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Bodybuilder's Guide to BCAA Supplementation

Why Every Advanced Athlete Needs BCAA’s

BCAA’s consist of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, which can only be provided through food or supplements. BCAAs are unique in that they are metabolized in skeletal muscle. Numerous studies have demonstrated the anabolic and anti-catabolic effects of taking BCAAs, and supplementing your diet with BCAA’s can assist in faster muscle recovery, prolonged endurance and supported metabolic fuel during exercise.

Resistance exercise is a never ending cycle of breaking down muscle and building it back up again. So what supplements can help you recover faster? Of course, many bodybuilders take either a whey protein shake or throw some BCAA down after resistance exercise because they do the same thing right? There are differences between the two as some studies have found. The BCAA’s are interesting because they are metabolized in the muscle, rather than in the liver. This means that BCAA’s can be relied on as an actual energy source during exercise, and could, therefore, prevent premature muscle breakdown. In fact, a study published in the International Society of Sports Nutrition reported that BCAA supplementation taken before and after “damaging” resistance training reduces signs of muscle damage and accelerates recovery in resistance-trained males. Additional research from the Journal of Nutrition indicates that supplementing with BCAAs before squatting may decrease delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscular fatigue for several days post exercise. Another study examining females who were provided with BCAA supplementation (approximately a 2:1:1 ratio favoring leucine) before high volume squat exercises noted the BCAA group (relative to carbohydrate placebo) experienced less soreness and improved muscle strength when measured two days later.

iStock_000082959487_SmallOne study showed exercising individuals who got BCAA’s had better exercise efficiency and exercise capacity compared to a group that didn’t get BCAA’s. When you supplement with BCAA’s, they can decrease the blood indicators of muscle tissue damage after long periods of exercise, thus indicating reduced muscle damage, and they also help maintain higher blood levels of amino acids. Studies on resting human muscle suggest that administration of BCAAs, particularly leucine, has an anabolic effect on protein metabolism by either supporting the rate of protein synthesis or decreasing the rate of protein degradation or both. One study reported that high BCAA supplementation produced a net anabolic hormonal profile (i.e. supported testosterone and reduced cortisol) while attenuating training-induced increases in muscle tissue damage. BCAAs are not only a substrate for protein synthesis but also modulate several components of the synthetic machinery and help to conserve muscle mass. BCAAs prevent amino acid loss from muscle, support protein synthesis and help to regulate serum amino acid levels.

BCAA, Infinite_labsThe newest study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that your blood levels of BCAA’s are directly related to muscle volume. The researchers investigated associations among BCAA and metabolic parameters in 78 residents (median age, 52 y) of Japan. Muscle volume and serum BCAA were higher in men than in women. Further analysis associated BCAA positively with muscle volume, fasting blood glucose, and negatively with insulin resistance. Insulin sensitivity and muscle volume are positively associated with BCAA in individuals without diabetes.

Honda T, Kobayashi Y, Togashi K, Hasegawa H, Iwasa M, Taguchi O, Takei Y, Sumida Y. Associations among circulating branched-chain amino acids and tyrosine with muscle volume and glucose metabolism in individuals without diabetes. Nutrition. 2015 Dec 8.

Kraemer WJ, Hatfield DL, Volek JS, Fragala MS, Vingren JL, Anderson JM, Spiering BA, Thomas GA, Ho JY, Quann EE, Izquierdo M, Häkkinen K, Maresh CM. Effects of amino acids supplement on physiological adaptations to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 May;41(5):1111-21.

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