Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): Uses, effects, and importance:
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids that are primarily found in meat, dairy products, and legume. 20 amino acids are essential to the human body. Only 11 out of those 20 amino-acids are produced by your body itself while the remaining 9 are only available through food and supplements. Three out of those nine amino acids are also called as BCAAs.
However, people also take BCCA supplements to develop muscles and enhance their body endurance. They are proved to be helpful for weight loss and reduction of fatigue after exercise.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs consist of three essential amino acids:
These amino acids are the only three amino acids to have a chain that has an aliphatic side chain with a branch.
Why are they considered to be important?
BCAAs make up a vast part of the body’s total amino acid pool. They represent around 35–40% of all essential amino acids present in your body and 14–18% of those which are found in your muscles.
They are considered important because, unlike non-essential amino acids, your body cannot make them. Therefore, you can only get these amino acids from your diet.
These amino acids are mostly broken down in the muscle, rather than in the liver. Due to this, they are thought to play a unique role in energy production during exercise. They play many other roles in your body too.
Uses of BCCAs in our body
- Your body can use them as the building blocks for protein and muscle.
- They also help in regulating blood sugar levels by stimulating body cells to take sugar from the bloodstream.
- They are proved to be useful in reducing weariness or fatigue which one can feel during exercise by activating the serotonin hormone in the brain.
- Leucine is said to cause a great impact on the capability of the body to build muscle proteins.
- Valine and isoleucine are more effective in regulating blood sugar levels and producing energy.
Top 6 benefits of BCCAs – Are they effective?
1. BCAAs May Reduce Fatigue During Exercise:
Many studies were conducted in which BCCAs were seen to reduce physical and mental fatigue in humans. They help in stimulating the serotonin level which then indirectly reduces any sorts of fatigue in the human body during exercise.
2. Reduce Muscle Soreness:
DOMS– delayed onset muscle soreness is normally caused after a workout (and can be prolonged even after 12-24 hrs of a workout), BCAAs may help in the reduction of these types of muscle soreness.
They lower the level of creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase enzymes which are commonly involved in muscle soreness. This may also improve recovery and provide some protection against muscle damage.
These supplements taken before or after strength workouts reduce muscle soreness, however, its results may vary from one person to another.
3. Prevention of muscle loss or increase muscle mass:
They can help in the prevention of muscle loss or breakdown. Many individuals also take these supplements to increase their muscle mass. One study proved that BCCAs are responsible for activating the enzymes responsible for muscle building. Taking BCCAs supplements or through food will surely boost your muscle growth.
4. BCAAs may help in lowering blood sugar levels:
BCAAs may also help in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Leucine and isoleucine seem to increase insulin secretion and cause body muscles to take in more sugar from your bloodstream so your blood sugar levels get decreased eventually.
5. Help in losing weight:
BCCAs may help in preventing weight gain and also enhance fat loss. A study showed that if you take BCCAs in your diet up to 15 grams every day it may lower down the risk of weight gain up to 30%.
If you want to lose weight then you can easily reduce it with the help of BCCAs supplements.
6. Useful for patients with liver diseases:
They are quite effective for people who have liver complications linked to liver failure. It also helps in overcoming chronic liver conditions such as hepatic encephalopathy (HE), which can lead to confusion, loss of consciousness, and finally coma. It reduces the risk of liver cancer too!
Normal dosage of BCCAs that you can take
Healthy individuals should aim to consume:
- Women:- at least 9 grams of BCAAs per day
- Men:- at least 12 grams of BCAAs per day
However, people who already take protein-rich foods in their diets do not need to take these supplements. These daily requirements may be slightly higher for athletes and people doing heavy resistance training.
BCCAs containing foods
There is a large variety of foods that contain BCAAs naturally. The following are some of the foods that have the highest amounts:
- Meat, poultry, and fish: 84 grams
- Beans and lentils: 2.5–3 grams per cup
- Milk: 2 grams per cup (237 ml)
- Tofu: 0.9 to 2.3 grams per 3 oz (84 grams)
- Cheese: 1.4 grams per 1 oz (28 grams)
- Eggs: 1.3 grams per large egg
- Pumpkin seeds: 28 grams
- Quinoa: 1 gram per cup
Safety and side effects
BCAA supplements are generally safe and don’t have any side effects for most people.
However, BCAA supplements are not recommended for those suffering from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and maple syrup urine disease.
But if they are consumed in large amounts, they may cause fatigue, loss of coordination, nausea, headaches, and increased insulin resistance (which can also lead to Type 2 diabetes). It also affects blood sugar levels, so anyone having surgery should avoid them for some time before and after surgery.
Branched-chain amino acid supplements may provide great benefits in certain circumstances, especially when it comes to building muscles, fat loss, and increasing your endurance during workouts. However, BCAAs can also be found in whole protein supplements as well as in a large variety of protein-rich foods which are mentioned in the list above.