Protein is the building block of life. Just about every process in the human body requires protein. If you want to build muscle, it is virtually impossible without protein. Actually, if you’re trying to add muscle, lose fat, improve athleticism, or just improve your general health protein plays a major role in all of these actions. Proteins are classified as two types essential and non essential. Essential amino acids are amino acids that you have to get through food and your body cannot produce on it’s own. Nonessential amino acids are produced in the body but unlike their name, they play very essential roles in the body. There are nine essential amino acids and eleven nonessential amino acids. Of the essential and nonessential amino there are even smaller classification groups of amino acids. One of those groups that has vital importance is Branch Chain Amino Acids.
If amino acids are the soldiers your body needs, then branch chain amino acids would be the “Captain America” super soldiers.
What are branch chain amino acids?
The term “branch chain” simply refers to the chemical structure of the amino acids. Branch chain amino acids are comprised of three amino acids. They are L- Leucine, L-Valine, and L-Isoleucine. The three of these are also essential amino acids, so the body has to get them thru food or supplementation. They also make up about 41% of the performed amino acids used by mammals.
What are the benefits of branch chain amino acids?
Branch chain amino acids have a variety of benefits for the body. Here are some of the benefits based on just a few fitness goals.
- Trying to add muscle-
Branch chain amino acids make up a little over 1/3 of muscle protein. This mean out of all the muscle tissue in your body, 1/3 of that is comprised of Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine. Knowing this it kind of makes sense to use bcaa’s (branch chain amino acids) when trying to add muscle to the body.
One of the biggest benefits bcaa’s provide, is when trying to add muscle they increase protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the rate and speed where the body begins to build protein on a cellular level. The faster this happens, the quicker changes in the body can be seen. When branch chain amino acids are supplemented, they seem to help aid and speed up this process. Leucine has been found to be the amino acid that that helps speed up protein synthesis the most in muscles. Bcaa’s have also been shown to have a direct relation with positive nitrogen balance. Positive nitrogen balance is a optimal state where the higher the positive nitrogen balance the faster the body can repair.
- When trying to lose fat-
Branch chain amino acids do a great job at not only helping build muscle tissue, but also preventing muscle tissue breakdown. When the body is under stress like low calorie situations it is much easier for the body to want to break down muscle tissue instead of stubborn fat. By holding on to your muscle while dieting or under stress, this will improve you physical health and structural appearance. Branch chain amino acids also run the unique ability to be energy providers to muscles. Most amino acids have to go thru a process of being broken down, passing thru the intestines, and finally broken down by the liver before they can be used for energy. Branch chain amino acids can bypass this and be metabolized in muscle tissue. This is especially helpful when training intensely, on a low calorie diet, or in a stressful situation.
- Improving general health-
Not just from a fitness standpoint but in general, bcaa’s are very important to muscles. Let’s say you are on a very restrictive diet, be it for contest prep, health reasons, or maybe a vegetarian lifestyle bcaa’s will help prevent muscle wasting. Sometimes these diets can limit your intake of certain amino acids. This can sometimes lead to a loss of muscle. Branch chain amino acids will surely help with this since they are metabolized in muscles. They will also improve your intake of the essential amino acids.
- For bodily repair-
I spoke earlier about the benefits of bcaa’s on muscle building and sparing but branch chains also aid in the repair after muscle tissue breakdown. Branch chain amino acids have also been shown helpful in the repair of tendons, injury, chronic illness, and some surgeries.
One study suggested that patience given a branch chain amino acid solution during recovery remained in a positive nitrogen balance as opposed to a group that was not given the branch chain amino acid solution. For the group remaining in the positive nitrogen balance, this was an indication of little to no muscle tissue loss.
What is the suggested dosage of Branch chain amino acids?
While there is no standard dosage per say, a good rule of thumb is 5 grams for women and 10 grams for males broken in two divided doses. If a person is looking for muscle building or fitness benefits, they could use anywhere from 5-10 grams for women and 10-20 grams for men. You could also take more or less based on your nutritional needs but if your not sure consult a knowledgeable person first. You also want to make sure your taking them in a proper ratio. You should always take the three together.The most common ratio that you see bcaa’s in is usually a 2:1:1 ratio. That would be 2 parts leucine,1 part isoleucine, and 1 parts valine. If you were taking five grams the ratio would be something like this:
2.5 grams of leucine
1.5 grams of isoleucine
1.5 grams of valine
You could buy your branch chain amino acids separate, but most come in pill or powder form already in the ratio that is best for optimum use. If you really want to try a supplement that gives you a lot of nutritional bang for your buck then maybe you should give branch chain amino acids a try. Not only are they essential amino acids that your body needs to get from an outside source, but they provide benefits that go way beyond your normal scoop of protein powder. So next time your thinking of a “must have” supplement make sure branch chain amino acids are on that list.