Oct 11, 2009 • By Chris Soares •
BCAA stands for Branch Chained Amino Acids, and it is comprised of Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine. BCAAs are the main amino acids oxidized during exercise, and due to them totaling 1/3 of the total amino acids in muscle tissue it is important to ingest enough of these during exercise. Additionally, they are the building blocks of muscle, so they are very important to intake. Furthermore, these are essential amino acids which means we need to have them in our diet, but luckily whey protein has a high content of BCAAs.
L-Leucine; is it the most important amino acid?
This amino acid is probably the most important out of the three, as research indicates that during intense exercise is used up quickly compared to the others. One study compared muscle protein turnover after resistance exercise (1). They had three different groups: carbohydrates only, protein and carbohydrates, and finally leucine carbohydrates and protein. Their findings were interesting to say the least as the leucine+carbohydrates+protein group had the largest whole body proteinbalance. Furthermore they explained that it could have been caused from various different pathways such as providing more amino acids for muscle protein synthesis, the leucine increased insulin concentrations when compared to the other groups which could help in protein synthesis (1). They also found that leucine has the ability to help stop protein degradation, which they believe is caused by greater insulin secretion (1). Furthermore, another study found that leucine supplementation stimulates recovery of the skeletal muscle protein synthesis after exercise. However, they used rats in the study but the results are still interesting (2).
BCAA supplementation shown to decrease DOMS and protein degradation!
Another study went over BCAA supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscle fatigue caused by squats in human. Their results showed that supplementing with BCAAs before squats caused a decrease in DOMS and muscle fatigue (3). Additionally, another study found that exercise causes BCAA degradation, so during resistance training the need for BCAAs goes up (4). Finally they found that supplementing with BCAAs before and after exercise can aid in promoting skeletal muscle synthesis, and also reduce exercise induced muscle damage (4). Overall BCAAs can be a very important supplement and they have a lot of research backing their effectiveness. I think they would work very well during weight loss because it could help decrease DOMS which can limit exercise during caloric deficits. Furthermore they can help stop protein degradation, which too would be good when you are trying to save your precious muscle while losing that fat.
1. Gorselink, Marchel, Rene Koopman, Hans Keizer, et al. "Combined ingestion of protein and free leucine with carbohydrate increases postexercise muscle protein synthesis in vivo in male subjects." Journal of Applied Physiology. 288 (2004): E645-653. AJP - Endocrinology and Metabolism. <http://ajpendo.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/288/4/E645#R32>.
2. Anthony, Joshua C., Tracy G. Anthony, and Donald K. Layman. "Leucine Supplementation Enhances Skeletal Muscle Recovery in Rats Following Exercise." Journal of Nutrition 129 (1999): 1102-106. The Journal of Nutrition. <http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/129/6/1102?ijkey=5ae97f64f5885bebe68276f837286c20ff4670cf&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha>.
3. Mawatari, K., H. Kobayashi, N. Shimomura, et al. "Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle." Journal of Nutrition 136 (2006): 529S-32S. PubMed. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16424141?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_Discovery
4. Harris, RA., M. Nagasaki, Nakai N., et al. "Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise." Journal of Nutrition 134 (2004): 1583S-587S. PubMed. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15173434?ordinalpos=itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DiscoveryPanel.