BCAAs Overview

My favorite supplement is creatine, but branched-chain amino acids are a close second. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids that the body uses for muscle synthesis (muscle building). These specific amino acids must be consumed in the diet since the body can not make them from other vitamins or minerals (Leucine, isoleucine, and valine). BCAAs can be used by pretty much anyone, regardless of health history. That is why I don’t mind my high school athletes consuming them.  I have been preaching BCAAs to my clients over the years for the simple reason that BCAAs combat catabolism. The catabolic state is when the body breaks down muscle tissue for energy. Many people who are operating at a caloric deficit (everyone who is trying to lose weight or fat) often lose a significant portion of their muscle tissue because the body will catabolize their muscles for energy. The body will catabolize muscle tissue because it is easier to break down than stored fat.   BCAAs stimulate muscle synthesis, more efficiently than consuming protein by itself. BCAAs are more efficient in the metabolic process (protein synthesis) than protein-rich foods or a whey supplement because they are micronized and in free form. Whey and protein-rich foods are peptide bound and have to be metabolized so they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Freeform BCAAs do not have to be digested and can be absorbed into the bloodstream and utilized right away.  BCAAs are also used to help regulate blood sugar levels. The liver and other internal organs will release BCAAs to the skeletal muscles continuously to maintain blood sugar levels. Consuming enough BCAAS will help improve glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is more critical for individuals who train in a fasted state or at a calorie restriction. Insulin transports amino acids into damaged cells to jump start the muscle building process. This is why amino acids are called the building blocks for muscle. By consuming BCAAs pre/during/or post workout, individuals will help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS often plagues individuals who are new to working out or getting back in shape after being sedentary for quite some time. BCAAs are one of the safest supplements out on the market and come in a variety of flavors. The only real difference between BCAAs are the ratios of leucine, isoleucine, and valine (2:1:1/ 5:1:1). The most popular BCAAs often contain caffeine, but many do not contain caffeine as well. If you are a morning workout person or need a little bit of a pick me up, I suggest sticking with one with caffeine. 

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