We bodybuilders often get obsessive about our overall protein intake, eating vast amounts of high quality animal and fish proteins to get the protein necessary for muscular development. Many lifters also often consume whey protein in powder form in order to get the protein they need in the post workout window. This leaves many lifters perplexed to why they need to take additional amino acids, even though they are taking on a diverse range of high quality amino acids. The individual amino acids that make up protein all influence muscle growth through different pathways and research has shown that Branch Chain Amino Acids are among the most important.
BCAA’s supplements have been around for a long time but are often overlooked. The three BCAA’s are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The unsurprising reason to why they are called Branch Chain Amino Acids is due to the fact that their chemical structure resembles that of a branch. These three amino acids are vitally important and are essential amino acids, ones which the body cannot synthesize itself. Out of the 20 amino acids which your body uses for muscle growth, it is the BCAA’s which compromise around a third of the aminos within the muscle tissue. This makes these Branch Chain Amino Acids a must if you’re serious about adding muscle mass.
One advantage to BCAA’s is that they are metabolized faster by the body than other amino acids. Many will think that as long as amino acids are metabolized is all that is important; however the manner in which amino acids are metabolized also has important ramifications. While many amino acids are primarily metabolized by the liver the branch chain amino acids are mainly metabolized by muscle tissue. This fact allows these BCAA’s to be oxidised and used produce energy in the form of ATP. ATP is the primary source of energy used in muscle contractions making it possible for one to lift weights. For this reason BCAA’s are extraordinarily effective when taken around workout time.
Branch Chain Amino Acids also have a number of impressive performance benefits. Increased performance is something that everyone should be very interested in no matter what their overarching goal is. For Bodybuilder’s increased performance equates to increased muscular overload which leads to increased muscle growth. Not only can BCAA’s be used as energy themselves but they also spare glycogen during training or onerous activity. As glycogen is favoured by your body as an energy source for high intensity activity maintaining glycogen storage is most important if you want to train hard for extended periods of time.
It has also been shown in a number of studies that BCAA’s can help produce a beneficial anabolic profile. Studies have shown that taking Branch Chain Amino Acids before a work out leads to a increase in Testosterone, with elevated testosterone levels being noted for several hours after the workout. Another way in which BCAA’s are beneficial is that taken before a work out they have been shown to lower cortisol levels during training. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone which acts to breakdown muscle tissue in response to physical stress and by minimizing cortisol levels we can decrease the amount of muscle tissue that will be broken down during a hard weights session. A serious bodybuilder should take every chance to maximize or improve their anabolic profile through natural means. BCAA’s are one way to do this leading to greater results from your training. Finally, there is also very exciting research on BCAA’s and their effect on fat loss. While the research doesn’t show that you can eat whatever you want while taking BCAA’s, there have been a number of results suggesting that BCAA’s can aid weight loss in some degree. As well as helping preserve muscle mass on calorie restricted diet. This gives us yet another reason to consider taking BCAA’s.
All of this research points to BCAA’s being extremely beneficial to those who want to pack on muscle mass and improve body composition. While BCAA’s do occur naturally in foods if not in great quantities, it is the opinion of many nutritionists and bodybuilders that BCAA supplementation will give an individual that extra edge when it comes to putting on muscle mass.