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What are Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) and How Do They Work?

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If you’re wondering what branched chain amino acids are, look no further. This post will help you make sense of these unique compounds that have become so popular in the fitness community in recent years.

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are long linked chains of essential nutrients made from nourishing proteins found in meats, beans and many dairy products –– even whey protein supplements. The name “branched chain” derives from the molecular structure of these compounds.

These are special chains of amino acids that have aliphatic side-chains with a branch made up of a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms. The amino acids in these chains are leucine, isoleucine and valine.

For many years, people from around the world have been using these types of amino acids for medicine because of their therapeutic and restorative powers. BCAAs have been used to treat everything from ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), to liver disease, movement disorders, genetic diseases, and kidney failure.

The FDA has actually regulated how much of each of these proteins is needed for a healthy, balanced diet.

Here are the numbers for an adult 19 years or older (all per kilogram of body weight per day):

  • Leucine: 42 mg
  • Isoleucine: 19 mg
  • Valine: 24 mg

The benefits of BCAAs can be yours if you use amino acid supplements that are jam-packed with branched chain amino acids.

The Benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acids

These amino acids feed the muscles and stimulate the production of protein.

Though it is not fully proven, it is believed that branched chain amino acids are what reduces muscle breakdown, at least in part. For this reason, they have been integral in the treatment of people who are confined to bed rest following the diagnosis of muscular sclerosis. As they stimulate protein production, branched chain amino acids are what can also help the brain to transmit messages in a way that avoids confusion. This is known as improved cell signaling.

Studies have also shown that these BCAAs can prevent fatigue and improve concentration. In terms of athletics, this is the most directly relevant reason to take BCAAs. Many professional and amateur athletes take branched chain amino acids to deliver solid exercise performance results. These amino acid supplements can also prevent protein and muscle from breaking down prematurely.

This comes into play especially if you are on a calorie deficient diet. Dieting may help you lose weight, but it can help you lose muscle mass at the same time.

Many people will diet during periods when they are working out heavily, not realizing that depriving your body of needed nutrients can help prevent you from building the muscle mass and reaching the fitness goals you desire.

3 Ways BCAAs Help Muscle Development

Before you understand how branched amino acid supplements can help, it’s important to grasp why they need to help at all. The reasons are rooted in simple chemistry and biology. Unlocking them can help you understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to physical fitness.

When you’re dieting heavily, you’re causing a catabolic breakdown of muscles to happen in your system. As your body gets leaner, skeletal muscle will begin to diminish and your body will try to hold on to fat stores. As fat disappears from the body, protein begins to be broken down and amino acids begin to be consumed in order to make up the difference.

You can think of it like a simple equation from math class:

Muscle mass = number of proteins synthesized – number of proteins broken down.

If the body synthesizes the same amount that it breaks down, you won’t gain or lose muscle. But if your body breaks down more protein than it synthesizes, your muscle growth won’t be able to keep up.

The three ways BCAAs can help with this are by increasing protein synthesis, reducing protein breakdown and helping to improve workout performance.

The first way is kind of no brainer. BCAAs can increase protein synthesis in your system. It’s one of the primary features of why so many people find them so useful to help improve workouts.

Not only do branched amino acid supplements help promote growth, they also help stave off decline. By reducing the rate of protein breakdown, they help give your growing muscle mass the space it needs to breath and continue to develop.

When you combine the first two features, it’s no wonder that branched amino acids can help you perform better in the gym overall. With more active proteins in your body and less muscle breakdown, building muscle mass is just a matter of hard work and time.

The Best Source for Supplements with BCAAs

Understanding what branched chain amino acids are includes also understanding where best to find them. Our Intra Flight BCAA Amino Acid supplement is engineered to power you through your most intense workouts and increase your recovery rates. Not only is it made with quality ingredients, but those ingredients are right there on the label –– no hidden chemicals, additives, or banned substances.

Keep branched amino acids in mind next time you’re shopping for supplements and if you’re currently in the market for delicious powders and mixes that will help you reach your fitness goals, check out BPN’s entire selection today.