BCAAs 101 - What are they?

Understanding what BCAAs are can be hard for someone new to the nutrition industry, that’s why understanding the important factors around non-essential and essential amino acids (BCAAs) is a must! not to mention why they are a must-have in workout sessions.

Introduction to BCAAs

Firstly, what is an amino acid? Amino acids are the optimal transport and optimal storage units for all nutrients such as water, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and minerals. All amino acids have the same basic structure but differ differently with segments called side-chains, and the elements that make up those side chains give each amino acid a different property. Furthermore, BCAAs aka Branched-Chain Amino Acids are essentially the basic structural units or more preferably the “building blocks” of protein and energy production. They combine to form protein and initiate a process known as protein synthesis.

When it comes to amino acids, there are two opposing groups of amino acids, the non-essential and essential. The non-essential amino acids are simply the ones our bodies can produce when we aren’t getting a sufficient amount of a particular amino acid in our diets. However, the essential amino acids are the ones our bodies are unable to produce, forcing us to find other methods such as the consumption of micronutrients to refuel our depleting systems. In this case, BCAAs. BCAAs are our essential amino acids and they consist of three very important amino acids known as valine, leucine, and isoleucine. The reason these three amino acids differ from the non-essentials is that they branch off into their own side-chains, hence the name Branched-Chain Amino Acids. If your diet lacks these amino acids, then they become limiting factors in the production of any proteins that require them.

Who uses them

Now that you know amino acids are essential for optimal health and keeping our bodies functioning, you might be wondering, how do you get the essential amino acids or more preferably BCAAs? In a nutshell, food and supplements. Food provides the necessary amino acids our bodies can’t produce (protein sources). This, however, is not the only method of consuming BCAAs. Since the rise of the nutrition and fitness industry, supplements such as BCAAs have been developed to shoot those essential amino acids found in foods straight into our bodies for protein synthesis.

Ultimately, everyone uses them, whether they know it or not. However, with athletes such as bodybuilders, powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters. The use of BCAAs has been increased as they help prevent entering a state of catabolic, being in a catabolic state eats away at muscle tissue for energy instead of fat and athletes trying to gain muscle definitely don’t want that. They can be taken as a supplement as either a pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout or just throughout the day to refuel your essential amino acids and prevent entering a catabolic state.

Main benefits of BCAAs when exercising

BCAAs come with a diverse range of benefits, evidentially, they are one of the main components to help maximize muscle growth or help with weight loss. Here are the top ten benefits of BCAAs when exercising:

  • Maximises muscle mass
  • Stimulates fat reduction
  • Regulates protein synthesis
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Decreases production of serotonin to the brain
  • Keeps athletes anabolic
  • Improves recovery
  • Increases energy levels
  • Promotes performance
  • Improves sleep

Why you should use them and their health benefits

If you are thinking about ingesting BCAAs, then you definitely should. As they prevent the catabolic state, promote protein synthesis, feed your body full of essential amino acids and provide a wide range of health benefits. Following the top ten benefits of BCAAs, here are a few health benefits that come with them:

  • Makes you feel more energetic throughout the day
  • Increases testosterone levels
  • Decreases cortisol levels
  • Increases insulin release
  • Regulates blood sugar levels
  • Reduce chances of liver disease
  • Stimulates brain functions

When to take them

But when should they be taken? The truth of the matter is, whenever, BCAAs are essential for optimal health, therefore, taking them at any time throughout the day will benefit you greatly.

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