In this article we will have a look at, firstly, what Branched Chain Amino Acids are. We will then examine the benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acids have for endurance training and then how this relates to resistance training with the purpose of building muscle. Lastly, some information will be given about dosage.
What are Branched Chain Amino Acids?
Branched chain amino acids are comprised of leucine, valine and isoleucine. BCAA can’t be synthesized by your body making these amino acids essential. This means that they have to be attained through your diet. BCAA can be found in high quantities in whey protein but also in meats, fish, milk, eggs and other high quality proteins. (Antonio, Stout, 2002
Branched Chain Amino Acids and endurance.
During endurance events the body often enters a carbohydrate-depleted state. During such a state alanine is produced in the skeletal muscle from a combination of pyruvate and amino acids (especially BCAA’s) Alanine then leaves the skeletal muscle and reaches the liver where it is converted to glucose which is then delivered to muscles as fuel. In other words, BCAA can be used for additional energy. Scientists have also found that BCAA can offset mental fatigue by competing with tryptophan for entry into the brain during long-distance events.
Other studies have found that BCAA can result in a better recovery by reducing muscle damage. In this study one group consumed 12g of BCAA daily for 14 days in addition to a normal diet whilst the control group consumed only the normal diet. (Both the groups’ diets contained enough BCAA for basic requirements). The researchers found that the muscles of the group that received the supplemental BCAA “leaked” (Antonio, Stout, 2002) less of the enzymes which usually indicates muscle damage. These findings, however, is not consistent with all studies so the same results can’t yet be guaranteed with all individuals. (Antonio, Stout, 2002
Branched Chain Amino Acids for muscle growth
We’ve already mentioned that BCAA can be used for fuel during endurance events or exercise and this is true for resistance training as well. BCAA is also used, however, to build muscle. Of the three BCAA, leucine is the most responsible for muscle growth. It has to be remembered, however, that if the body’s glucose levels decreases below a certain level leucine will not be used to build muscle but it would rather be used for energy and it could even start burning muscle. To avoid this be sure to take enough BCAA. Having enough BCAA in the blood means that BCAA won’t need to extract them from muscles and the body can focus on muscle growth. (Yehyawi, 2008)
Branched Chain Amino Acids dosage
The dosages used in studies are in the 3-25g range per day when taken in tablet or liquid form. Exceeding 25g could lead to negative nutritional effects and gastrointestinal distress. Doses of 3-20g per day have been found to be effective when taken before or during exercise to set off fatigue or after exercise to support recovery. (Talbot, Hughes, 2007)
Jose Antonio, Jeffrey R. Stout (2002). Supplements for endurance athletes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://books.google.co.za/books?id=uU8An_3zPDAC&dq=BCAA&source=gbs_navlinks_s. [Last Accessed 20 May 2013].
Shawn M. Talbott, Kerry Hughes (2007). The Health Professionals Guide to Dietary Supplements. [ONLINE] Available at: http://books.google.co.za/books?id=hV2_TdmoDo8C&dq=BCAA&source=gbs_navlinks_s. [Last Accessed 20 May 2013]
Eyad H. Yehyawi (2008). Transformation: Unlock your true potential. [ONLINE] Available at: http://books.google.co.za/books?id=TxUPJfoxvCQC&dq=BCAA&source=gbs_navlinks_s. [Last Accessed 20 May 2013].