Are BCAA’s the supplement for you?
Taking a look on the current research available there is much to be said about the efficacy of supplementing Branched chain amino acids (BCAA).
Firstly, BCAA’s are a group of three essential amino acids (Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine). They have been reported to increase muscle growth, improve sporting performance, increase weight loss and reduce fatigue. These all sound extremely favourable. However, is this is all true?
A recent study by Hormoznejad, Javid and Mansoori (2019) conducted a systematic review and meta-analayis on the Effects of BCAA supplementation on central fatigue, energy metabolism substrate and muscle damage from exercise.
They have revealed that supplementing with BCAA’s have beneficial effects on lactate, free fatty acids (FFA), glucose, ammonia and Creatine Kinase (CK). The beneficial effects make BCAAs a successful nutritional supplement for sports fatigue.
BCAA’s are the most common amino acids that are oxidized and catabolised in skeletal muscle tissue. Therefore, supplementing with BCAA’s allows for muscle regeneration by suppressing endogenous muscle protein degradation after exercise. Having insufficient amino acids post-exercise you may delay the stimulation of your skeletal muscle protein synthesis. This is why protein powders and amino acid supplementation became so popular in athletes wanting to grow in size.
Lactate and ammonia levels are good fatigue substances to measure in sports fatigue. Lactate is an important marker to look at because of its effect on muscle activity and muscle fatigue. It basically reflects the anaerobic glucose metabolising during exercise. BCAA supplementation has been shown to have a positive influence with a reduction in lactate levels. Ammonia is a highly toxic substance to the brain and can deteriorate muscle function. BCAA supplementation has been shown to suppress endogenous skeletal muscle protein breakdown by reducing increasing amounts of ammonia in skeletal muscle.
BCAA’s have an effect on the liver’s activity of releasing glucose from stored glycogen by adding a supply of energy. Instead, BCAA’s are taken up by the muscles and oxidised. This results in glucose that is released from the liver to be reduced, and consequently, glucose levels in the blood are decreased. This would allow a person to achieve greater lengths of energy. Please note: this was done in short term dosing. Long term dosing did not show an effect on blood glucose levels.
The ingestion of BCAA’s has a role in reducing free fatty acids (FFA) during exercise. This is presumably the result of the BCAA mixture stimulating insulin to be released. Increased numbers of FFA increases the amount of free tryptophan to cross the blood brain barrier and induce the sensation of fatigue. By consuming BCAA’s it will reduce FFA and reduce levels of fatigue.
Creatine kinase (CK) is a good indicator of muscle damage. With long term supplementation of BCAAs it has been found that blood levels of CK are reduced. Therefore, less muscle was broken down and muscle is spared.
BCAAs do have a place in the supplement world and with its researched evidence we find it will reduce fatigue, decreases muscle protein breakdown (great for when dieting), increase muscle protein synthesis, reduce recovery times and soreness.
BCAA dosing is best taken at 10-20g per day pre workout and 6-8g post workout.
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