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 build muscle, shed body fat and increase performance, the branched amino acids are indispensable. A must-use performance supplement. However, some recent studies suggest that to obtain the best results possible from intense exercise, we may need more BCAA than previously thought.

What are BCAAs?

BCAA 4500 Best Branched Chain Amono Acid SupplementThere 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. BCAA play a pivotal role in the quest for a lean, muscular, healthy physique for several prominent reasons.

BCAA comprise up to one-third of muscle protein and therefore, play a pivotal role in muscle metabolism. Firstly, BCAA are responsible for the activation of muscle protein synthesis. A 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 BCAA are about the best you can get.

Now here’s the problem . . .

During exercise, the BCAA 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.

BCAA 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 BCAA 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, it 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, BCAA 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 BCAA circumvent this entire process. This means that supplementation with BCAA directly increases blood levels of these critical muscle-building amino acids and it does so rapidly.

Therefore the consumption of BCAA 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 BCAA?

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 BCAA 4500 to deliver a precise dose of ultra-potent branched chain amino acids. I recommend the following supplementation strategy.

• One serving of BCAA 4500 30 minutes before exercise.

• One serving of BCAA-4500 with 2 or 3 whole-food meals each day.


Anthony JC et al Diabetes 51: 928–936, 2002
Curi R J Cell Physiol 28; 2005.
Coombes & McNaughton J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 40, 240-246, 2000
De Palo et al, Amino Acids 20:1-11, 2001.
Karlsson HK, et al Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 287: E1–E7, 2004.
Holecek M. Nutrition 18;2:130-3, 2002.
Layman DK. J Am Coll Nutr 23;631S-636S, 2004.
Layman DK et al J Nutr. 136(1):319S-23S, 2006.
Paddon-Jones D et al. Am. J. Physiol. Endocrinol. Metab. 288, E761–E767, 2005a

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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