Bodybuilders, and wannabe bodybuilders that you certainly also see in your local gym, make sure to include a bunch of various supplements. They often include creatine products, protein shakes and pre-workout drinks with caffeine, as well as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
The products suit different purposes and are combined to maximize muscle growth and simultaneous fat loss. So why are BCAAs used more and more – especially by bodybuilders, but also by non-professionals?
What’s in the products
Let’s start with a short biology class: There are 20 standard amino acids in humans, of which 9 are termed essential. These must be obtained through the diet every day and in higher amounts if you are an athlete. It is sometimes easier for athletes to ensure that the reach the required amount by using supplements. If you are not sure if you obtain enough essential amino acids, an amino acid analysis performed by your doctor, might be a good idea.
3 of the 9 essential amino acids have branched side-chains in their chemical structure and are thus termed BCAAs. The 3 essential BCAAs are called valine, isoleucine and leucine. Besides the BCAAs themselves, BCAA supplement products normally include emulsifiers, sweeteners, aromas, color molecules and acidity regulators.
The (many) benefits of BCAAs
Explaining all the BCAA benefits in depth would take very long. So in this article we will only mention some features that are relevant for tough workout routines.
BCAAs stimulate muscle growth by supplying your body’s production of new muscle protein with the building blocks for that exact process. On the contrary, BCAAs also reduce muscle breakdown by limiting the metabolic pathway that degrade protein.Through these two opposing effects, this type of supplementation should lead to muscle gain or at least less muscle loss.
Several studies also suggest that BCAA could make your workout more intense, due to BCAAs’ ability to decrease serotonin levels. This allows you to perform Push Through Exercises and feel less fatigued compared to a workout where your serotonin levels are higher. Furthermore, BCAAs can also be used in your pre-workout cocktail, since the body can utilize them as a rapid energy source.
It might also be beneficial for your ability to perform, with numerous studies stating that BCAAs can improve overall concentration. However, BCAAs are also used to treat patients with cancer, sepsis and liver diseases, such as hepatic encephalopathy.