BCAA's: Your Best Friend in the Gym

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Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) refers to three amino acids: L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine. BCAA supplementation can promote muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle growth over time. It can also be used to prevent fatigue in athletes. I take BCAA's every morning; I fill up a gallon jug with three scoops of my "go-to" BCAA brand and drink the gallon throughout the day.  I find that I can pace my water intake this way as well.  I know how far I am in may day with fluid intake this way.

What are BCAAs?

BCAAs are very essential to the body and actually fall into the category of "essential amino acids". Essential amino acids are amino acids that the body cannot synthesize on its own and therefore must get adequate amounts through dietary sources. In fact, even though there are about 20 amino acids that the muscles use for growth, the BCAAs comprise roughly a third of the amino acids within muscle tissue. 

How Are BCAA's Important?

Much research points to dieting being catabolic on the body, which means it can lead to muscle breakdown, for several reasons. The leaner an individual tries to get, the more of a struggle it is to keep your muscle mass intact. As fat stores become depleted, the body will look for new sources of energy in order to not lose what little fat stores remain. In doing so, the body will turn to muscle to satisfy its energy needs. Unless you want to look like a cross country runner, this is no good and all your hard work can go to waste.  

During training, catabolism, or muscle breakdown, occurs in order to release fuel (amino acids) for the body to burn. When training you want protein synthesis (recovery) to be equal to or greater than protein breakdown. If the opposite occurs you start to lose muscle and your results will start to diminish. Dieting can cause one to “burn the candle at both ends” elevating the muscle breakdown and decreasing protein synthesis. Along with dieting, training can compound this effect in people. The leaner a person gets the more lethargic they can be. Hence why BCAAs are an important staple in your supplement program.

How Can You Avoid Breakdown?

In order to keep gaining, you need to combat the effects of training with BCAAs. BCAAs are taken to increase the rate of protein synthesis to make sure gains are made from your workouts. A study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise found that BCAA supplementation can contribute to an anabolic environment in the body. There is evidence that supports a dose-dependent response to BCAAs, meaning the more you take the better the results. It has been suggested that you take them before, during, and after your workouts. Another great reason to take BCAA is if you take time off due to a injury or other reason, this supplement will limit the amount of muscle loss and fat gain. A study done by the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that giving BCAAs to rats with their hind limbs immobilized helped preserve protein synthesis that regulates muscle growth.

The bottom line is that BCAAs sacrifice themselves as fuel in order to preserve muscle in the body, whether you are training or not, a high level of BCAAs in your system can do nothing but help your overall body composition.