BCAAs - Your Key to Gains
Chances are pretty good that if you’re into fitness and exercise in any form, you’ve undoubtedly been told it’s essential to consume something called “BCAAs” during training. You’ve also noticed that they’re included in your of PreHAK or PostHAK. But what are BCAAs, and what do they do?
Pay attention, because you’re about to get a full lesson in the power of these muscle-building aminos!
What are BCAA’s?
Proteins are comprised of amino acids joined together via peptide bonds. In total, there are 20 different amino acids which can be categorized as essential or non-essential. Essential amino acids are those which must be consumed through the diet, as the body cannot manufacture them. Non-essentials, therefore, are ones which the body can synthesize.
BCAAs, short for branched-chain amino acids, are a specialized class of essential amino acid due to their unique “branched” molecular structure. The three essential amino acids making up BCAAs are: leucine, isoleucine and valine.
Together these three aminos account for approximately 35% of muscle mass -- now you can see why they’re so important! BCAAs are readily available in whole foods, particularly animal protein, of which meat and dairy foods are the most plentiful.
What do they do?
The specialized structure of BCAAs allow them to perform a rather cool “trick” in the body. In essence, BCAAs are oxidized (i.e. broken down) in skeletal muscle during ATP production. These aminos are converted into glucose, via gluconeogenesis, pyruvate, and other various intermediates required during ATP synthesis. Basically, BCAAs increase carbohydrate availability and help protect muscles against exercise-induced catabolism (protein breakdown).
Furthermore, BCAAs are also well-known for their ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (i.e. building muscle). So not only are they great for resisting muscle breakdown, they can actually help you pack on slabs of new lean muscle tissue!
The catch is that the body only stores a miniscule amount of BCAAs freely, so the more we increase this freely available BCAA pool, the more they will be used for energy, sparing muscle breakdown and reducing muscle loss.
When to use them?
Due to the rapid absorption of BCAAs they are ideal to take pre, intra, or post workout. They can be used by athletes of all kinds, but in particular, two groups stand out:
Resistance-training (i.e. Weightlifters)
The goal of resistance training is to breakdown muscle so that it rebuilds and adapts to a new training stimulus. Consuming BCAAs before and during a workout provides both a source of energy and a “reservoir” of amino acids the body can use to not only power you through a workout, but also have the raw materials needed to prevent muscle breakdown and kickstart the repair and growth process.
Endurance athletes also stand to benefit from BCAA supplementation, especially during competition. For example, when running a marathon, muscles are under constant wear and tear, and if there isn’t some form of amino acid intake, the body will begin to pull the required nutrients from your muscles to provide energy. Consuming BCAAs during training and competition prevents this breakdown and helps preserve lean muscle mass.
Fig. 3 Delayed onset muscle soreness before and up to 96 h after the damaging bout of exercise. * denotes a significant group effect. Values are means ± SD; N = 12.
BCAA Benefits- Stimulate muscle protein synthesis
- Increase lean muscle mass
- Prevent catabolism
- Boost endurance
- Improved mental performance
- Faster recovery
- Reduced soreness
Given everything you’ve read about BCAAs to this point, it’s a no-brainer that they should be a part of your supplement regimen if you’re training hard. Fortunately, PreHAK and PostHAK supply you with a hefty 6g dose to drive your muscle building during your workout and hasten recovery in the after hours.
Md. Monirujjaman and Afroza Ferdouse, “Metabolic and Physiological Roles of Branched-Chain Amino Acids,” Advances in Molecular Biology, vol. 2014, Article ID 364976, 6 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/364976
Blomstrand E, Ek S, Newsholme EA. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on plasma and muscle concentrations of amino acids during prolonged submaximal exercise. Nutrition. 1996;12(7-8):485-490.
Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9:20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20.
Blomstrand, P. et.al. “Administration of Branched-Chain Amino Acids During Sustained Exercise – Effects on Performance and On Plasma Concentration of Some Amino Acids.” European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology (1991), 83-88, Accessed November 20, 2014, doi: 10.1007/BF00235174
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