Branched-Chain Amino Acids (Bcaas): What Are the Health Benefits?

The body contains twenty amino acids, of which nine are considered essential since the body cannot produce them and are therefore acquired from outside sources. There are nine essential amino acids, and three are regarded as branched-chain due to their chemical structure, including isoleucine, valine, and leucine. They are found in protein-rich foods such as dairy products, meat, and eggs and dietary powder form supplements with several potential benefits. Most amino acids are often broken down in the liver; however, BCAAs are usually absorbed in the muscles. No wonder bodybuilders and athletes adore their supplements due to the effects of BCAAs on muscle activity.

Health benefits of BCAAs

The branched-chain amino acids were discovered in the mid-1800s, and since then, several studies have been conducted to explore their benefits to the body. These amino acids have many potential benefits to the body, with some research still warranted to investigate additional benefits.

Increased muscle building

Leucine, one of the BCAAs, is known for its ability to activate certain body pathways responsible for stimulating protein synthesis for the muscles. One placebo-controlled study gave a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAAs to individuals from a resistance workout. The result showed a 22% increase in protein synthesis than those under placebo drink. A whey protein containing BCAAs is even more effective in muscle building. Some research suggests a 50% increase in protein synthesis since whey protein possesses all the nine essential amino acids necessary for muscle growth. According to studies, it was concluded that, though BCAAs enhance protein synthesis, their effectiveness is depended on the other essential amino acids.

Lessen muscle fatigue

Some studies indicate that BCAAs can aid in reducing muscle soreness and fatigue after workouts. Introducing the body to new workout routines or increasing the workout intensity can result in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)or muscle soreness. Some researchers agree that DOMS is caused by small tears in the muscle originating from an intensive workout. Since BCAAs can reduce muscle damage, they can minimize the severity and length of DOMS. Many studies suggest that BCAAs slowed down protein breakdown during exercise and reduced creatine kinase levels, a chemical indicating muscle damage. Supplementing with BCAAs has been discovered to reduce muscle tear and contribute to faster recovery of the damaged muscles.

They help prevent muscle Breakdown or wasting

The body’s muscle proteins are in a continuous turnover state, meaning that as new proteins are being synthesized, the older ones are degraded. BCAAs enhances the muscles’ anabolic state, which is the rate at which proteins being synthesized exceeds the muscle protein being wasted, resulting in a muscle gain. BCAAs can contribute to muscle gain by promoting protein synthesis more than breakdown, or it can inhibit the rate at which older muscle proteins are broken down. Muscle wasting is often associated with chronic illness, malnutrition, fasting periods, and cancer. During periods of muscle breakdown, it is important to replace the essential amino acids, including BCAAs, since they account for 40% of the amino acid needed by the body. Such introduction of BCAAs in the body via supplements will slow down if not halt the muscle wasting process.

They may prove beneficial to individuals with liver disease

Patients ailing with liver cirrhosis often suffer from protein malnutrition even if they are consuming a balanced diet.        This liver disease is associated with hyperalbuminemia and skeletal muscle loss, and the intake of BCAAs supplement can improve the situation. BCAAs can help enhance the concentration of plasma in insulin and improve beta cells’ functions in individuals suffering from chronic liver disease. The result of one study shows that BCAA can significantly affect insulin resistance. Some studies suggest that BCAAs supplements can support protein loss while enhancing synthesis and advancing the dietary status of hepatic patients. Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE) is a liver disease that occurs when the liver cannot effectively remove toxins from the blood, resulting in brain malfunction. A study conducted on HE patients using BCAA showed that the group that received BCAA supplement showed a better outcome in neuropsychological tests. However, it could not prevent HE recurrence and mortality.

It reduces fatigue after exercise

It is normal to experience fatigue associated with exercise; however, how quickly one gets tired is dependent on several factors such as fitness level, exercise intensity, and environmental factors. BCAAs are extensively used during exercise, causing a decrease in blood, meaning that the level of tryptophan amino acid increases in the brain. Tryptophan is then converted to serotonin which in turn contributes to fatigue during exercise. An introduction of BCAA in the body through supplements enhances mental focus as it reduces fatigue during exercise.

Food’s rich in BCAAs

The world of nutritional supplements emphasizes the value of BCAAs to bodybuilders and athletes who intend to build muscle, improve endurance and reduce recovery time. This promotion is because these protein building blocks heighten muscle growth while reducing post-exercise fatigue and soreness. Some people use supplements to acquire these amino acids into the body; however, natural foods are the safest and the nutritious way to enhance workout performance. Food’s high in BCAA are included in the table below.

FOOD BCAA
100 grams of meat 6.8grams
One scoop of whey protein powder 5.5 grams
100 grams of chicken 6.0 grams
One scoop of soy powder 5.6 grams
100 grams of salmon 4.8 grams
Two eggs 3.3 grams
100 grams of turkey 4.63 grams
235ml of milk 2.21 grams
140 grams of Greek yogurt 2.1 grams

 

The Bottom line

BCAAs are the three branched-chain essential amino acids given this name from their chemical structure and functions, and they include leucine, valine, and isoleucine. Unlike other essential amino acids, they are broken down in the muscles and helps in muscle building and growth. Since they are essential amino acids, they are taken from foods or supplements because the body does not produce them. These amino acids have been used in the medical field to slow or prevent muscle wasting and reduce symptoms of liver disease. They can easily be found in huge quantities in natural foods across the globe. There is no established dosage of BCAAs supplements.

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