Branch Chain Amino Acids - 5 Things You Need to Know

By Summer Banks FNS, SPT on Nov 28, 2018

BCAAs refer to three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. For those who don’t eat a lot of dietary protein, supplementation can assist with muscle protein creation, and increase your muscle growth over time. You can also use supplementation to prevent fatigue in novice athletes.

Leucine plays a critical role in muscle protein development. Isoleucine induces glucose uptake into the cells. More research is needed to determine valine’s role in BCAA supplements.Your body cannot produce these amino acids on its own which means you must get them from your diet. This is where the term essential amino acids comes from.

What are Branched Chain Amino Acids and Why You Need Them?

Supplementing with BCAAs prevents a serum decline in BCAAs which happens during exercise. A serum decline normally causes a trip to fan influx into the brain followed by serotonin production which leads to fatigue.

Not only do they promote muscle growth and repair, that can also reduce muscle soreness after exercise. And while they can make you feel less tired after a workout, they won’t improve your athletic performance.

It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough BCAAs on a daily basis but many protein sources already provide the BCAAs.

Supplementation isn’t necessary for people who are already eating a high-protein diet of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

Dieting can lead to muscle breakdown for several reasons.

The leaner your body becomes, the more likely it is to lose skeletal muscle as the body tries harder and harder to hold on to its fat stores. Your body will begin to turn to muscle to satisfy its energy needs which is bad news for anyone who is trying to increase muscle mass.

Branched Chain Amino Acids

Muscle loss occurs because the body increases protein breakdown in order to liberate muscle amino acids for metabolic fuel. Levels of muscle protein synthesis will also decrease because of reduced energy intake.

Working out compounds the effects of dieting because the leaner you get the more lethargic you can become. Decreasing your energy intake and glycogen storage can make for some rough training sessions.

If you’re too tired or weak to live just have it as your body is used to, your muscles will adapt and they won’t use as much energy to get the work done. This means you won’t increase your muscle in your body could use the lean muscle you do have for energy because it isn’t used to lifting such a heavy load.

BCAAs not only increase the protein synthesis but help reduce protein breakdown to keep you losing weight while gaining lean muscle.

BCAAs are responsible for a large portion of your blood sugar production during your workout.

This is important if you workout on an empty stomach or if you are on a calorie-restricted diet. When you have a balanced carbohydrate-high protein and amino acid beverage during and before your exercise, this can produce an insulin response which helps transport the amino acids to repair muscle damage and build muscle tissue.

How Much BCAAs Do You Need?

The standard dose for isoleucine is 48 to 72 mg per kilogram of body weight if you are an obese person. The standard leucine dosage is between 2 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight. A combination dose of 20g of combined BCAAs with a balanced ratio of leucine and isoleucine.

More research is needed to determine valiant optimal dosage and reason for supplementation. Again, BCAA supplementation isn’t necessary if you’re getting enough through your diet.

Your needs will depend on some factors including with your size and the intensity of your workouts which is why it’s a good idea to talk to an expert before you make any drastic changes to your diet.

When to take BCAAs

When To Eat BCAAs

You don’t need to be sure we are eating BCAAs before every workout. It’s better to eat them before doing any kind of strength or resistance training than it is for cardiovascular training. During any type of intense exercise, your muscles will tear slightly and then repair which helps them grow stronger in the process and that’s when you need to BCAAs.

It’s a good idea to time your meals around your workout so you eat within an hour of finishing your workout. It’s worth trying to see if you have more energy and less fatigue and soreness.

You can get all the BCAAs you need by consuming a 3 to 4 oz serving of cooked animal protein. It’s less about the volume of BCAAs and more about the timing of when you eat them.

If you don’t eat meat, there are a lot of good low-calorie supplements available. Many are made with vegetarian-friendly protein options.

Liquid supplements can take effect a lot faster because they don’t have to be digested like Whole Foods so this is a good option if you want to boost your BCAAs before your workout but don’t want to exercise with food in your stomach.

It’s best to pay close attention to the product labeling to ensure that you’re getting a decent ratio of BCAAs and a clean product that doesn’t have any additional sweeteners, chemicals, or dyes.

Food Sources of BCAAs

These foods contain all three types of BCAAs in one serving:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Lean beef
  • Flank steak
  • Cod
  • Whitefish
  • Haddock
  • Canned tuna
  • Wild salmon
  • Trout
  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey breast

You can also find a decent amount of BCAAs in other foods such as brown rice, chickpeas, lima beans, quinoa, whole wheat, peanuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts.

Additional Resources

About the Author:

Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.

Updated: