What is BCAA? In this article, We will answer the question, examine the question of what BCAA does, and discuss how to use this supplement. I will cover many topics until the question.
What is BCAA?
Branched-chain amino acid supplements are known as BCAAs; Composed of valine, isoleucine, and leucine, they are food supplements frequently used by athletes who want to increase their lean muscle mass and performance.
BCAAs: reduce muscle fatigue, accelerates the recovery period, and allows the body to absorb protein better by preventing the loss of amino acids from the muscles during training. If any of the valine, isoleucine, or leucine are not insufficient levels in the body, muscle loss will occur. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are metabolized in the muscles, not the liver.
Leucine; is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels, repairing skin tissue, muscles and bones. It helps wounds heal, regulates energy levels, helps prevent muscle tissue deterioration ( 1 ).
Isoleucine; is found in the internal structure of proteins and enzymes such as leucine and valine. Isoleucine, which is not produced by the human body, is very similar to leucine. It supports muscle repair and regulates blood sugar levels. It has an important role in healing wounds. When an open wound occurs in the body, it supports the formation of hemoglobin protein produced against infection and blood clotting ( 2 ).
Valine helps to repair and grow muscle tissue. It maintains the body’s nitrogen balance and glucose stocks. Mostly, valine is found in soy flour, curd cheese, fish, meat, and vegetables. Compared to other amino acids, valine creates a high rate of protein and enzymes ( 3 ).
What Are the Functions of BCAAs in the Body?
BCAAs serve to transport nitrogen to the muscles to synthesize other amino acids. It also increases blood sugar for the muscles to use as energy by stimulating the hormone insulin. With insulin production, it takes more amino acids into the muscles. BCAAs have an excellent anti-catabolic effect as they prevent muscle loss by preventing protein breakdown. Since protein synthesis decreases during periods of a low-calorie diet, it is recommended to take BCAA supplements.
What Does BCAA Do?
Reduces Fatigue During Exercise
Consuming BCAA during exercise can help reduce physical and mental fatigue. Studies have reported that people who were given BCAA during exercise felt 15% less fatigue than those given a placebo.
Helps Reduce Muscle Pain
The branched-chain amino acid can help feel less pain in the muscles after exercise. In several studies, participants were asked to rate their muscle pain levels after performing strength training. Participants were given BCAA supplements rated rates of muscle soreness 33% lower than those given a placebo. In some cases, participants given BCAAs performed up to 20% better when they repeat the same strength training 24 to 48 hours later. These effects may vary depending on gender or the total protein content of the diet.
Increases Muscle Mass
Some studies show that BCAA supplements high in leucine can be effective in increasing muscle mass. In a study on how it affects muscle mass; BCAA took after exercise provides an increase in muscle protein synthesis. According to research, people who consumed a drink containing 5.6g of BCAA after resistance exercises increased muscle mass 22% more than those who consumed a placebo drink.
Prevents Muscle Loss
The proteins that make up the muscles are constantly broken down and rebuilt. In this process, some of the proteins are re-synthesized, while some remain fragmented and turn into muscle destruction. If muscle breakdown exceeds the amount of protein synthesis, this causes muscle loss. In order to prevent muscle loss, the body needs amino acid support. Thanks to the amino acid supplements in its components, BCAA can be effective in preventing or stopping the progress of these muscle losses that may occur during the recovery process.
Effects of BCAA
There is a lot of benefit/harm information about BCAA. So which ones are correct and which are exaggerated? Let’s examine it.
Before moving on to the subject, let me state that I will examine the effects of BCAA on muscle mass and exercise performance. Because BCAA and other essential amino acids are frequently used in the clinic for liver and kidney diseases.
1. BCAA increases stamina.
BCAA intake can keep the blood glucose concentration high during long training and can optimize the energy flow through other factors. For this reason, it is a good option for individuals who do aerobic exercise and endurance sports to maintain and improve continuous performance.
Fourteen participants (six women, eight men) participated in the study to investigate the effect of BCAA intake on endurance.
The first group of the athletes divided into two in the study consumed a placebo (no active ingredient) beverage every half hour, while the second group consumed a drink containing BCAA every half hour. The average stopping exercise (exhaustion periods) of the groups and their average blood glucose are measured and recorded at intervals.
- At the end of the study, the BCAA consuming group exercised more than the group that did not consume BCAA (153 minutes-137 minutes),
- At the end of the study, BCAA consuming group members had higher average blood glucose than group members who did not consume BCAA (5.9 mM, 4.0 mM). is seen.
As a result, we can see that individuals consuming BCAA are more resistant during exercise with multiple mechanisms.
2. BCAA reduces muscle breakdown.
The expected muscle breakdown during intense exercise is a serious and feared situation. BCAA intake has serious benefits, especially in preventing muscle breakdown activated by exercise.
Twelve male participants (mean age 23, 79 kg, 178 cm tall) participated in the study to investigate the effect of Branched-chain amino acid intake on muscle breakdown. BCAA is given to the first of the group divided into two, while the other is given a placebo (without active substance). 100 consecutive drop-jumps as exercise (specific height
During and after the study, creatine kinase (CK), calf circumference, and post-exercise fatigue levels are evaluated after the end of the exercise (24, 48, 72, 96th hours).
As a result,
- The CK value of the group that took BCAA was lower than the group that did not,
- The group that took BCAA had less muscle fatigue than the group that did not,
Calf circumference is wider in the group that received BCAA than the group that did not,
Creatine kinase in its abbreviation, CK is an important parameter that we use frequently in the clinic and shows muscle breakdown.
Based on the available data, we can conclude that Branched-chain amino acid intake during and after exercise reduces muscle breakdown. Apart from this research, many different studies I have examined have resulted in this direction.
3. BCAA increases anabolism.
The effects related to anabolism are closely related to the leucine contained in BCAA. Leucine is very effective both with its protective effects on muscle breakdown and in the reconstruction of worn muscle tissue.
The leucine amino acid provides this effect by activating the mTOR gene, which increases the level of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor). In controlled studies on this subject, regular leucine intake increases the mTOR signal.
What Are the Benefits of BCAA?
Bcaa reduces the feeling of physical and mental fatigue that may occur during or after sports. It helps to reduce muscle pain by preventing muscle damage. Due to the effective functioning of the muscles in the body, especially during training, muscle pain may occur after training. In such cases, bcaa relaxes the body by relieving muscle pain. It lowers blood levels of creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase enzymes and reduces the risk of injury due to muscle injury. When used regularly, bcaa supports muscle growth in the body, as it activates enzymes faster. Helps maintain blood sugar level. The amino acid components of leucine and isoleucine increase the level of protein hormones in the body, allowing the muscle to take more sugar from the blood.
Bcaa plays an effective role in losing excess weight. Amino acids increase the energy in the body while also increasing the glucose level. Fat burning becomes easier with the increase of energy in the body. It increases the body’s resistance and endurance. BCCAA taken into the body with external reinforcement is stored as energy by the muscles. This allows the muscles to store more energy with regular use. During long and tiring training times, the muscles protect the body’s glycogen level by using this energy stored. It reduces the risk of liver disease. At the same time, it minimizes the risks such as fatigue, insomnia, and blistering of the lungs that may occur due to liver failure.
Should BCAA be used?
We talked about the BCAA-related effects above. We need to talk more clearly about the BCAA guide, which has progressed very well so far. Many individuals may be overly eager to see and use the above effects magically.
First of all, the effects of BCAA that I mentioned are caused by leucine and isoleucine. Valin is not a must. You can also take leucine and isoleucine with normal foods.
Of course, individuals who use whey are already taking BCAA with whey consumption.
For this reason, Branched-chain amino acid supplements should be used in the following situations:
- If you exercise hungry
- If you are on a low carbohydrate diet,
- If you have long exercise periods.
Branched-chain amino acid is highly exaggerated by companies that produce supplements for post-workout use. I would like to state that you can actually take BCAA, which contains three essential amino acids, with normal foods.
For this reason, it would make sense to use BCAA after the conditions are established and the need arises. If you don’t want to use Branched-chain amino acid, you can only take leucine.
Speaking of BCAA and leucine, I’d like you to hear about HMB, the active metabolite of the amino acid leucine.
One of the prominent effects of HMB is that it prevents catabolism and increases exercise recovery. You can read my article titled Everything about HMB for detailed information.
In addition, if you are getting 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilo per day with animal sources, you will already naturally get the appropriate amount of Branched-chain amino acid.
So if your diet is good, additional BCAA consumption is not logical and necessary.
Is BCAA harmful?
It is not a supplement that should be feared because it contains leucine, isoleucine, and valine in the BCAA content. The toxic dose is between 144 and 210 mg / (kg. D) for healthy individuals.
When the toxic dose is this high, the recommended dosage will be quite safe. Apart from this, there is no harm in amino acid intake in healthy individuals.
How and when is BCAA used?
It is one of the important features of BCAA that it prevents muscle breakdown, increases endurance, and activates muscle growth. Therefore,
- Before exercise to prevent muscle loss during exercise,
- Post-exercise to accelerate muscle recovery and activate muscle gain after exercise,
- and in order to maintain mTOR activation, 2 grams of leucine and 8 grams of leucine in total per day BCAA can be taken at meals if it is not completed at that meal.
If it is in powder form, BCAA should be consumed with plenty of water, if it is in tablet form, it is recommended to take it with little and continuous water consumption.
One last and important piece of advice. The presence of glucose is important for the absorption of amino acids. For this reason, some sugar consumption during consumption will work if you are taking BCAA on an empty stomach.
BCAA Dosage for Men
Although the daily use of BCAA for men is stated in different ways, it is best to follow the instructions for use written on the packaging of the purchased product. In addition to their powder or capsule form, BCAAs consist of not only amino acids but also glutamine and similar supplements. Therefore, it is important to follow the daily dose according to the instructions on the package. Usually, the amount of use determined according to the training intensity for beginner, intermediate and advanced athletes; It is written on a scale basis on the packaging of the BCAA supplement. As long as this determined amount is not exceeded ideally, BCAA can be consumed within the specified time interval and as specified.
BCAA Dosage for Women
There is no specific amount prescribed for women to use BCAA. Just like men, women are recommended to follow the instructions written on the packaging of the BCAA supplement purchased. Women can consume within the specified time provided that it does not exceed the amount recommended on the package in accordance with their exercise performance and levels.
Note: If you have any health problems, we recommend that you consult your doctor before using food supplements.
Food Sources Containing BCAA
- Red meat – 4-5g in 100g
- Chicken – 3-4g in 100g
- Fish – 3-4g in 100g
- Milk – 2g in 1 cup
- Cheese – 4g in 100g
- Egg – 1g in 1 egg
- Legumes – 1.5-2g in 100g
- Nuts – up to 1g in 1 handful (depending on the type of nuts)