When you talk about the “must-haves” of supplements, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are at the top of the list. Leucine, isoleucine and valine are best known for their support of muscle growth, but the benefits go much further. With continuous use, BCAAs can improve performance, accelerate recovery and even boost fat loss.
Keep reading to learn the four main benefits of BCAAs.
You’re probably well aware that muscle tissue is made of protein, and protein is made up of amino acids. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that muscle protein synthesis is essentially just the process of combining amino acids. However, BCAAs take their role in muscle building one step further.
Research has shown that BCAAs, and particularly leucine, increase muscle growth by directly stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Leucine acts almost like a key that signals the body to begin stringing amino acids together to create muscle protein.
A study presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that experienced lifters taking a BCAA supplement for eight weeks gained about twice as much muscle and strength as those not taking BCAAs.
As the building blocks of muscle, BCAAs are critical for the maintenance and repair of muscle tissue. They can also help you maintain the muscle you already have by blocking the stress hormone cortisol, and acting as an energy source for your muscles. Unlike most aminos that are metabolized in the liver, BCAAs are metabolized in skeletal muscle, which means your body is able to break them down quickly for fuel. When glucose is low due to rigorous exercise, amino acids provide the energy your muscles need, effectively preventing catabolism. Studies show that BCAAs also decrease delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Aside from their muscle-building and recovery benefits, research shows BCAAs can also improve performance. Taking them before your workout allows your body to utilize the supplement for fuel and repair during the exercise, which helps increase strength and endurance.
For example, one study in 2005 found that leucine-enriched protein increased strength gains by 30% over eight weeks. Another study by the Air Force demonstrated that participants taking a BCAA supplement experienced increased strength and lean muscle in comparison to those taking a placebo. Finally, results from a Japanese study showed that BCAA supplementation before strenuous exercise increased endurance.
This research makes it clear that BCAAs play a significant role in improving performance. Mix them in with your pre-workout or sip on them up to 30 minutes into your workout for the best results.
Finally, research has shown that BCAAs aid in fat loss. In a 2009 study, lifters taking BCAAs lost about twice as much body fat as those taking whey protein without added BCAAs. Another study out of Brazil found that 6-week leucine supplementation caused a large drop in body fat. To explain this dramatic result, the researchers proposed that the increase in protein synthesis stimulated by leucine increased energy expenditure so much that it helped to burn off body fat.
It’s All About the Timing!
To reap all of these benefits, supplement with BCAAs throughout the day. We recommend the following schedule:
AM – Take Best BCAA Shredded™ before your fasted cardio to burn fat for fuel.
Midday/Pre Workout – Take Best BCAA™ w/ Energy to provide energy for your muscles and improve performance.
Intra/Post Workout – Take Best BCAA™ during or after your workout to prevent muscle breakdown, support lean muscle growth and optimize recovery.