BCAA branched amino acids – how they support building muscle mass

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) is a group of three amino acids (Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine), which constitute in the human body more than 30% of muscle protein. They belong to the group of exogenous amino acids, which means that they need to be supplied from the outside. Their metabolism does not occur in the liver, but directly in muscle cells. They take an active part in energy transport between the muscles and the liver. They play a key role during the period of building muscle mass.


BCAA amino acids in food

The sources of amino acids are primarily meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Vegetable alternatives are soybeans, beans, peas, lentils, almonds and corn.

In the mass diet, the usual ingredients of animal origin will prevail, however, the duration of their digestion would negatively affect the period of training itself, therefore in this case it is recommended to provide the body with amino acids in the form of a water-soluble supplement, 30 minutes before the training, and 30 minutes after exercises. Suggested dose is 1g per 10 kg body weight.

Amino acid deficiencies are very rare. They are usually associated with the lack of meat and dairy products in the diet. The effects of the BCAA deficit in the initial period are fatigue combined with depressive symptoms, and in the advanced phase lead to muscle catabolism, growth arrest and inhibition of tissue reconstruction.

Basic functions of BCAA amino acids

Leucine – stimulates protein synthesis in muscles, works anti-catabolic, supports muscle, bone and skin regeneration and stimulates the production of insulin, which is responsible for the efficiency of absorption of other amino acids by muscle cells.

Isoleucine – is responsible for regulating the level of sugar and building hemoglobin, stabilizing the energy level in the body.

Valine- stimulates the body to exercise, is responsible for proper growth and is a source of energy.

The main property of branched chain amino acids is the anti-catabolic effect. During intense physical exercise, the human body uses energy from carbohydrate resources. However, after exhausting these sources, the next step is the metabolization of amino acids contained in muscle cells, resulting in catabolism. Muscle degeneration occurs by converting amino acids into glucose via the glucose-alanine cycle.

Delivery of an appropriate portion of BCAA during the exercise, and immediately after training, gives us an additional anti-catabolic protection in the form of a spare energy source.

The use of amino acid supplementation is only applicable in peri- sonal periods. In other cases, a higher BCAA concentration in the body, although it is tolerated, does not bring any useful results for the construction of our body.

Thanks to its energetic properties, amino acid supplementation is an excellent protection against the negative effects of energy deficit, characteristic of intensive training.

Another advantage of BCAA amino acid supplementation is stimulation of the body to exercise, both physical and intellectual, by limiting the penetration of tryptophan, which is responsible for the production of seratonin.

Next, the role of BCAA in the proper functioning of the nervous system should be emphasized, through the production of glutamate – an important neurotransmitter.

It is safe to say that with high body tolerance for high concentrations of BCAAs and their impact on energy management, it is a supplement necessary for long-distance athletes and very beneficial for everyone working hard in the gym.


BCAA efficacy – research

As to the beneficial effects of the amino acids themselves, no one had any doubts. The subject of discussion is, however, the methods of supplementation

In the Watson study (2004), the energetic properties of amino acids were checked by giving them to a group of men riding bicycles at 30 degrees. Compared to the placebo group, the conditional results were similar. The difference consisted of increased heart rate and higher body temperature in the BCAA group.

In the MacLean DA study, during the observation of a group of men during leg straightening on the machine, an increase in the amount of amino acids in the blood and a slowdown in their release was noted.

A study at the Institute of Human Physiology, University of Verona, shows an increase in lean muscle mass compared to the placebo group over 21 days at a dose of 10g per day.

The study of Matthews DE confirmed the anti-catabolic action of branched chain amino acids.