Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Protein is muscle. BCAA, the branched-chain amino acids, are three of the most essential amino acids for even the most casual athlete and even more so as your training intensity increases.

If you are looking to build muscle, shed body fat, and increase performance, the branched amino acids are indispensable – a must-use performance supplement.

Some recent studies suggest that to obtain the best results possible from intense exercise, we may need more BCAAs than previously thought.

What are BCAAs?

Muscle Energy - Arctic BerryThere are three branched-chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are called “branched-chain” because of their structure, which includes a “side chain” of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms. BCAAs play a pivotal role in the quest for a lean, muscular, healthy physique for several prominent reasons.

BCAAs comprise up to one-third of your body’s muscle protein and therefore, play a pivotal role in muscle metabolism.

Firstly, BCAAs are responsible for the activation of muscle protein synthesis. High activation of protein synthesis is not only essential for building muscle, but it is also the underlying mechanism of recovery and all adaptations from exercise.

BCAA are responsible for the activation of muscle protein synthesis.

Furthermore, leucine, in particular, has been reported to stimulate muscle protein synthesis independently of insulin, via activation (phosphorylation) of key proteins involved in the regulation of protein synthesis in muscle. This has been consistently observed in animal (Anthony 2002) and human muscle tissue (Karlsson et al., 2004). However, the presence of leucine also appears to play a role in minimizing protein breakdown (Combaret et al., 2005). In terms of a direct, research-proven anabolic/anti-catabolic activator, the BCAAs are about the best you can get.

Now here’s the problem . . .

During exercise, the BCAAs are heavily involved in energy production, and the more intense the exercise, the more they are metabolized for energy both during and after the workout.

BCAAs are continuously released from the liver and other internal organs to maintain blood sugar levels. In fact, they are responsible for up to 40% of blood sugar production during intense exercise ( Layman DK 2004).

Aside from energy production, the branched-chain amino acids serve as direct precursors for glutamine production (Holecek 2002) which is the essential fuel that powers all facets of immune function and cell turnover (Curi et al., 2005) and is a potent cell volumizer.

However, the demand for branched chained amino acids really jumps up a notch or two when athletes start to follow calorie-restricted diets.

The BCAAs appear to regulate the use of glucose by muscle through stimulation of glucose recyclingthis is achieved via the glucose-alanine cycle (Layman et al., 2006). Not only does this produce a protein-sparing effect, but it also provides a stable glucose environment with low insulin responses during energy-restricted periods (Layman et al., 2006). This is a highly desirable bio-environment required for simultaneous muscle gains and fat metabolism.

In fact, BCAAs promote such a powerful, positive impact on blood glucose metabolism they have become an important part of therapy for conditions such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome X (Layman 2006, Rennie 2005).

Supplementation Gets Results

It’s interesting to note that the BCAA are the only amino acids not degraded in the liver. All other amino acids undergo gut and liver metabolism before entering the bloodstream. The BCAAs circumvent this entire process. This means that supplementation with BCAAs directly increases blood levels of these critical muscle-building amino acids and it does so rapidly.

Therefore the consumption of BCAAs before, during, and after workouts will increase uptake into muscle tissue (Curi 2005). This will give you the following benefits:

• Lower lactic acid levels during intense exercise and improved work capacity (Anthony et al 2002).

• Promote growth hormone (GH) circulation, which obviously enhances the anabolic process that leads to muscle growth (De Palo et al 2001).

• Reduced muscle breakdown, more efficient muscle glycogen restoration, improved immune health, work capacity, and endurance performance (Coombes & McNaughton 2000).

Therefore anyone who trains intensively, wants to recover more quickly from training, increase lean muscle size, reduce muscle soreness, and enhance work capacity will probably benefit from increasing the concentration of BCAA in their diet.

What is the best way to take BCAAs?

The branched-chain amino acids are absorbed easily and rapidly. Supplementation is particularly effective prior to intense exercise and studies have shown that increasing the BCAA concentration of a meal via supplementation results in a higher net stimulation in protein synthesis and muscle protein gain (Paddon-Jones et al., 2005).

We developed Muscle Energy to deliver a precise dose of ultra-potent branched-chain amino acids. I recommend the following supplementation strategy.

• One serving of Muscle Energy 30 minutes before exercise.

• One serving of Muscle Energy immediately after your workout.

• One serving of Muscle Energy with 2 or 3 whole-food meals each day.

References

Anthony JC et al Diabetes 51: 928–936
Curi R J Cell Physiol 28
Coombes & McNaughton J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 40, 240-246
De Palo et al, Amino Acids 20:1-11
Karlsson HK, et al Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 287: E1–E7
Holecek M. Nutrition 18;2:130-3
Layman DK. J Am Coll Nutr 23;631S-636S
Layman DK et al J Nutr. 136(1):319S-23S
Paddon-Jones D et al. Am. J. Physiol. Endocrinol. Metab. 288, E761–E767

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Find Out Why BCAAs are a ‘Must-Use’ Performance Supplement

by Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS. time to read: 4 min
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