Bodybuilders are notorious for taking all sorts of nutritional supplements as they strive to build muscle, but are they always familiar with what they are putting into their bodies? This article looks at the potential benefits offered by BCAA’s.
BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids and is increasingly being recognized as an important supplement in the field of sports nutrition. In short the term refers to three essential amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine. These three Bcaas make up approximately 70 percent of the amino acids in the body. Bcaas are unique in that they are utilized directly by muscle tissue during long workouts. Since your body only has a limited number of these amino acids, it can be forced to break down lean muscle tissue when dietary sources aren’t meeting your needs.
Amino acids are widely known as the building blocks of protein. When protein is eaten it gets digested into individual amino acids and short chains of amino acids that are sufficiently small to be absorbed into the bloodstream. They are then used by the body to build and repair tissues amongst other things.
Amino acids are split between those classed as essential and non-essential. This simply means that essential amino acids cannot be made by the body, whereas non-essential amino acids can. There are nine essential amino acids and each must be obtained from the diet. The nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Non-essential amino acids are just as important as the essential variety and the term simply means they can be made by the body from vitamins and other amino acids. The non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine.
The BCAA’s are especially important to athletes because they are metabolized in the muscle rather than the liver. This means that they can be used either to build new proteins or be burned as fuel to create energy. Supplementing with BCAA’s has been shown to result in measurable gains in both muscle strength and size. Taken before a workout BCAA’s can improve performance and delay the onset of fatigue. They also operate as anabolic agents allowing the body to burn fat and not muscle.
So who needs BCAA’s? – Dieters, some strict vegetarian bodybuilders, and anyone consuming an inadequate number of calories may not be consuming enough amounts of amino acids. In these cases, the body will break down the protein in muscle tissue and use those amino acids to meet the needs of more important organs or will simply not build more muscle mass despite increasing exercise. This happens a lot during what a lot of people call a ‘cutting’ phase – where fewer calories are consumed in order to get rid of fat that leads to more defined muscles. It’s during this part of your training program that your muscles are most vulnerable to being broken down and therefore BCAA’s will have the most impact.
As a supplement that has no reported side effects, branched chain amino acids offer many benefits to the serious bodybuilder – especially for those looking to lose fat while maintaining muscle.
Remember that supplements do not replace proper diet and exercise but when used with the right training and weight loss program may help you make faster progress towards your weight loss goals. Also please remember that before taking on a training and supplementation program always consult with your physician first.