What are BCAA’s and how do they work?
The group of amino acids known as Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), are made up of three essential amino acids, L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine as we all know.For normal individuals that do not do any type of sports activity, the daily recommended intake of BCAA’s is approximately three to four grams, which they can obtain in foods like chicken, lean beef and eggs, but for increased performance, endurance, increased energy, reducing fatigue, improve immune-system suppression; and counteracting muscle catabolism following intense exercise, we need up to 20 to 30 grams per day.
While BCAA supplementation may be useful for gaining muscle mass, I believe BCAA’s are particularly helpful for preserving muscle mass while on a low-calorie diet. They are predominantly useful for bodybuilding competitors who take their physiques to the leanest they can achieve without the loss of muscle.Contest dieting is very catabolic, which means it can lead to muscle breakdown, for numerous reasons. The harder a body gets, the more probable it is to lose muscle mass as the body tries harder and harder to hold onto body fat stores. With this process, the body will turn to muscle tissue to satisfy its energy needs. This is not good news for anyone interested in a lean physique.
In numerous studies with athletes, BCAA’s have been shown to maintain blood levels of glutamine, an amino acid used as fuel by immune system cells. During exercise, glutamine levels typically fall dramatically, removing the primary fuel source for immune cells and leading to general suppression of immune-system activity (and an increased risk of infections) following exercise. Much like the BCAA levels, it has been shown that there is an association between the absorption of glutamine in the human body and the rate of protein synthesis. For example, glutamine levels are a good indicator of anabolic prominence. If your blood levels are high your chances of gaining muscle and strength from your weight training are higher and lower levels are a definite indication of overtraining and that you don’t have your diet in order. The interaction between BCAA’s & glutamine occurs because, not only do they both encourage many of the same anabolic and anti-catabolic properties, but under demanding circumstances BCAA’s can contribute to glutamine stores by serving as carriers to the development of glutamine.By supplementing your diet with either L-Glutamine or BCAA’s, an athlete can maintain blood levels of glutamine and thereby avoid suppression of immune cell activity due to a lack of fuel.
One of the bodybuilders biggest enemies is too much stress, physical stress. Training causes big-time stress in the way of constant damage to muscle tissue. The body responds to this by increasing its production of the muscle-destroying hormone cortisol and decreasing its production of testosterone.In related studies, BCAA supplements have been shown to have a beneficial effect on counteracting the rise of cortisol and the drop of testosterone that is often seen in athletes that train for too long and too hard. In these studies, exercise was used as a model for high stress, so the increased cortisol levels and the reduced testosterone levels are exactly what happens every time we go to the gym.