Benefits of BCAAs
- BCAAs enhance muscle protein synthesis for greater muscle hypertrophy (growth) and maintenance of lean muscle mass during non-training periods such as recovery from injury. This happens especially when consumed with a pool of amino acids consisting of alanine, aspartate and glutamate.
- Leucine-enriched BCAAs mixtures enhance muscle building for older trainees who aim to put on muscle1. The most effective ratio for muscle growth is thought to be 4:1 of Leucine to Valine and Isoleucine.
- BCAAs increase fat burning (Leucine) and glucose tolerance (Isoleucine) for a leaner body composition2. During training periods for fat loss, the athlete should increase food and supplements with a high BCAA content.
- BCAAs improve hormone balance for greater strength, power and endurance by increasing testosterone and decreasing cortisol in addition to reducing inflammation3.
- BCAAs may improve strength development with training when more than 4g per day of Leucine is consumed, because of effective increases neuromuscular coordination4.
- BCAAs enhance strength endurance and decrease fatigue, because BCAAs can be burned as energy to replenish ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) levels, the prime energy molecule in the human body. They also delay fatigue and tiredness by inhibiting Tryptophan receptors in the brain.
- BCAAs preserve the integrity of muscle fibres. This decreases muscle soreness and allows you to train more frequently helping you to reach your full athletic potential more efficiently and effectively5.
- BCAAs reduces muscle catabolism (degradation) by protecting lean muscle tissue. This also prevents muscle mass reduction in endurance sports, where BCAA levels in blood plasma can drop significantly6.
- BCAAs improves insulin health and metabolic rate for an advantageous body composition. Insulin sensitivity may also reduce the risk of diabetes7.
- BCAAs have anti-ageing properties, because they are used in cancer8 and liver disease treatment strategies9. They increase the formation of new mitochondria and thus reduce age related muscle loss10.
- BCAAs improve cognition, because of their enhancing effect on neurotransmitters and glutamate synthesis 11, 12.
- BCAAs, unlike most other amino acids, are metabolized in within muscle tissue, allowing them to be oxidized (used as energy) by muscle cells to produce cellular energy in the form of ATP. ATP is the primary source of energy that fuels muscle contraction and allows you to lift weights.
- The fact that leucine, isoleucine, and valine are metabolized within muscle tissue allows them to be a quick energy source when the body needs it. There is a significant increase in BCAA metabolism during prolonged exercise simply because the body requires more energy during periods of stress such as training. This makes BCAAs incredibly effective when taken around the time of your workout routine.
- BCAAs have been proven in many studies to be a potent performance enhancer, and as previously mentioned, BCAAs make a great energy source for working muscles because of their unique metabolism. This can have a positive impact on performance.
- Another way that BCAAs can enhance performance is through their ability to spare glycogen during training. Found as stored carbohydrates within muscle tissue and the liver, glycogen is the favored fuel source for working muscles engaged in high intensity exercise. This makes glycogen availability and preservation vitally important if you wish to continue to train hard for longer periods of time.
- Studies have shown that by ingesting BCAAs before and during training glycogen levels can be spared by 25%. It is thought that the ingestion of BCAAs boosts blood alanine levels which gets converted to glucose in the liver and then sent back to working muscle to be used as fuel. This glycogen sparing effect of BCAAs will not only allow for longer more intense training sessions but also allows for faster recovery leading to a better workout tomorrow.
- Lastly, the amino acid leucine has also shown promise for increasing insulin sensitivity. Essentially, insulin sensitivity ensures that the insulin within your body maintains its effectiveness. This leads to easier fat loss, more muscle growth, and defense against diabetes.
- Luckily it has been shown that BCAA intake can have a positive effect on anabolic hormone release.
- Ingestion of BCAAs not only increases testosterone in the post-training period but also builds muscle by improving the body’s testosterone to cortisol ratio.
- It has recently been found that taking BCAAs while resistance training results in significantly higher testosterone levels with a lower creatine kinase and cortisol response. This leads to more muscle tissue being built and less muscle tissue being broken down.
WHY BCAA DON'T DISSOLVE IN WATER
A few globular proteins are not water soluble, but lipid soluble. For example, lung surfactant protein B must interact with phospholipids in surfactant, so it is among the most hydrophobic of proteins. BCAAs make up 37% of the amino acid composition of surfactant protein B (17.7% leucine, 11.4% valine, 7.6% isoleucine).
L-Leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine are therefore the reason why BCAA can't be totaly mixed in water because of their crystalline structure, which leads to bad hydrophilicity. Thus,BCAAs’ molecular surface cannot be quickly humidified and dissolved accordingly, which greatly confines BCAA in aqueous applications.
So you shouldn't be worried, if your BCAA does not mix well with water. Actually it is most likely a sign that you got the pure form BCAA not an inferior mix.
This video further explains the issue of solubility and mixability of BCAA:
TAKE THE MOST EFFECTIVE RATIO OF BCAAS
Be aware that the ratio of leucine to isoleucine and valine is also critical for optimizing its benefits. You should look for BCAA supplements that provide leucine at a dose that delivers a ratio of leucine to valine and leucine to isoleucine of 2:1. For example, if you take a 5-g dose of BCAAs, try to get about
2.5 g from leucine, 1.25 g from isoleucine and 1.25 g from valine.
The most important times to ingest BCAA’s are times are before, during, and after training. Here are effective dosages for intake around training.
Bodyweight and BCAA Intake
150 lbs. or less - 3 grams before, during, and after training.
151 lbs. or more - 5 grams before, during, and after training.
Although before, during and after training is the most important time to take in BCAA’s there are other times of the day that they are of use. For extra benefit BCAA’s can be taken throughout the day in addition to the BCAA’s taken around training time. This will further increase protein synthesis and reduce muscle tissue breakdown.
Bodyweight and BCAA Intake
150 lbs. or less - 10 grams before, during, and after training.
151 lbs. or more - 15 grams before, during, and after training.
This dosage should be split up throughout the day and taken at breakfast, between meals, and before bed.
HOW TO STACK BCAAS.
To maximize their effectiveness, take BCAAs with protein and carbs, such as a whey protein shake (after workouts), eggs and toast (for breakfast), or steak and a sweet potato (for dinner). Taking BCAAs with protein and carbs will help to drive more of the BCAAs into your muscles thanks to the greater insulin boost.
For those following a low-carb diet, you will obviously not want to eat carbs every time you take a dose of BCAAs. That’s fine, because the leucine will help boost insulin on its own. In addition, you can take BCAAs with supplements, such as alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), that enhance insulin’s release and its action at muscle cells. Take 300–500 mg of ALA when you take a dose of BCAAs to further enhance insulin’s actions and get more BCAAs into your muscles.
HOW TO DOSE YOUR BCAAS
A minimum of 5g and up to 10g of BCAAs per dose is recommended. Start off with just 1 or 2g of BCAAs per dose to allow your stomach to get used to them. Then slowly increase the dosage (by about 1g per dose every three or four days) as your tolerance allows until you’re up to at least the minimum dose of 5g.
WHEN TO TAKE BCAAS
When it comes to BCAAs, timing is crucial. To gain more muscle mass, strength and energy, the most critical time for taking BCAAs is around workouts. For best results, you should take one dose within 30 minutes before your workouts along with your pre-workout protein shake and carbs, and another dose within 30 minutes after workouts along with your post workout protein shake and carbs.
Supplementing with BCAAs before and after workouts keeps cortisol levels low during exercise, which encourages greater muscle growth. A dose of BCAAs right before workouts will provide your muscles with the energy they need to stave off fatigue throughout the workout. Additionally, research confirms that taking BCAAs around workout time will help to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which results from intense training.
Another critical window for taking a dose of BCAAs is as soon as you wake up in the morning. This dose gets the aminos immediately to your muscles to use as fuel and for repair, which will stop the continued breakdown of your hard-earned muscle from your night-long fasting, and help build it back up.
The fourth time of day you should take a dose of BCAAs is late in the day with dinner or with your last meal. This helps to keep protein synthesis and GH up, and cortisol down throughout the next day.
You may also want to consider taking additional doses of BCAAs between meals to keep hunger down and metabolism up for optimal fat burning.
5. “Shah, S., Crosslin, D., et al. BCAA Levels are Associated with Improvement in Insulin Resistance with Weight Loss. Diabetologia. February 2012. 55(2), 321-330″
6. “Borgenvik, M., Nordin, M., et al. Alterations in Amino Acid Concentrations in the Plasma and Muscle in Human Subjects during 24 Hour of Simulated Adventure Racing. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012″
7. “Borgenvik, M., Nordin, M., et al. Alterations in Amino Acid Concentrations in the Plasma and Muscle in Human Subjects during 24 Hour of Simulated Adventure Racing. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012″
8. Qin LQ et al.: Higher branched-chain amino acid intake is associated with a lower prevalence of being overweigth or obese in middle-aded east asian and western adults; J Nutr. 2010 Dec 15
9. Takeshita Y et al.: Beneficial effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on diabetes in patients with insulin resistance: Implications for type 2 diabetes. Metabolism. 2012 Apr 19
10. “Peltier, S., Vincent, L., et al. Effects of Carbohydrates-BCAAs-Caffeine Ingestion on Performance and Neuromuscular Function During a 2-H Treadmill Run. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. December 2011. 8(22)”