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Monday, July 10, 2017

#AskInfinit: Everything you need to know about BCAA's

Branched chain amino acids, better know as BCAA's, are the building blocks of muscle; they make up 35% of muscle mass and their presence helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis. BCAA refers to three main essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.

There are 9 essential amino acids. They are identified as essential because the body cannot naturally produce these amino acids, so they must be obtained through nutrition/diet. Complete proteins provide all 9 amino acids. Animal protein and soy protein are considered complete proteins. In this post we will focus on Valine, Iso-leucine and Leucine, as well as Glutamine, the fourth amino acid that makes up Infinit's Amino Blend which goes into most of our products.

Valine is not heavily researched in isolation, but when paired with iso-leucine and leucine, it helps to activate muscle protein synthesis in the body.

Iso-leucine is similar to both valine and leucine, as it helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis in the body - it is stronger than valine, but weaker than leucine at doing so. Furthermore, iso-leucine is able to increase glucose uptake and the usage of glucose during exercise.

Leucine is said to be the most important BCAA. It is the main component responsible for muscle protein synthesis, the process which stimulates muscle growth and development through diet/nutrition and resistance exercise training.

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, accounting for more than 60% of the total intramuscular free amino acid pool, according to 1st endurance. Glutamine is a fuel for muscle growth in the body, and is beneficial for performance.

When should I supplement with BCAA's?
There are two main instances when one should supplement with BCAA's: to accommodate muscle protein synthesis when protein intake is low, and to prevent serum decline during exercise. For those athletes with a low protein intake, supplementing with BCAA's can assist in muscle protein synthesis. As mentioned above, Leucine is a key contributor to muscle protein synthesis. BCAA's are important to ingest on a daily basis, but they can be found naturally in foods such as meat and eggs; therefore athletes with a high protein intake of 1g-1.5g per kg of bodyweight do not need to supplement with additional amino acids.

Novice athletes can also benefit from BCAA's. Supplementing with BCAA's prevents a serum decline during exercise. This decline would normally cause an increase in tryptophan into the brain, followed by production of serotonin, resulting in fatigue.

Another interesting finding on BCAA's is their benefits to performance when combined with carbohydrates. It has been found that oral ingestion of BCAA's can have an anti-catabolic affect on skeletal muscle. When combined with carbohydrates, the amino acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis and maintain full body balance better than when supplementing with carbohydrates alone. (Koopman, 2005)

I'm an endurance athlete, should I take BCAA's?
We are often asked by endurance athletes if they should supplement with BCAA's, as generally you hear a lot of body builders or strength based athletes supplementing amino acids. BCAA's, especially valine, iso-leucine and leucine, are beneficial to endurance athletes. During prolonged exercise, the amino acids are taken up by the skeletal muscle rather than the liver in order to contribute to energy production.

But what about glutamine? 1st endurance discusses the benefits of BCAA's and glutamine for endurance based athletes. They state: "There is evidence that during times of stress the body cannot produce enough glutamine to keep up with demand which in turn can reduce performance, immune function and affect mood state. Athletes at risk for inadequate stores of glutamine include those not eating enough calories, carbohydrates or protein or those participating in strenuous endurance events."

Furthermore, they mention that "Glutamine supplementation is most effective during those times of high-volume and/or high intensity training, particularly if you are in danger of OTS (overtraining syndrome). Though glutamine may not offer a direct ergogenic performance enhancing effect, it will offer insurance for the maintenance of skeletal muscle and immune function."

In closing, we recommend you check your protein intake throughout the day. If you're high in protein (1-1.5g per kg of body weight), BCAA supplementation is not necessary. However, if you find you are low on protein, consider adding in a high-quality BCAA product to help meet your body's needs and improve performance.


Resources - Iso-leucine, leucine, valine, branched chain amino acids

Koopman R, Wagenmakers AJ, Manders RJ, Zorenc AH, Senden JM, Gorselink M, Keizer HA, van Loon LJ. Combined ingestion of protein and free leucine with carbohydrate increases postexercise muscle protein synthesis in vivo in male subjects. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Apr;288(4):E645-53. Epub 2004 Nov 23.

Seebohar, Bob. Amino Acids: Their role in endurance training. 1st endurance. July 30, 2009.