BCAA: The Secret to Muscle Building

Branched Chain Amino Acids


Wondering what’s the fuss about BCAA supplements these days? The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), as their name suggests, belong to the category of amino acids that produce amazing results for the human body, including

  • Boosting muscle growth
  • Supporting muscle growth
  • Giving fuel to the muscle
  • Sustaining energy in the body
  • Improving concentration
  • Curing different illnesses, including Lou Gehrig’s disease and certain bran conditions from liver disease

If your prime goal is to pack on new slabs of muscle, then BCAAs are the key. Let’s see how.

What are BCAAs?

BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids, including valine, isoleucine, and leucine, whose chemical structure is in the form of a forked outcropping that relates to a tree branch. This is why they are named branched chain amino acids! Since your body does not produce these essential amino acids, you must get them through diet to support different bodily functions related to energy production. When you are focused on muscle and body building, your body requires these amino acids in adequate amounts

  • during exercise to improve concentration and performance, prevent fatigue and reduce muscle breakdown
  • after the workout for repairing muscles

A study presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition confirmed that BCAAs support muscle growth and strengthen muscles. The study showed that lifters taking a BCAA supplement for 8 weeks gained double the muscle and strength compared to those supplementing their diets with only a whey protein shake.

What is Their Metabolic Process in My Body?

When you ingest amino acids, they travel to the liver, where they are either broken down into fuel or transported to the muscle tissue. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are not directly metabolized by the liver, rather, sent to the bloodstream so that they can be used by muscle as fuel or for repairing or building itself. BCAA supplements thus are highly relevant to athletic training, which act as a fuel source during workouts, build and repair the muscle after the training. This explains the need for taking BCAA products before, during, and after an exercise.

The more intense the workout, the more BCAAs the muscles will need for fuel. This means you can easily boost energy before a workout by supplementing your diet with BCAAs and train with more vigor and intensity until the end. First-time users of BCAA supplements enjoy their workouts more than ever and are able to better manage them.

What are the BCAA Benefits for Me?

There is too much buzz in the bodybuilding circles around the use of BCAAs for muscle growth. This is because your body needs BCAAs 25 times more than other amino acids for stimulating muscle-protein synthesis.  A number of studies indicate that BCAAs, especially Leucine, supply the body with the protein needed for boosting muscle growth. In fact, Leucine triggers the process of binding amino acids together to make muscle protein and thus boost muscle growth. Leucine is also known to boost insulin level for further stimulation of protein synthesis.

While experts do not recommend using large doses of Leucine alone, you can supply your body with the essential amino acid through BCAAs, which are key building blocks of the body and play a key role in muscle growth, recovery, and tissue synthesis.

During workouts, your muscle contacting tissues are degraded for energy. As a result, there is a breakdown of non-contractile muscle proteins during and after exercise.

  • By adding BCAA supplements to your before and after workout routine, you can trigger a ‘muscle sparing’ effect and stimulate muscle synthesis.
  • With BCAAs, you can effectively reduce the degradation of proteins and exercise recovery and boost protein synthesis.
  • Supplying your body with adequate leucine through BCAA supplements can help you prevent the loss of muscle during dieting.
  • According to a research done by Italian scientists, BCAA supplementation for one month raises the level of growth hormone after exercise. The higher the GH level post-exercise, the more the boost to your muscle size and strength.
  • Taking BCAAs lowers the level of cortisol hormone during exercise. Cortisol is known to encourage muscle breakdown. A decline in cortisol levels during workouts inhibits muscle breakdown while boosting muscle growth. Research confirms that regular use of BCAA supplements helps significantly reduce muscle breakdown and boost muscle recovery after workouts.
  • Besides boosting your workout intensity, branched chain amino acids influence the brain functioning to delay fatigue. Neurotransmitter serotonin is responsible for sending a signal to the brain during workouts that the body is tired, causing a decline in muscle strength and endurance. However, the intake of BCAAs before an exercise reduces the level of tryptophan and inhibits its functioning in order to delay physical and mental fatigue, thus helping keep you sharper mentally.
  • Another important reason for using BCAAs is that these mass-building supplements can also help in fat-loss. According to a 1997 research study performed on competitive wrestlers, those supplementing with BCAAs experienced a quick loss of fat around the waist than those taking a placebo. Another 2009 study found that bodybuilders supplementing their diet with BCAA supplements experienced amazing fat loss results, losing about twice the body fat compared to those taking only whey protein.

BCAA Dosage: How Much Do I Need Per Day?

There isn’t anything like one size fits all as far as supplementation with BCAAs is concerned. The dosage typically varies from one individual to another, depending on age, body mass and size. You can include BCAAs in your pre- and post-workout schedule, taking even amounts of these amino acid supplements.

For those with an eye on building muscle mass, taking a 5-10 gram dose of BCAAs early in the morning can help prevent the breakdown of muscle after a long night of fasting as you are sleep.  Taking BCAAs benefits you in more ways than one – boosting physical and mental energy, promoting muscle growth, helping fat loss, and reducing hunger.

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