Search AuthorSearch through Articles written by:
AST Product Categories
BCAA: Build Muscle – Increase Performance – Prevent Fatigue – Speed Recovery
The branch chain amino acids (BCAA) are a select group of essential amino acids; leucine, isoleucine and valine. Your body cannot synthesize them, they must be provided from your diet in abundance. In recent years the BCAAs have received an incredible amount of attention from sports scientists, and this attention appears to be well deserved.
More so than any other amino acids (the building blocks of structures within the body) BCAAs play a number of indispensable roles in muscle metabolism, particularly during and after intense exercise. In fact, based on the evidence I’ve examined, I’d go so far as to say that the presence (or absence) of the BCAAs can profoundly affect your performance, recovery and your results from exercise training.
The tug-o-war . . .
Most bodybuilders know that the BCAAs are indispensable for the synthesis of new proteins. They are also required to form all biomolecules that construct everything from hair and nails to to digestive enzymes and everything in between. However, the BCAAs are unique because they are also utilized extensively as a source of energy, particularly during high-intensity exercise.1,2
The BCAAs enter this pathway via the removal of an amino group by a transaminase, which is then fed into the urea cycle. The other “product” of this transamidation is a keto acid that enters the aerobic energy producing pathway (the citric acid cycle). The BCAAs are glucogenic, which means they are easily converted into glucose through the process of gluconeogenesis.3 This tends to be the dominant fate of the BCAAs during intense exercise particularly during calorie-restricted diets.
If you’re trying to build muscle, this is bad news as the BCAAs are also the most potent amino acids that ignite muscle protein synthesis, which is the underlying mechanism of cellular recovery and gains in muscle mass.4
To achieve their physique goals most people know that intense exercise training is vital. And in most cases calorie-restriction is also crucial. Therefore, it’s easy to see how the BCAAs end up in a constant state of “tug-o-war” between providing energy to fuel intense workouts and the building blocks that are indispensable for muscle repair and anabolism (growth).4,5
However, as if these two processes are not important enough, the BCAAs also provide at least two other exclusive functions that are essential to hard-training athletes.
The BCAA – Glutamine link
BCAAs are utilized exclusively to synthesize glutamine – the amino acid that is the primary fuel of the immune system.6 However, the amount of glutamine within muscle tissue governs protein synthesis rates and contractile protein mass as well as supplies precursors for antioxidant protection.7 Glutamine also plays a role in maintaining healthy insulin secretion and it regulates the expression of many genes related to metabolism, signal transduction, immune defense and cellular repair.8
Supplementation is one step to meeting your body’s extraordinary needs during intense training but don’t forget that the BCAAs supply up to 70% of you’re body’s daily glutamine requirements. And these requirements are relentless. Periods of intense metabolic stress such as exercise training and dieting can easily outstrip the body’s synthesis capabilities for glutamine. The BCAAs are the only amino acids that can be used to synthesize glutamine, and as I mentioned before, they meet up to 70% of you’re body’s daily glutamine requirements.
Metabolic estimates have indicated that without this constant synthesis of glutamine from the BCAAs, the human body would run out of glutamine in 7-hours or less!9
CNS fatigue blocker
Most athletes are not aware that BCAAs have a direct influence on exercise performance.10 A number of studies have directly linked BCAA supplementation to the prevention of central nervous system (CNS) fatigue.10-14
Supplementation can prevent CNS fatigue by competing with free-tryptophan for uptake from the plasma (blood) into the brain. Studies show that supplementing with BCAAs can prevent CNS fatigue in athletes using a 2-6 gram dose per hour of exercise. Interestingly, this amount was also shown to significantly decrease perceived exertion and/or increased endurance performance.
One recent study has shown that supplementation with leucine (approximately 3.6 grams/day for an 80kg individual) increased plasma BCAA concentrations and improved upper body power output and exercise time to exhaustion in a group of rowers (outrigger canoeists).10
Under a variety of circumstances, in well controlled studies, supplementing with BCAAs is shown to improve exercise performance. This places the BCAA in an elite category of research-proven ergogenic aids – nutrients shown in research to enhance exercise performance.
All athletes can strategically supplement to help prevent CNS fatigue and boost performance during intense activity. I recommend one serving of BCAA 4500 within the hour before and another serving midway through any workout that lasts longer than 30 minutes. Bodybuilders and strength athletes may want to take this serving half-way through their workouts. It can be a quick way to help prevent the accumulation of tryptophan and CNS fatigue. Maintaining maximum intensity throughout your entire workout is key to building muscle.
Supplementing with BCAA 4500 provides the intensity support above and beyond central nervous stimulation. By fueling muscle energy and delaying CNS fatigue BCAA's give you a dual energizing effect.
For people that like to participate in intense exercise of prolonged duration such as triathlons, mountain biking, surfing or team-based events such as football etc, I recommend a serving every 40-60 minutes of activity. I’ve found this strategy particularly useful in delaying fatigue towards the back-end of the session. Finishing a workout or event strong can be the difference in a successful one and one that is not.
Another important benefit is that the BCAAs have a very positive effect on body composition. Aside from their potent anabolic effect on muscle, for reasons that are not yet clear to scientists, a high intake of BCAA seems to enhance fat loss during weight training exercise.15,16
BCAA 4500 – A Must-Use Supplement
Scientific evidence suggests that BCAA supplementation can provide a number of important benefits under a variety of circumstances and conditions. These advantages range from delaying central nervous system fatigue to reducing muscle damage and sparing valuable muscle fuel while also accelerating recovery and boosting immunity after intense exercise. No matter what your sport, BCAA 4500 are a very important addition to your supplementation arsenal.
BCAA Supplement Strategy
Supplementing with BCAAs doesn't begin and end with BCAA 4500. BCAAs have been important amino acid components in numerous AST Sports Science supplements. AR-5 contains multi-gram amounts of BCAAs in every serving. VP2 Why Isolate is loaded with several grams of BCAAs in each serving as well as being ultra-high in leucine. Muscle-XGF is also loaded with BCAAs and extra leucine. Even Myo-D contains 1000 milligrams of leucine per serving.
Here's a supplement schedule that will supply over 50 grams of muscle-building BCAAs each day! And remember, BCAAs do not require digestion. They go directly into muscle for a direct anabolic effect. 50 grams of BCAAs from this simple and easy to follow supplement protocol will ignite a muscle-building response that's guaranteed to pack on new muscle fast.
|Immediately Upon Waking:||1 serving of VP2 Whey Isolate,
6 BCAA 4500, 2 Myo-D
|Pre-Workout:||1-2 servings of AR-5|
|During Workout:||1 serving AR-5|
|After Workout:||1 serving VP2 Whey Isolate,
6 BCAA 4500
|Before Bed:||1 serving VP2 Whey Isolate (or 1 Serving Muscle-XGF),
6 BCAA 4500, 2 Myo-D
1. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 249:E137–E144, 1985.
2. Exercise & Sport Science Rev.26:287-314. 1998.
3. J Nutr 130 (4S Suppl): 988S-90S, 2000.
4. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):264S-8S.
5. Can J Appl Physiol 27:646–663, 2002.
6. FASEB J.10;829-837. 1996.
7. J Cell Physiol 204: 392-401, 2005.
8. Front Biosci. 1;12:344-57, 2007.
9. Sports Med. 21; 80-97, 1996.
10. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 97; 664-672, 2007.
11. Med Sci Sports Exerc 27: S149, 1995.
12. Acta Physiol Scand 159:41–49, 1997.
13. Med Sci Sports Exerc 30:83–91, 1998.
14. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 63:83–88, 1991.
15. Amino Acids 25:85–94, 2003.
16. Int J Sports Med. 18;47-55, 1997.