Branched Chain Amino Acids - Get Bigger and Stronger With BCAAs
reason Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are of primary concern for bodybuilders
is that these make up a third of the muscle protein and have many different functions
to assist the bulky breed in their lifetime quest to lift more, grow bigger and
look as strong and intimidating as they want. The interest in the Branched-Chain
Amino Acids has a valid foundation - these are extremely important for protein
metabolism and overall body support.
There is evidence that
taking BCAAs orally seems to reduce muscle breakdown during exercise, increase
protein synthesis, regulate blood sugar levels and aid in fat loss. Additionally,
BCAAs have been studied for their potential role in delaying central nervous system
(CNS) fatigue, especially in athletes. Particularly important for all bodybuilders,
BCAAs' anabolic properties are ranked as high as commonly used steroids. And it
is not just the healthy physically active people who thrive on BCAAs. Clinically,
Branched Chain Amino Acids are used to treat depression, diabetes, anorexia, irritability
and headaches that result from protein deficiency.
what is so special about the BCAAs? Aren't all amino acids the same? Not at all.
Even though all amino acids are important for the simple fact of their paramount
involvement in cellular metabolism, the mechanism by which these work is much
BCAAs are a group of essential amino acids comprised
of three essential amino acids. You have to memorize this famous trio as remembering
to get these in sufficient amounts may do your body, mind and overall immunity
a lot of good. The names of Branched-Chain Amino Acids are leucine, isoleucine
and valine. All essential amino acids are needed to maintain a positive nitrogen
balance. But when the three essential ones in focus, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine,
are combined together, they are used differently by the body.
Besides building cells and repairing tissue, proteins
form antibodies to combat invading bacteria and viruses, comprise the enzyme and
hormonal systems, build nucleoproteins (RNA & DNA), carry oxygen throughout
the body, and are part of all metabolic processes in the body. But the body cannot
directly use proteins found in food and must break these down into smaller units,
known as Amino Acids. Out of 22 amino acids required for proper body functioning
and optimal health, your body can make 10-12 in sufficient amounts from glucose
and other proteins. These are called non-essential and include alanine, asparagine,
aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and
rest of them have to be supplied through your diet as your body is not designed
to make them, hence the name "essential amino acids". These are tryptophan,
lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
Their function is to serve as nitrogen donors to make other amino acids and supply
the most important structural material for the new cells to develop and replace
the old ones.
Semi-essential amino acids are arginine and histidine
and the need for these increases if they get depleted at times of stress. Usually
adults can make enough of these to maintain normal balance, just like nonessential
amino acids. However, growing bodies and tissues may require more of these and
treat them as essential. For example, bodies of certain individuals go through
additional stress of having to construct more new cells than average. Bodybuilders,
athletes, children, those injured, ill, and even elderly need additional amounts
of amino acids to support muscle tissue growth due to higher metabolic demands.
Individually, leucine is used to synthesize enkephalins, natural
painkillers similar to endorphins. Furthermore, leucine can be an important source
of calories, and is superior as fuel to dextrose, an easily digestible form of
sugar. Leucine also stimulates insulin release, stimulating protein synthesis
and inhibits protein breakdown.
Isoleucine promotes muscle
recovery, regulates the blood-sugar levels, stimulates GH release, plays a role
in wound healing, assists in the formation of hemoglobin and is strongly involved
in the formation of blood-clots.
Valine produces energy when
your body is under severe stress, such as trauma, surgery, liver failure, infection,
fever, starvation, muscle training and weight lifting. Similar to the rest of
BCAAs, valine is metabolized mainly by muscles and is involved in their preservation
BCAAs Unique Metabolism - Pushing the
Branched-Chain Amino Acids act as nitrogen
carriers assisting the muscles in synthesizing other amino acids needed for building
new cells and tissues. If this sounds pretty much the same as for other amino
acids, read this: BCAA have been studied for their unique metabolism and ability
to reduce or delay the onset of 'central fatigue', also known as fatigue of the
Central Nervous System rather than the muscle.
As you may
already know, before getting energy to your cells and tissues, any fuel needs
to be oxidized, or combined with Oxygen. Physiologically, carbohydrates are the
easiest ones to go down that road and form a great team with Oxygen giving you
the needed spark to move and think. Proteins have some trouble dealing with Oxygen,
but they can still manage after going through a long metabolic pathway known as
Krebs Cycle. All proteins fist have to be broken down to amino acids in the intestine,
absorbed through the tissues into blood, then travel to the liver which converts
these to ketones, and only then amino acids may become useful for the body.
is extremely exciting is that Branched Chain Amino Acids, the leucine, valine
and isoleucine, can by-pass the liver stop and be used by the body as fuel in
tissues other than the liver. Particularly, these are metabolized in the skeletal
muscle tissue, so it makes sense that you use these more rapidly when you exercise.
More than that, BCAAs are the first amino acids to be oxidised
or used for energy, which is not very typical action of amino acids and proteins.
Given the conditions, your muscles can oxidise at least with amino acids - alanine,
asparagine, aspartate, glutamate, isoleucine, leucine, lysine and valine. But
during exercise, the BCAA trio of isoleucine, leucine, and valine, are given the
priority of oxidation.
Following ingestion, BCAAs are not readily
broken down by the liver. BCAAs in the muscle are able to transaminate Pyruvate
to form amino acid Alanine, which is then recycled to glucose in the liver via
the Cori cycle. If you really want to dig deep down the chemical reactions, I
will try to simplify it as much as possible. BCAAs are broken down to their keto-acid
analogues by very specific enzymes Branched-Chain Aminotransferase (BCAAT) and
Branched-Chain oxo-acid dehydrogenase (BCOAD). Interestingly, the enzyme concentration
increases with exercise. If at rest your body has only 5-8% of BCOAD available,
during exercise this number goes up to 25%! What does this all mean? That during
exercise you use more BCAAs than at rest. Yes, same for all other amino acids.
But the BCAAs are used directly by the muscles, and oxidation is one of the things
you need to think of if you doubt that proteins are not the best source of energy
(which is true, by the way).
Back to the point of specific benefits of Branched-Chain
Amino Acids. If you haven't forgotten by now, these structural protein components
help offset fatigue triggered by exercise. Here is why. BCAAs are not metabolized
in the liver like the rest of nutrients, but they instead circulate and compete
for absorption into the blood-brain barrier with the amino acids tryptophan, tyrosine,
phenylalanine, and methionine for access to the neural amino acid transport system
which allows amino acid entry to the brain.
Your brain governs how tired
or energized, hungry or satisfied, rested or fatigued you feel. Essentially, several
neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, GABA, dopamine, effect your
sensations of mood, drive, pain, weariness and fatigue.
Because the mechanism
where the Branched Chain Amino Acids are involved is centered in the brain, BCAAs
may help your entire system to go on for longer and delay fatigue. Remember a
traffic jam near almost every business or shopping center during peak hours? For
some reason, the road is empty at all other times, but when you need it the most,
you wish that there were more lanes, right? Same thing with neurotransmitters.
When you are at rest, happy and content, sitting on the couch in front of a TV
set, all your neurotransmitters are in balance. But when the stress comes, the
road by which these travel in your brain gets crowded.
are derived from amino acids. For example, amino acid tryptophan is a precursor
to serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT), is known to depress the Central Nervous
System and produce symptoms of fatigue. Research has shown that exercise reduces
plasma BCAA levels while increasing the levels of tryptophan. This translates
into a higher ratio of free tryptophan/BCAA. What does this all mean? Fatigue.
More tryptophan means more serotonin. And when serotonin levels are up,
you are down. But BCAAs may help turn the tables on fatigue and change the picture.
Raising levels of BCAAs lowers the tryptophan/BCAA ratio bringing serotonin down
and you don't even think about getting tired. Some researchers speculate that
supplementing with BCAAs will lower this ratio and result in improved mental and
BCAAs also help maintain and repair muscles and tendons
after exercise, injury, chronic illness, and even surgery because in combination,
leucine, isoleucine and valine are involved in production of collagen and maintenance
of connective tissue. They have shown to stimulate production of insulin, the
main function of which is to allow circulating blood sugar to be taken up by the
muscle cells and used as a source of energy. In other words, the insulin production
induced by BCAAs helps muscle cells to take up other amino acids and use these
for constructive purposes.
Take 5 grams of leucine,
2.5 grams of isoleucine, and 4 -5 grams of valine on an empty stomach twice daily
- in the morning and before workouts. As a rule of thumb, 2-1-2 equilibrium in
Leucine/Iso-leucine/Valine dosing yields the best results.
There are mixed reviews regarding the safety of taking BCAA
orally. It is probably safe when used appropriately and short term. Side effects
include an increase in plasma and muscle accumulation of ammonia, which itself
can contribute to fatigue, temporary loss of motor coordination and compromised
muscle and brain function. Dietary use of BCAAs in alcoholics has been associated
with hepatic encephalopathy.