Most of you know that proteins are vital for our body. Not only do they help with muscle building, but they are also crucial to the functioning of our body. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Our body requires 20 different amino acids to and those 20 amino acids combine in various ways to produce the proteins we need. Out of these 20, nine amino acids are considered essential, which means they cannot be produced by our body and should come from the diet we eat. Out of these nine, three of them exist together, called branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs. The three BCAAS are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about what BCAAs do and why they are helpful.
What are BCAAs?
Branched-chain Amino Acids, popularly called as BCAAs are a kind of acid which is named due to their chemical structure. BCAAs are found in high-protein foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy products. Sometimes, when we feel that we are not getting enough BCAAs through our natural diet, we may also take them as a powder via supplements.
What Do BCAAs Do?
If you have been following diet channels and fitness websites, I am sure you must have heard of BCAAs. But what exactly do BCAAs do, and why do they matter? Unless you have some sort of background in biochemistry, I don’t think you will be aware of these powerhouses, which can help you much with your weight-loss. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine make up the trio of branched-chain amino acids, named so due to their nonlinear carbon atom positioning or configuration. Amino acids serve as the building blocks of proteins, which help make up our body’s structure. Though BCAAs make up more than one-third of our muscular composition, they cannot be produced by our bodies. BCAAs are also unique because their metabolization occurs within muscular tissue, unlike other amino acids. While most amino acids are broken down in the liver, BCAAs come apart in your muscular mass. This, in turn, means that BCAAs are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, and also that they serve as additional fuel to muscles.
Benefits of BCAAs
- Help in significantly increased muscle growth. BCAAs contain leucine, which helps activate muscle protein synthesis, which, in turn, leads to the building of muscle. Studies found that intaking enough BCAAs after a workout session leads to a 22% increase in muscle protein synthesis.
- BCAAs help in decreasing muscle soreness to a large extent. Many studies have found that taking in enough BCAAs can help prevent muscle aches after strenuous workouts. Most people, especially those new to working out, will find that their muscles feel sore after a long session as a result of delayed onset muscle soreness. Such soreness typically develops around 12 to 14 hours after muscle exertion and can lead to people feeling demotivated. Researchers think that DOMS happens as a result of tiny muscle tears that occur during the workout session. Anyway, BCAAs help in relieving this pain by curbing the severity of DOMS and preventing muscle tears.
- Taking in enough BCAAs also helps in reducing exercise fatigue, which will help you work out for more extended hours more effectively. Almost everyone who works out continually has felt muscle fatigue and exhaustion at some point. The extent of the fatigue and how soon it kicks in depends on your fitness level, expertise, and how developed your muscles are. Muscles use up BCAAs while you exercise, and this prevents them from filling up your bloodstream. When this happens, your brain gets a lot of tryptophan, which converts to serotonin, which leads to less fatigue.
- BCAAs help prevents muscle wasting, which occurs when protein breakdown overshadows protein synthesis. Often regarded as a sign of malnutrition, muscle wasting is a significant problem that many people face. BCAAs make up over 35% of all essential amino acids that create muscle proteins. Hence, BCAAs are necessary for protein synthesis, and taking them in reasonable amounts can prevent muscle breakdown.
- BCCAs also do wonders for people suffering from cirrhosis and other liver diseases. Taking BCAA supplements helps people with hepatic encephalopathy, liver cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma.
- BCAAs have also been found to improve both aerobic and anaerobic performance. When taken regularly, studies concerning professional cyclists have found that BCAAs lead to a bettering in performance. For instance, a 10-week review of BCAA supplementation of over 12 g/day led to a 19% improvement in sprint peak power and a 4% improvement in average power.
- BCAAs also have a good effect on the immune system and help in fortifying our body’s immunity. Researchers found that BCAAs are used by immune cells as a form of fuel that helps with cell regeneration. In the long run, this helps in improving the body’s resistance to harmful pathogens.
What Foods Contain BCAAs?
Now that you know how vital BCAAs are, let us take a look at some natural sources of BCAAs. Fortunately for us, BCAAs are found in many foods and protein supplements that we see around us. Therefore, you would not need to take separate BCAA supplements if you eat a protein-rich diet or take protein supplements. The best natural food sources of BCAAs are as follows:
|Amount of BCAAs (gms)
|Whey Protein Powder
|Soy Protein Powder
|2 Whole eggs
I hope this crash course in biochemistry and cellular protein synthesis helps you understand the need for BCAAs. Since they have so many benefits, we must try to include them in our diet as much as possible. As they can be found in most protein-rich foodstuffs, they can be obtained through natural sources. However, in case you suffer from lactose intolerance or are a vegetarian, you might need to take protein supplements to have enough BCAAs in your system.