BCAA is a branched amino acid consisting of 3 essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. For those who don’t know: Amino acids are the constituents of proteins that play many different roles in the body. There are about 20 different amino acids, among them, 9 are classified as “essential”. Your body cannot make these amino acids on its own but can only get through the diet. BCAA’s make up the majority of about 35-40% of the total essential amino acids, 14-18% of which is found in muscles. Contrary to most other amino acids, BCAAs are mainly broken down in muscles rather than in the liver. Therefore, BCAA plays an important role in the production of energy during exercise and many other health benefits. Among the components of BCAA, leucine is said to have the greatest impact on the ability to build muscle protein. Isoleucine and valine tend to be more effective in generating energy and regulating the body’s blood sugar.
1. Top 4 BCAA health benefits
1.1 BCAA health benefits: Helps reduce fatigue when exercising
✅ Muscle fatigue occurs sooner or later depending on many factors, including the intensity, duration of exercise, environmental conditions, and nutrient content. This is because: Muscles use BCAA during exercise, causing blood levels to drop. When the BCAA concentration in the blood decreases, the concentration of the tryptophan essential amino acid in the brain increases. Tryptophan inside the brain converts into serotonin – a chemical thought to contribute to fatigue during exercise. The effects of BCAA’s may help support physical and mental fatigue. Studies report BCAA users to have up to 15% less fatigue than those who took a placebo. In another study, the BCAA group exercised 17% longer before exhaustion, compared to the placebo group.
1.2 BCAA health benefits: Reduce muscle soreness
✅ The effects of BCAA’s may help relieve muscle soreness. Muscle soreness during exercise is a result of the accumulation of end products in biochemical processes, meaning the muscles are more acidic (due to lactic acid accumulation). When you exercise, your body prioritizes burning sugar and fatty acids in the blood, ultimately protein, which plays a role in building muscle. The use of BCAAs will help reduce protein breakdown during exercise after the body has consumed all sugar and fatty acids. The BCAA also lowers creatine kinase levels, which are linked to post-workout muscle soreness and pain, which usually goes away within minutes or hours of exercise.
✅ However, there is a type of muscle aches called late-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that involves damage, inflammatory reactions, and edema inside the muscle fibers. This condition usually appears 12 to 48 hours after training and can last up to 72 hours. DOMS reduces the muscle’s ability to generate muscle that interrupts the training process. Many people use different methods such as muscle relaxation, ice, massage, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to improve the condition. And recently, the use of BCAA is a solution that many people are interested in.
1.3 BCAA health benefits: Helps prevent muscle loss
✅ The use of BCAA’s may help prevent muscle loss or breakdown. Muscle protein is constantly going through the process of being broken down and rebuilt. This balance of decomposition and synthesis determines the amount of protein in muscles. However, muscle loss occurs when destruction exceeds protein synthesis. This may be a sign of malnutrition or a natural part of aging. Research shows that BCAA activates enzymes responsible for building muscle, especially when the ratio of leucine content is higher than isoleucine and valine. BCAA’s account for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle protein and 40% of the total amino acids your body needs. Therefore, to prevent or slow down muscle loss, you need to be provided with adequate amino acids, especially BCAA.
1.4 BCAA health benefits: Reduce complications in liver disease
✅ The use of BCAA not only supports bodybuilders but also improves the health of people with cirrhosis, a chronic disease that gradually loses liver function by improving blood albumin levels. A possible complication is a hepatic encephalopathy (HE), which can lead to confusion, loss of consciousness, and coma. Recent reviews show that BCAA’s may reduce the severity of HE. BCAA’s may also be effective in reducing fatigue and improving weakness, sleep quality, and muscle cramps in people with liver disease.
2. Notes when using BCAA
✅ The amount of BCAA used depends on your individual needs and goals. Reference consumption dosages include:
- Women: about 9g BCAA / day
- Men: about 12g BCAA / day
✅ For people who eat enough protein-rich foods in their diet, supplements may not be needed. However, daily intake may be slightly higher for athletes and those who exercise hard. The best time to take BCAA supplements is before and/or after workouts. For those trying to build muscle, it can also be used in the morning and at bedtime.
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