Reduce exercise fatigue:

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Along with decreasing muscle soreness BCAAs also reduce excersice- induced fatigue.

When an indiviaul works out he/she experiences debility and fatigue after some time. The amount of time you need to exhaust your energy tanks depends on many factors such as intensity, environmental conditions, nutrition and personal fitness levels.

During a workout session, the body uses up the BCAAs in your body leading to the decrease of many elements in the blood to. When the levels of BCAAs in the blood decrease, the levels of tryptophan increase. Tryptophan is a chemical which is converted to serotonin in the brain, which contributes to the build-out of fatigue during a workout.

Therefore consuming BCAAs prevent the decrease in BCAAs in the blood during a workout, which in turn will decrease the production of tryptophan and hence reduced fatigue and increases mental focus.

4. Prevent muscle wasting:

The proteins in the muscles are breaking down and synthesized around the clock. The balance between the two processes is what determines the amount of protein in the muscles.

Muscle breakdown or wasting is when muscle breakdown exceeds protein synthesis. This is a symptom of poor diet, malnutrition and turns out during infections, cancer, periods of fasting and is a natural result of ageing.

BCAAs in human contribute to about roughly 35% of the essential amino acids found in the muscle proteins. Hence, it is vital that the amino acids are ingested adequately to halt its progression.

5. benefit people with liver diseases:

BCAAs also aids with the health of patients of cirrhosis, a chronic liver condition where the liver functions faultily. Due to the liver not functioning properly the toxins from the blood stream cannot be removed which may lead to the development of hepatic encephalopathy, the loss of brain function.

One review done of 16 studies has shown that 827 people with this condition had a beneficial effect of taking BCAAs on the symptoms of the disease. BCAAs have also been found to protect against liver cancer by reducing the water retention and hence preventing premature death.

Dosage instructions:

The amount of BCAAs that an individual needs to consume on a daily basis depends on his goals and diet. However, generally adults should aim to consume:

Women: a minimum of 9 grams of BCAAs per day.

Men: a minimum of 12 grams of BCAAs per day.

People that follow a proper balanced diet that contains enough protein do not need to wield the supplements. However, athletes and people indulging in heavy weight training should aim to devour about 10-20 grams of BCAAs through the supplements to achieve optimal results.

The best time to consume BCAAs are either before or after a workout. Individuals that are aiming to bulk or gain an abundance of muscle also take them in the morning and before going to bed.

Safety measure:

Even though BCAAs are healthy and completely prudent. People with certain health issues should prevent the consumption of supplements. These health issues include:

  • ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • a congenital disorder known as maple syrup urine disease.
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