The truth about BCAA.

The truth about BCAA.

Posted by Anthony Lawrence on

The truth about BCAA.

When it comes to BCAA supplementation and their use in sport, muscle growth/ retention and recovery we tend to find many different conflicting opinions (as well as science) on both sides of the argument. 

In this blog we will try to briefly touch on what the claims might be and whether they actually apply to you as well as give you an insight into looking at things a little bit more openly, as opposed to picking one side of an argument.

OFTEN THINGS FALL INTO A GREY AREA.

BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids; these are 3 of the 9 amino acids that deemed as ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS (EAA). 

The EAA are amino acids that we have to obtain from food; they can not be made alternatively by the body like the non essential amino acids. 

BCAA comprise of three amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. 

These three amino acids are believed to be the amino acids that aid recovery of muscle and are of major benefit to stopping muscle breakdown during exercise.

The above notion is proven in science below:

BCAA can aid protein synthesis (2017)

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28638350/

BCAA stops muscle breakdown (1994)

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7810616/

(2012)

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22569039/

BCAA beneficial in bouts of prolonged exercise (2020)
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11125767/


Even with some science studies to suggest positive benefit we are met with other conflicting studies that gives us reason to hold reservations.

With a stalemate of confusion being the industry situation, we must employ a more common sense approach. 

Here is where we need to apply what we already know, to what we do not know for sure yet.

We know that;

-Muscle break down occurs when our bodies physically put under stress.

-Nitrogen balance becomes negative when we begin to catabolise (breakdown) muscle. Typically we want to stay in positive nitrogen balance if we want to recover and or build muscle. 

-Catabolism is more evident in those that exercise for long periods of time or those who do not have enough fuel (food) in the system to sustain positive nitrogen balance. 

-Protein breaks down into amino acids. Amino acids are most important in maintaining nitrogen balance.

-Carbohydrates are a fuel source that instigates a highly anabolic hormone known as insulin. Insulin is effective at ensuring catabolism does not occur. 

THE TRUTH ABOUT BCAA.

With the above common ground we can begin to form an agreement that BCAA usage MAY have benefit to particular individuals based on certain circumstances, and others it may add little to no benefit at all.

People that may benefit from BCAA supplementation are;

People that engage in intense physical exercise in a fasted state.
For example;

-People that haven’t eaten for long periods of time.
-Early morning trainers.
-people that work physical jobs with little to no food intake throughout the day.

People that are controlling total calories and carbohydrate intake. 
For example;

-People in a calorie deficit.
-Anyone trying to control blood sugar.
-Anyone trying to control appetite.

In conclusion there are instances in which branched chain amino acids are very useful and effective, but for people that eat regularly, train for periods of time less than an hour or people that eat at maintenance calories or above then there is not a great deal of benefit of BCAA supplementation. 

The TRUTH is that not everyone needs them, but this does not mean they are useless. We like to apply the idea of using the right tool for the job. 

We hope this information serves you. 
Anthony 


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