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Is BCAA Supplementation Essential?

The BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) are made up of three essential amino acids- leucine, isoleucine and valine.  They are essential because the body is unable to make them out of other amino acids. In that case, they must be ingested through food or supplements.

Now the question is, “is BCAA supplementation necessary for athletic performances?”. Based on the evidences from studies, focusing on having high BCAA and total protein intake will produce the greatest increase in muscle with training.

Based on the article published in Huntington College of Health Sciences, below are BCAA’s supplemental use:

Endurance and Fatigue

The loss of ATP occurs energy with the loss of stored glucose in the form of glycogen. ATP levels are maintained by BCAA’s degradation and fatty acid utilization after glycogen depletion. The effect of BCAA’s as energy is approximately 3-18% and possibly more depending on duration and or intensity of the workout.

BCAA is also a fatigue fighter for BCAA’s is seen with BCAA’s ability to prevent central fatigue in the nervous system. Central fatigue happens with the uptake of tryptophan by the brain increasing the levels of serotonin. Serotonin increases tiredness and fatigue demanding reset. BCAA’s inhibit the brains ability to uptake tryptophan decreasing the brain levels of tryptophan

Muscle Building and BCAA’s

During exercise times when muscle contacting tissues are being degradated for energy non-contractile muscle proteins decrease in catabolism, and inversely with reduction of exercise. In addition, the breakdown of contractile tissue increases during post work recovery. So, increasing the usage of BCAA’s before and especially after workouts has been a norm for years producing a ‘muscle sparing’ effect.

Fat Loss

Recent research has confirmed leucine increases the adipocytes (fat cells) release of fats for energy. In addition, leucine has shown to be a factor in prevention of muscle tissue degradation during dieting in diabetic situation. Most dieting situation increases the loss of lean tissue and increase muscle loss. Having adequate leucine and protein will prevent the loss of muscle during dieting.