Are you a gym freak?
Have you been hitting the gym daily for a long time now and
still cannot see those toned triceps, biceps, and chiseled six-pack abs?
Do you feel inferior to your gym mate who looks like a model?
We’ve got your back!
Supporting rigorous exercise regimens with suitable dietary supplements is important to build that dream body. One such supplement is branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Read on to find out why BCAAs matter.
Table Of Contents
- What Are BCAAs?
- How Are BCAAs Different From Other Amino Acids?
- What Happens To BCAAs When You Exercise?
- Other Benefits Of BCAAs
- Top 10 BCAA Supplements Available Online
What Are BCAAs?
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) consist of three essential amino acids, namely, valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
These three amino acids belong to a group of 20 amino acids that are called the building blocks of proteins. But why are only these three grouped together?
Valine, leucine, and isoleucine share the same structural backbone with variable side chains. Take a look:
So what if they have structural similarities? Is that a big deal? Why are they in the limelight at all? Scroll down to know why.
How Are BCAAs Different From Other Amino Acids?
Generally, anything that you eat reaches your stomach. The hydrochloric acid and digestive juices from the pancreas breaks everything down into proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
The small intestine breaks complex proteins into simple amino acid chains, while the large intestine extracts traces of nutrients and water from the digested matter. Then, the excretory system takes over.
As a result, most amino acids are transported to the liver for their metabolism. But BCAAs have a different route.
The trio – valine, leucine, and isoleucine – are among the nine essential acids that are metabolized in the muscle and skeletal cells, not in the liver. That is why they help you build muscles.
Weird, but this is how it happens.
The muscle cells and adipose tissues first oxidize BCAAs into keto acids.
The mitochondria of muscle cells have the machinery required to perform this reaction.
Keto acids are then used by muscle cells to fuel the Krebs cycle for ATP production or are transported to the liver for further oxidation.
Oxidation in the liver produces branched-chain oxo acids. These can be used by the liver for energy or metabolized in the muscle cells to give (ATP) energy.
Since muscle tissue has 60% of the enzymes needed for oxidation (burning) of BCAAs for energy, it is said that they are designed to derive energy from BCAAs.
Now, on to your next probable question – why are they essential for building body and muscle mass?
What Happens To BCAAs When You Exercise?
During exercise, the body uses BCAAs to derive energy.
The longer and harder you workout, the more BCAAs are used by muscles for energy. It is estimated that 3% to 18% of all workout energy is provided by BCAAs (1)!
The mechanism responsible for this phenomenon is attributed to activation of the branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase (BCKDH) complex.
Fatty acids and other competitive enzymes tightly regulate the activity of the BCKDH enzyme.
Your body needs BCAAs, especially leucine, when you work out. The demand for readily available (unbound, active) leucine is at least 25 times higher than the rest of the amino acid reserve.
This is why you are asked to consume more protein – in whichever form available – if you want to improve your endurance (2).
So, How Exactly Do BCAAs Work? Why Do You Need Supplements?
When you exercise vigorously, your muscle cells constantly utilize BCAAs for energy. BCAAs directly stimulate protein synthesis by activating insulin and cellular mechanisms.
When the BCAAs reserve starts depleting, your muscles run out of their energy source. Though they use the adipose tissues and other energy sources, they are not as effective.
This is when you do not see any muscle building in your body (also called muscle loss).
To solve such a resource crisis, you need to take BCAA supplements. These supplements prevent loss of muscle mass and promote fat degradation in your body.
Now, you might ask me, “I don’t want to build any muscles. Why should I take BCAA supplements?” Scroll down to find your answers.
Other Benefits Of BCAAs
1. Stimulates Fat Loss