BCAA Benefits, Uses, and More for a Leaner, Healthier Lifestyle
Do you work out every day to build more muscle? Are you looking for ways to increase the efficiency of your workouts? If so, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) might be just the thing you need. These amino acids are crucial for anyone who wants to build muscle with lean, mean workouts. But BCAA benefits go further than building muscle and giving you an effective workout.
BCAA benefits also include other health benefits such as lowered blood sugar levels and even weight loss. If you want to build your muscles while improving your workout and increasing your health, learning about BCAA benefits is a great first step.
WHAT ARE BCAAS?
BCAAs are essential amino acids made up of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These 3 amino acids make up 30 to 40 percent of all the amino acids in your body, and 14 to 18 percent of those found in your muscles.
BCAAs are not broken down in the liver like other amino acids but are broken down in the muscle. And while your body needs all of the BCAA benefits they provide, it doesn’t produce them naturally. You have to get them from supplements or food.
SAFETY AND SIDE EFFECTS OF BCAAS
Studies show that taking a BCAA supplement is considered safe. The recommended dose is 15,000 to 35,000 milligrams a day, and this dosage causes no side effects in most people — but there are some who should not take them.
Those who have Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) should not take BCAAs. In fact, an Italian study was ceased due to an excess mortality rate in Lou Gehrig’s patients when given BCAAs. And people who suffer from Maple Syrup Urine Disease should not take BCAAs because another study shows that their bodies are unable to break them down properly.
FOODS HIGH IN BCAAS
You can get all the BCAA benefits from taking them as supplements or a diet high in the foods rich in the amino acids. Some pros recommend getting BCAAs from both supplements and food sources. Here is a list of the foods high in BCAA:
- 95 percent lean beef
- Canned tuna
- Chicken breast
- Wild salmon
- Beef flank steak
- Roasted peanuts
DIETING AND MUSCLE LOSS
When you need to lose excess pounds but at the same time want to improve your muscle mass, it can be difficult. That’s because all that weight loss could shrink your muscles. Others who want the look of lean, ripped muscles need to be aware that getting that lean look may come at the cost of muscle mass.
That’s because dieting is a catabolic function. As a body gets leaner, it loses skeletal muscle because it tries to hold onto body fat stores. When that happens, the body will often turn to muscle for energy, and that means less muscles mass.
To use the muscle mass the body breaks down more protein, which frees muscle amino acids for metabolic fuel. And that’s where BCAA benefits become clear. If you increase the number of amino acids in your body, it won’t have to take them from your muscles.
And that’s just one of the BCAA benefits that can improve your workouts and give you the ripped body you’re looking for. Here are nine BCAA benefits that will help you achieve your fitness goals
BCAA BENEFITS TO IMPROVE YOUR WORKOUTS
If you’re looking for BCAA benefits, you’ve come to the right place. On our list of BCAA benefits below, we don’t just give you a list of the commonly cited BCAA benefits. We also point you to the science that backs up the claims. If science doesn’t support one of the claims? We talk about that, too.
If you are thinking about adding BCAA to your workouts, here are nine well-known BCAA benefits and what the science has to say about them.
BCAAS INCREASE MUSCLE MASS
If asked which of the BCAA benefits make them want to begin taking the supplement, most people would probably say they want to take it to increase their muscle mass. Does it work, though?
It’s true that BCAA activates the enzymes that are responsible for building muscle, and will increase your muscle mass, especially if it’s higher in leucine than the other two amino acids. But some suggest that there are no studies showing you need to take a BCAA supplement to get those benefits. They say using a less-expensive whey or soy protein supplement is just as effective. Those studies show that taking supplements with a whole protein, such as whey, may increase muscle mass more than supplementing with individual amino acids, such as BCAAs.
BCAAS INCREASE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS
Protein synthesis happens when the body uses amino acids to create new muscle tissue. If you’re trying to gain muscle mass, increasing your protein synthesis is a no-brainer. When weight lifting, you also break down proteins in your body. The key to building muscle mass is to create an environment where the protein synthesis is more active than the protein breakdown.
One of the BCAA benefits is that it contributes to protein synthesis. That’s particularly true of Leucine, one of the three amino acids in BCAAs.
Some have called into question the studies because they say the participants were on a severe protein and calorie-restrictive diet at the time of the study. They say the study only shows the BCAA benefits affect people who are not eating enough protein at the time of supplementation.
BCAAS REDUCE EXERCISE FATIGUE
Some studies show that using BCAA supplements may help reduce both mental and physical fatigue during exercise. For example, one study shows that people taking BCAAs experienced 15 percent less fatigue than those given a placebo. Another study shows that people who took BCAA supplements were able to exercise 17 percent longer before reaching exhaustion than those who only took placebos.
A similar study shows the same. In it, participants were given a cycling test and put under heat stress. The people who took BCAA supplements were able to cycle 12 percent longer than those who took the placebo.
The results of these studies are likely from the fact that BCAAs are broken down in the muscle instead of the liver. Scientists believe this causes increased energy production during exercise. Not every study shows that BCAA benefits include reduced exercise fatigue. Some show that BCAAs reduce fatigue in untrained athletes better than those who are trained.
BCAAS DECREASE MUSCLE SORENESS
Another one of the great BCAA benefits is that it may make you feel less sore after a workout. It does this by lowering the blood levels of two enzymes in your body: creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase. Both of these enzymes contribute to muscle damage when you work out. Because BCAAs lower the levels of these enzymes, you are likely to recover more quickly and have some protection against muscle damage.
Researchers studied muscle soreness in a number of studies and found that participants said they were up to 33 percent less sore than those given a placebo. And some participants said they performed up to 20 percent better when doing the same strength-training exercise tests one to two days later.
BCAAS LOWER BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
If you’re looking to reduce or maintain normal blood sugar levels, it’s another of the BCAA benefits you need to know about. It does this because two of the amino acids in the supplement, leucine, and isoleucine, increase insulin secretion which causes your muscles to draw more sugar from your blood. And that reduces your blood sugar levels.
There are two sides to this research. Some studies don’t back up these findings — and some even report higher levels of blood sugar levels leading to insulin resistance. It’s important to talk to your doctor when thinking about supplementing with BCAAs to find out how they could affect your blood sugar levels.
BCAAS CONTRIBUTE TO WEIGHT LOSS
Another one of the important BCAA benefits is the fact that they prevent weight gain and contribute to fat loss. Some studies show that people who consume about 15,000 milligrams of BCAAs every day have a 30 percent lower risk of becoming obese or overweight than people who only consume 12,000 milligrams.
Another study shows that competitive wrestlers who consumed a high-protein, low-calorie diet and took BCAAs lost 3.5 pounds more than those who took a soy protein supplement. And even though the two groups ate the same amount of calories every day, the group taking BCAA supplements lost 0.6 percent more body fat than the placebo group.
But before you run out and buy BCAA supplements, you should know that other studies show inconsistent results. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your doctor when thinking about starting this supplement program.
BCAAS IMPROVED LIVER HEALTH
One of the unexpected BCAA benefits is how the supplement may improve the complications of liver disease. For example, people who are experiencing liver failure develop Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE). It is a complication that can lead to confusion, a loss of consciousness, and even a coma. But one review of BCAA supplementation shows that it may help reduce the severity of HE. It’s important to note that researchers did not find that BCAAs increased the survival rate or reduced other complications in this type of patient.
For people undergoing liver surgery, BCAA-enriched solutions helped improve their liver functions and reduced the risk of complications. The supplement can also reduce fatigue, improve sleep quality, weakness, and muscle cramps in those with liver disease.
Finally, for those suffering from liver cancer, studies show that taking BCAA can help reduce water retention and decrease the risk of premature death by up to 7 percent.
BCAAS PREVENT MUSCLE WASTING
Another one of the BCAA benefits is that it can help prevent muscle breakdown or wasting. The proteins in muscles are constantly being broken down and repaired. Do you remember reading earlier about the importance of increased protein synthesis (repair) over protein breakdown? BCAA not only helps to increase protein synthesis, but it helps prevent or decrease muscle breakdown.
People who suffer from malnutrition, chronic infections, cancer, fasting, or are aging also experience muscle wasting. And because BCAAs make up 35 percent of the amino acids in your body, these supplements can prevent or slow down your muscles from wasting.
BCAA BENEFITS VS. WHEY BENEFITS
Because a few of the studies we cited mention whey protein, we’ve included a list below of some things experts believe you should know about BCAA benefits and why benefits.
- If you already get enough quality protein,
- BCAAs won’t offer any benefits
- Whey protein is absorbed faster than BCAAs
- Most BCAAs end up in muscle tissue
- Taking too much BCAA can lead to an amino acid imbalance
- It’s a waste of money to take both BCAAs and whey protein
- When taking whey protein, you get about 20 percent of BCAAs
HOW MUCH BCAA SHOULD YOU TAKE?
If you have decided that the BCAA benefits outweigh the negatives, you need to know how much you should take. But when it comes to BCAA dosage requirements, a lot depends on your diet. For instance, if you already get enough quality protein by eating a lot of the BCAA-rich foods listed above, you won’t need to take as much of the supplement.
In general, women should take about 9,000 milligrams a day, while men can take up to 12,000 milligrams a day.
ARE THE BCAA BENEFITS RIGHT FOR YOU?
What do you think? Is adding BCAA to your supplement routine the right way to increase muscle mass, reduce wasting, and improve other areas of your health? Or will you stick to whole amino acids like whey protein to do the job? Remember to include your doctor in on the decision. He or she knows your personal history and may provide some great insight that helps you make the right decision.
Do you currently take BCAA? If so, we would love to hear about your experiences with the supplement in the comments below!