What Are BCAA’s?
First of all, proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. Some of these the body can make for itself (non-essential) and some must be consumed through diet and supplementation (essential).
BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids) consist of the three essential amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. These amino acids (BCAA’s) make up for 35% of the essential amino acid profile found in muscles. As these amino acids cannot be made in the body, it is ‘essential’ we get them through diet and supplementation. Naturally, BCAA’s are found in foods that are high in protein; animal protein and dairy has the highest BCAA’s concentrations.
How Do They Work?
BCAA’s are relevant in exercise because the body can use them as energy, but they are also vitally important in the role of protein synthesis. For anyone trying to gain or preserve lean muscle, BCAA’s should be a ‘must have’ supplement. In particular, Leucine is the main amino acid of the three that is used to produce energy during exercise. Leucine is also the key amino acid that stimulates muscle protein synthesis in the post-exercise recovery period.
This means, the more BCAA’s present in your body, pre, during and post exercise, the higher the chances are of preserving and gaining lean muscle.
When Should They Be Used?
The ideal time to supplement with BCAA’s would be prior or during training, although they can also be taken directly after training. Exercise suppresses muscle protein synthesis whilst concomitantly increasing the breakdown of muscle protein. Therefore, it is extremely useful to ingest BCAA’s before or during training. By doing so, muscle protein breakdown is halted and protein synthesis can ‘reboot’ immediately after training. BCAA’s can also be ingested directly after training or gained through a Whey Protein shake, all of the BPI Sports Proteins contain at least 5g of naturally occurring BCAA’s.
Vegetarians may struggle to get sufficient amounts of BCAA’s within their diet, although Soy Protein contains a full “essential” amino acid profile, the BCAA’s levels are lower than in sources such as Whey. Therefore, vegetarians will benefit from supplementing with BCAA’s.
BCAA’s & Weight Training
The purpose of resistance training is to induce muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth). Given that the BCAA’s are especially important in stimulating muscle protein synthesis (the process underpinning muscle hypertrophy), then it is extremely useful to supplement with BCAA’s before, during and/or after strength training sessions.