BCAA (Branched-chain Amino Acids): Uses & Benefits

BCA benefits and side effects

In today’s world, people have become extremely cognizant about looks and fitness. Fitness refers to a state of well being from inside as well as outside. However, it is not that simple for everyone to gain the desired body as it requires a lot of determination and thrusting to a correct lifestyle. A good lifestyle encompasses proper diet, water intake, supplements, exercise, sleep patterns, etc.

Now lack of essential nutrients in the diet alone creates a demand for supplements. Supplements such as Whey protein, Multivitamins, Fish oil Capsules, etc promote overall health, bodybuilding as well as weight loss. One of the important supplements includes BCAA, Branched Chain Amino Acids which again encourages both muscle building and weight loss.

What is BCAA?

There are 9 amino acids which the body cannot produce and hence these are termed as essential amino acids. The body requires them from external protein sources.

Three out of these nine, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine collectively form BCAA i.e. Branched Chain Amino Acids.

BCAA is the second most eminently used supplement for bodybuilders after whey protein. Researches show that BCAA might prove to be beneficial in some medical conditions as well, provided they are taken under supervision.

BCAA Bodybuilding: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

People indulging into intense exercise suffers a breakdown of muscle tissues during the workout, consequently leading to muscle wasting.

The principal usage of BCAA is to:

  • Reduce muscle tissue breakdown, and
  • Promote muscle growth and augment the intensity of exercise.
  • Besides promoting muscle growth, it acts as fuel to the body.

Hence BCAA is also useful to preserve the glycogen stores of the body during workout. Enough glycogen stores prevent the breakdown of proteins for the purpose of energy.

BCAA Uses:

Most protein foods contain BCAA but they contain plenty of calories as well. Adding a BCAA supplement in your diet provides the body exclusively with the three essential amino acids (Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine) with minimum calories.

Also, the amino acids present in BCAA are bonded by a structure that is easily breakable by the body. Splitting of this bond in the body leads to the production of a readily available form of energy.

BCAA Benefits:

There are various benefits of BCAA which are described below:

1. Improved Lean Muscle Gain: BCAA prevents muscle catabolism when taken during workout and hence preserves lean muscles. It also activates enzymes that promote muscle building.

Adding a small amount of BCAA with whey protein post-workout furthermore promotes lean muscle mass gain.

2. Acts as fuel to the body: The bond between Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are broken down by the body to produce energy.

Hence consumption of BCAA during workout provides the body with energy for the workout.

3. Restrain Muscle Wasting and Pain: Leucine present in BCAA is an anabolic factor. When calories or proteins are low in the body, it promotes the body to synthesize muscle protein.

This phenomenon helps in preventing muscle wasting. It also reduces pain induced by muscle rupture during workout.

4. Supports Weight Loss: Various studies show the contribution of BCAA consumption to weight loss, provided that it is accompanied by a proper diet and recommended amount of protein intake.

Researches prove that BCAA supplements taken in addition to a low-calorie high protein diet have resulted in approximately 1- 2 kg of additional weight loss. BCAA prevents weight gain as well as supports 0.6% more fat loss.

5. Beneficial against medical conditions like Diabetes: Leucine and Iso-Leucine help to increase insulin production. But there are limited researches about BCAA versus insulin health.

Some researches show an increase in insulin secretion, however, some show rise in blood sugar levels on incorporating BCAA. Hence, diabetics need to consult a health expert before taking BCAA as it might be beneficial in controlled conditions for diabetics.

BCAA might also reduce liver-related complications. The amino acids present in BCAA are extremely favorable for the liver.

Studies show that in some cases, BCAA has not contributed to significant improvement in survival rates after liver diseases. However, in some cases, it has effectively shown to reduce muscle fatigue and improve liver function.

There are other medical conditions as well, where BCAA might prove to be beneficial. But it is extremely essential to have such supplements under supervision with any medical condition.

6. Good for Hair and Skin: BCAA is one of the main constituents of the potassium-ion channel in human hair follicles. They have been found to enhance hair growth and possibly repair damaged hair follicles.

Skin collagen metabolism aberrations persuaded by ultraviolet rays are the major reason behind premature aging. Even one-time exposure to ultraviolet radiation decreases pro-collagen mRNA expression in the dermis, whereas prolonged exposure leads to wrinkle formation.

This is well known that amino acids regulate protein metabolism. Various studies show that the combination of BCAA and glutamine is extremely beneficial for rejuvenating protein synthesis in skin impaired by UV irradiation. This leads to an overall improvement in the quality of the skin.

BCAA Side Effects:

BCAA is mostly safe when consumed orally. Although people with any medical history should avoid consuming it without expert guidance as it might aggravate their condition.

BCAA is certainly one of the principal supplements for people who exercise regularly. It supports weight loss, bodybuilding as well as prevents muscle fatigue.

Although one should always be specific about one’s own requirement, individual medical conditions and most importantly the reason for adding a particular supplement into a daily regime.

Food Naturally Rich in BCAA

Almost all protein foods are rich in BCAA. Sources of BCAA include:

Food rich in BCAA

Whey, casein, and soy protein supplements are also rich in BCAA. For people not indulging into a regular workout, dietary sources of BCAA are enough. Intake of BCAA supplement is not a requisite for them.

But for a person performing regular exercises either for bodybuilding or weight loss, it is beneficial to have BCAA supplements.

BCAA Dosage and Consumption

The current recommended dietary allowance of leucine for sedentary workers starts from 14 mg/kg body weight per day. However, this requirement goes up to 45 mg/kg body weight per day for heavy intensity workers.

The requirement of isoleucine is 10 mg/kg body weight per day, and for valine range from 17-20 mg/kg body weight per day.

Consumption of BCAA powder further varies as per the individual requirement as well as the amount consumed through diet.

The best time to consume BCAA is during exercise. When it comes to the efficacy of BCAA, the thing of utmost importance is the ratio of amino acids.
The best ratio is 2:1:1 for leucine to isoleucine to valine.

Conclusion

BCAA are now being considered as an indispensable supplement for people performing high-intensity training and workouts.

Various in-depth studies have been performed on the BCAA benefits and its side-effects, in which BCAA has emerged and proven itself as a key ingredient in building muscle, lowering muscle fatigue and mitigate muscle soreness.