As the building blocks of protein, branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) have become a popular health supplement for bodybuilders, athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to build muscle or lose weight. And quite rightly so because they pack in quite a few health benefits.
Enjoy the Benefits of BCAA Supplementation
There are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs belong to the category of essential amino acids, meaning our bodies cannot create them, so they must be obtained through diet - BCAA-rich foods or supplements. Branched-chain refers to nothing but the chemical structure of these amino acids. Let’s dive straight into some of the BCAA benefits and risks.
1. Build Muscle Mass & Reduce Fat
It’s no secret that protein helps in the building of lean muscle mass. However it’s a lesser known fact that among the different types of protein supplements, BCAA is probably the most effective in reducing fat and increasing muscle mass.
This finding was the result of a study in which strength-trained males were divided into three groups: one who consumed BCAA, another whey protein and still another with an intake of a sports drink. All three groups underwent an 8-week resistance training program but it was found that the first group - the one that consumed BCAA - experienced the most increase in muscle and a decrease in fat.
2. Reduce Exercise-Induced Fatigue
BCAA supplements may help improve endurance by reducing exercise fatigue. According to Medical News Today, in a study conducted to test the effectiveness of BCAA in enhancing exercise performance, it was found that participants who took BCAA had lower levels of serotonin during cycling than the ones who took a placebo. Serotonin is the chemical in the brain that is linked to the contribution of exercise-induced fatigue.
3. Decrease Muscle Soreness Resulting From Exercise
Many of you who exercise regularly may have experienced muscle soreness after 12-24 hours of intense or even new workouts. Here’s some good news for those of you who perform high-intensity exercise: BCAA supplements can help. But when to take BCAAs? When consumed especially before exercise, BCAA can help enhance muscle recovery post-workout.
BCAA can help minimize the length and extent of muscle damage resulting from high-intensity exercise. Medical News Today reports that in a 2017 study, it was found that BCAA helped reduce the muscle soreness induced by endurance exercises. It further reported that in yet another study conducted in 2013, adult male participants who took BCAA supplementation had lower levels of substances that indicated muscle damage, in comparison to those who took a placebo.
4. Renew Cells, Tissues, and Organs
BCAAs are essential nutrients that play a significant role in building protein. Hence, as the building blocks of protein, which in turn are the building blocks of cells, tissues, and organs, they play an important role in keeping our body healthy and increasing metabolism.
5. Maintain Muscle Mass During Illness
Some illnesses may lead to skeletal muscle damage as they impact protein synthesis, thereby resulting in a loss of body protein. However a 2012 study concluded that a high-protein diet that results in higher leucine - one of the BCAAs - may contribute towards maintaining muscle mass in patients with certain chronic diseases.
BCAA Dosage and Risks
Like every other thing, BCAA has benefits and risks and hence needs to be consumed in moderation. However, remember that the dosage for athletes and bodybuilders naturally differs from others. There haven’t been many studies conducted on the safe intake levels of BCAA. However, a daily intake of between 15 and 35 grams is considered to be safe.
Other than that, BCAA pills or supplements are not recommended for individuals afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s disease - or ALS as it’s commonly known - and those who suffer from maple syrup urine disease. For others, it’s generally considered safe to consume BCAA supplements, but in moderation - given the benefits and risks of BCAA.
Are you looking to build muscle mass and/or lose body fat? Shop supplements today!