Branched-Chain-Amino-Acids (BCAAs): What you need to know
What are BCAAs?
Amino acids are the building blocks for protein, and out of the 20 that your body needs, 9 of them are not produced naturally and need to be sourced through diet alone. Out of those 9 amino acids, 3 of them are branched-chain-amino-acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine. The branched-chain refers to their structure and makes them particularly effective as they are metabolised primarily by skeletal muscle so they can directly enter your bloodstream. It is because of this fast-working nature that they are used particularly during exercise.
How can they help me?
Increased muscle growth
Leucine, one of the 3 BCAAs is responsible for activating the muscle protein synthesis pathway in the body, which is the process responsible for building muscle. BCAAs also inhibits muscle protein breakdown and can reduce muscle wasting.
Less muscle soreness
With strength training, muscles can become damaged. Unfortunately, this can result in DOMS (delayed-onset-muscle-soreness) that occurs from 12-24 hours after exercise and can last for up to 72. DOMS can be seriously painful and impact you greatly following a good workout. Luckily, BCAAS can help reduce this muscle soreness through lessening the muscle damage that occurs during exercise. This is particularly useful if you are doing extra training for an event or need to up the amount of exercise you do to reach your goals.
Decreased exercise fatigue
Everyone experiences exercise fatigue at some point depending on environmental factors as well as health and fitness levels. Exercise fatigue is triggered by the increase of a chemical called tryptophan in the brain. This tryptophan is then converted to serotonin, a chemical that is thought to initiate exercise fatigue during training. The release of tryptophan is a result of lower BCAA levels in the blood and these BCAAs get used up as you train.
Supplementing or consuming additional BCAAs can be effective in reducing the impact and occurrence of exercise fatigue – very useful for when you need additional training to prepare for an event or to reach your goals.
Where can I find BCAAs?
Branched-chain-amino-acids can be found naturally in high-protein foods such as chicken, eggs and tuna. However, it can be hard to incorporate enough of these foods into your diet if you have a hurried schedule and high protein requirements.