Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and muscle tissue. They fulfill the basic foundations of well-being like vitamins and minerals whilst also optimizing those micronutrients and providing the fuel for growth, health, good functioning of the body and genetic transcription. BCAAs stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids. These are a specific group of three amino acids that have gained significant attention (and rightfully so) especially in the fitness world.
There are three branched chain amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. These 3 amino acids account for roughly 35-40% of your body's protein, and make up roughly 14% of the amino acids in muscle. BCAAs are a great tool for aiding in gaining skeletal muscle (the kind that makes you swole), as they stimulate muscle protein synthesis, especially Leucine, which we will speak more on later in this article. Muscle protein synthesis is the metabolic process when your body makes new muscle protein, also known as gains. BCAAs are also especially helpful for maintaining mass while on a calorie-deficit diet as they work in your favor by reducing the rate of protein breakdown. They do this by decreasing the activity of the protein breakdown pathway, and also by decreasing the expression of several complexes involved in protein breakdown. BCAA products such as BCAA-Glutamine by Transparent Labs is particularly useful for bodybuilding/physique/figure/bikini competitors who take their physiques to the lean extreme.
Now, let's discuss the 3 different BCAAs and what roles they play in the body. Up first is Leucine aka the king of stimulating muscle protein synthesis! It's called the king of MPS because it has a much more severe impact on protein synthesis than any other amino! Leucine activates a major complex in the anabolic (muscle-building) pathway called mTOR. You can think of mTOR as the amino acid sensor of a cell. mTOR is sensitive to leucine concentrations. Decreasing leucine concentrations signal to mTOR that there is not enough dietary protein present to synthesize new skeletal muscle protein, so mTOR deactivates. Increased leucine levels signal to mTOR that there is sufficient dietary protein to synthesize new skeletal muscle protein, so mTOR "turns on." An important point to remember is an increase in mTOR activity (and all aspects of the pathway with which it belongs) results in an increase in protein-building and more growth which equals GAINZ!!
Up next is Isoleucine. This BCAA is extremely similar to it's big brother Leucine in almost every way. It promotes muscle recovery, aids in building lean muscle mass, boosting strength and endurance, regulates the blood-sugar levels, and stimulates HGH release. It is also able to significantly increase glucose uptake into a muscle cell and the usage of glucose during exercise for prolonged endurance and increased athletic performance. Isoleucine is intermediate for its ability to induce muscle protein synthesis, which is where big brother (Leucine) really shines! Isoleucine holds its own in terms of wound healing though, as it helps in the formation of hemoglobin and is strongly involved in the formation of blood-clots, the body's primary defense against infection through open wounds.
Last, we have Valine. Valine helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue by supplying the muscles with extra glucose for energy production during intense physical activity. Valine also helps remove potentially toxic excess nitrogen from the liver and is able to transport nitrogen to other tissues in the body as needed. When the body is in positive nitrogen balance, the body is retaining nitrogen so it can use it to build and repair tissues, such as muscle, or to manufacture other important body proteins such as hormones. Valine is the MVP before workouts, as it's directly responsible for blunting fatigue via a mechanism in the brain.
In conjunction, these 3 amino acids work together very synergistically to provide an immediate energy source or octane fuel during high-intensity workouts. The more intense and the longer your workout, the more BCAAs will be used for fuel. So, you can see how a highly dosed BCAA product such as BCAA+ by Titan Nutrition can help you sustain your energy during strength training and work with more intensity from start to finish. You may not feel them in the same way as a pre-workout supplement, but first-time users often report that aminos make their workout feel more pleasant and manageable. Each time you take BCAAs you should go with about 5-10 grams. Timing matters. The most critical time to take them is around workouts, so add 5-10 grams to your pre-workout and post-workout shakes. If you do fasted training, you'll really notice their amazing effects.
If your goal is to build mass, taking a dose of a BCAA complex such as Aminocore by Allmax Nutrition first thing upon waking to help stop the muscle breakdown that is turned on when you enter a fasted state while you sleep will be very beneficial. You can also take a 5-10-gram dose of aminos at any other time of day to get a mental energy boost, reduce hunger, and aid muscle growth. Plus, they're available in lots of delicious flavors, making it the perfect addition to your daily water to help hit your hydration goals!