BCAAs are short for Branched Chain Amino Acids. They are part of the 9 essential amino acids which means that they are not produced by our body and must therefore be provided through food.
BCAAs are one of the most consumed supplements in bodybuilding, but how do they work? Are they really effective? What's the best way to take them?
After reading this article, BCAAs will no longer hold any secrets for you.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs are made up of three essential amino acids:
Like all amino acids, BCAAs are building blocks your body uses to make protein. Proteins are groups of amino acids that are linked together.
BCAAs are considered essential because, unlike non-essential amino acids, your body cannot make them. It is therefore essential to draw these amino acids from your diet.
What is the role of BCAAs?
BCAAs have many effects but here we are going to retain the 4 main roles that interest us for sport and bodybuilding.
1. Muscle Gain
One of the most popular roles of BCAAs is in stimulating muscle growth.
This is because leucine stimulates protein synthesis in the body. This process is essential for the manufacture and repair of muscle fibers.
In a scientific study, people who consumed a drink containing 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their workout experienced a 22% increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to those who consumed a placebo drink (not containing no active ingredient).
That said, this increase in muscle protein synthesis is about 50% less than what has been seen in other studies where people consumed a protein shake containing a similar amount of BCAAs.
Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.
Therefore, while BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, they cannot do so optimally without the other essential amino acids, such as those found in whey protein or other complete protein sources. . It is therefore more interesting to combine whey protein with BCAAs than to consume only the latter.
2. Decreases Aches
It's not uncommon to feel sore a day or two after a workout. This muscle soreness develops 12 to 24 hours after exercise and can last up to 72 hours. Although the exact causes of body aches are not clearly known, researchers believe that they are the result of small tears in the muscles after strenuous exercise.
BCAAs have been shown to decrease muscle damage, which may help reduce the duration and severity of body aches.
Several studies show that BCAAs decrease protein breakdown during exercise and reduce levels of creatine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage.
In one study, people who supplemented with BCAAs before a squat exercise experienced a greater reduction in body aches and muscle fatigue compared to the placebo group.
Therefore, BCAA supplementation, especially before exercise, can speed up recovery time.
3. Reduction of Muscle Fatigue
Everyone experiences fatigue after exercise at one point or another. How quickly fatigue sets in depends on several factors, including exercise intensity and duration, environmental conditions, diet, and physical condition.
The mechanism of onset of fatigue is explained by a scientific phenomenon: our muscles use BCAAs during exercise, which leads to a decrease in the level of amino acids in the blood. When blood BCAA levels decrease, the level of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, increases in our brain. Subsequently, tryptophan is converted into serotonin, a brain chemical thought to contribute to the onset of fatigue during exercise.
In two studies, participants who supplemented with BCAAs improved their mental focus during exercise, which is believed to result from the fatigue-reducing effect of BCAA supplementation.
BCAA supplementation reduces fatigue and aches
4. Prevention of Muscle Wasting
Muscle proteins are constantly being broken down into amino acids and re-synthesized into proteins. The balance between muscle protein breakdown and synthesis determines the amount of protein in muscle.
Muscle wasting occurs when protein breakdown exceeds synthesis. Muscle wasting is a sign of malnutrition and occurs with chronic infections, cancer, periods of fasting and is an integral part of the aging process.
In humans, BCAAs represent 35% of the essential amino acids present in muscle proteins. They represent 40% of the total amino acids required by the body.
Several studies support the use of BCAA supplementation to inhibit muscle protein breakdown. This could improve the state of health and the quality of life of certain populations, such as the elderly and those suffering from diseases such as cancer or other disabling chronic illnesses.
Why consume BCAAs?
In view of the scientific research carried out on the subject, BCAAs have a real interest for the practitioner of sport and more particularly of bodybuilding.
A better recovery will allow the practitioner to be more efficient during his training. But also to more easily synthesize the proteins necessary for muscle growth.
However, BCAAs alone are not as effective as when combined with other sources of amino acids such as whey protein or simply food (egg, meat, fish).
Type of BCAA Supplement
BCAAs can be found in powder or capsule form.
BCAAs include three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine, all of which have a branched structure.
Supplements typically provide twice as much leucine as isoleucine or valine, known as the 2:1:1 ratio. This is because leucine can be particularly effective in stimulating protein synthesis.
Alpha Labz ULTRAAAs contain all the essential amino acids to get the best benefits
When should you take BCAAs?
Before or After exercise?
A study comparing the effects of taking before and after exercise did not show any significant difference between the two groups tested, which had the same results in terms of strength and recovery.
Best time to take BCAAs
Blood BCAA levels peak 30 minutes after taking the supplement, but studies have yet to determine the optimal time to take it.
Despite the long-held theory that we have a 45-60 minute post-exercise window to reap the maximum benefits from protein consumption, more recent research suggests that this window of time may be much longer. range up to several hours.
Additionally, BCAA use may be less important if a meal containing a protein source was consumed within 2 hours of training.
Above all, BCAA supplements have a practical advantage. They are easy to consume, digest very well and do not interfere with training. Indeed, consuming a meal before physical exercise can be harmful to performance.
Taking BCAAs during workouts has been the subject of some research, especially for endurance sports like running and cycling.
A study compared the effect of taking BCAAs with that of a placebo in marathon runners. The supplemented group did not run any faster than the placebo group, suggesting that BCAA supplementation does not affect performance.
Additionally, research on cyclists has not shown improved physical performance from taking BCAAs during endurance exercise, although these supplements may help reduce mental fatigue.
While BCAAs can be consumed during training to stimulate recovery and reduce body aches, they have not, however, demonstrated any effect on physical performance.