The human frame is always seeking to find the balance between anabolic (building up) and catabolic (tearing down) of its tissues. Stress, poor digestion, and dieting all contribute to accelerated catabolic effects within the human body. Your body endeavors to put up “the good fight” when it comes to controlling catabolism which is the destructive breaking down of more complex substances into simpler ones. Unfortunately, this includes the breakdown of your muscles and virtually every other tissue.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) help enable the body to support anabolic processes and deter catabolism, all things being equal. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the branched-chain amino acids that are essential for the Physical activity results in higher demand for BCAAs. If insufficient levels are not consumed, then the increased performance and enlarged and stronger muscles will become compromised. Bottom line: Each and every day the human body must be sufficiently fueled with BCAAs to allow for the proper functioning of both the structure (anatomy) and functions (physiology) of the body.human body to survive and thrive. Your body can’t make BCAAs, thus your body demands a minimum amount to “keep the lights on” and a whole lot more to build the body to be stronger and more resilient when working out.
Increased Output = Need for Increased Input
Inadequate BCAA levels can become one of several rate limiting factors for your sustained optimal athletic performance. Clinically I find that inadequate BCAAs lead to limited gains and unnecessary struggle to make commensurate gains equal to the effort being put in during training and working out.
Muscles and BCAAs
Skeletal muscle such as your biceps, pectoralis, hamstrings, quadriceps, and the like account for the majority of BCAA metabolism. It is estimated that a full 35 percent of BCAA content of the human body can be found in the muscles. As the researchers state when it comes to the anabolic and supportive effects of BCAAs: BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), particularly leucine, have anabolic effects on protein metabolism by increasing the rate of protein synthesis and decreasing the rate of protein degradation in resting human muscle. Also, during recovery from endurance exercise, BCAAs were found to have anabolic effects in human muscle. 1 Avoiding unnecessary rate limiting factors to have great workouts, positive gains, is to minimize the post workout muscle soreness. Here is a positive study regarding the role of BCAAs and taurine for just that purpose: Previous studies have evaluated the effectiveness of branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation for preventing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscle damage induced by eccentric exercise, their findings have been inconclusive. Since taurine has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects, the present study investigated the combined effect of BCAA and taurine on DOMS and muscle damage…A combination of 3.2 g BCAA and 2.0 g taurine, three times a day, for two weeks prior to and three days after exercise may be a useful nutritional strategy for attenuating exercise-induced DOMS and muscle damage. 2
Dieting and BCAAs
We are all on diets, after all, it is our dietary intake that sustains our bodies. For those seeking to focus on gaining lean body mass and decreasing fat percentage, the consequence all too often is also loss of muscle mass. In many countries around the world, albeit, sadly not all are overfed and undernourished. Our bodies over the millennia have learned to survive, thus when we intentionally cut our calories, the survival mechanisms kick in. Often the thyroid gland decreases production of thyroid hormone or increases the inactive thyroid hormone reverse T3 (rT3), thus slowing down our metabolism giving us the effect of a quasi-hibernation mode. Likewise, our body will scavenge and literally cannibalize itself to survive in the time of “self-imposed famine”. It is vitally important when cutting calories and macro-nutrients that BCAAs are incorporated into the remaining foods being consumed to help sustain your muscle mass and decrease risk of muscle atrophy and diminished athletic performance. There is even clinical evidence that BCAAs can assist maintaining a healthy weight. In 2010 a research study looked at the interplay between a daily supply of BCAAs and a subject’s individual body weight based on BMI (Body Mass Index). Specifically, it was shown that a high BCAA concentration correlates with a low occurrence of obesity, and an appropriate supplementation will have an extremely positive effect on the subject’s general health. 3
Benefits of BCAAs
BCAAs have functions of anti-fatigue, improving protein synthesis, enhancing immunity, extending life span, and, in particular, resisting muscle breakdown and nutrient loss, increasing muscle compression resistance, and enhancing protein anabolism and muscle synthesis during post-workout period. Bodybuilders and athletes find it a necessary dietary supplement. While sports and performance are the primary uses for BCAAs, they are also finding applications on immunity and sarcopenia prevention in the elderly. 4 Likewise, another benefit is the controlling of ammonia levels as documented below in a 2013 study: …BCAA metabolism may improve muscle net ammonia removal by supplying carbon skeletons for formation of alpha-ketoglutarate that combines with two ammonia molecules to become glutamine. An oral dose of BCAA enhances muscle ammonia metabolism but also transiently increases the arterial ammonia concentration, likely due to extramuscular metabolism of glutamine. Therefore, we speculate that the beneficial effect of long-term intake of BCAA on hepatic encephalophathy (HE) demonstrated in clinical studies may be related to an improved muscle mass and nutritional status rather than to an ammonia lowering effect of BCAA themselves. 5
Not All BCAAs are Created Equal
Many of us have been greatly disappointed with our previous experiences with BCAA dosing. When I go shopping for my BCAA I look for the following quality and bioavailability considerations: Dissolves Rapidly and Completely in Water Microencapsulated Non-Allergenic (sunflower-derived lecithin) 100% Vegan (created via Fermentation Process) Compliant with European and US Manufacturing Standards Patented Technology
MicroPure BCAA poses all of these qualities and my patients, including Kris Gethin, say they can feel the difference.
1. Blomstrand E et al. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise.J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S. 2. Ra SG et al. Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.2013 Nov 6;10(1):51. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-51. 3.Qin LQ et al.: Higher branched-chain amino acid intake is associated with a lower prevalence of being overweight or obese in middle-aged East Asian and western adults; J Nutr. 2010 Dec 15. 4.Casperson SL et al.: L-Leucine supplementation chronically improves muscle protein synthesis in older adults consuming the RDA for Protein; Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb 20. 5. Dam G at l. Branched-chain amino acids and muscle ammonia detoxification in cirrhosis. Metab Brain Dis. 2013 Jun;28(2):217-20.