Muscle Hacks: How to Make Your BCAA Drink Better!!
By: Robbie Durand
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.
BCAA’s Reduces Muscle Damage and Increases Muscle Recuperation
Resistance training is a never ending cycle of breaking down muscle and building it back up again. So what supplements can help you recover faster? 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.
One 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’s Support Muscle Growth
The 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 related to BCAA in individuals without diabetes.
The newest research published in the prestigious Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that BCAA supplementation in trained individuals performing resistance training while on a hypocaloric diet can maintain lean mass and preserve skeletal muscle performance while losing fat mass.
Seventeen resistance-trained males (21–28 years of age) were randomized to a BCAA group or a carbohydrate group who both received their respective supplement during the eight weeks of a prescribed body building style resistance training protocol. Subjects were prescribed a low calorie “cutting” diet that was to be followed during the study. Each participant was randomly assigned to either the BCAA supplement group (BCAA; 14 grams of a BCAA nutritional supplement containing seven grams of BCAA prior to and following each workout for a total of 14 g of BCAA) or the carbohydrate dietary supplement (14 g of a carbohydrate based nutritional supplement (POWERADE ®) prior to and following each workout).
All subjects performed a progressive bodybuilding split style resistance-training program four days per week for the 8-week study duration. At the end of the study, both the BCAA and carbohydrate group exhibited changes in body composition, though the groups responded differently to the intervention. The BCAA group lost fat mass and maintained lean mass while the carbohydrate group lost lean mass and body mass. Both groups increased 1RM squat, but the increase in the BCAA group was greater than the carbohydrate group. The BCAA group increased 1RM bench press while the carbohydrate group decreased strength. These results show that BCAA supplementation in trained individuals performing resistance training while on a hypocaloric diet can maintain lean mass and preserve skeletal muscle performance while losing fat mass.
BCAA drinks: Does Add Carbohydrates Enhance the Effectiveness?
Insulin and branched-chain amino acids are two potent stimuli among plasma circulating factors in enhancing muscle protein anabolism. However, little is known whether either BCAA alone or BCAA+ insulin enhance muscle protein metabolism in humans.
Researchers took subject’s and infused with BCAA for six hours (BCAA) and insulin (i.e. low and high doses) during the last three hours of the BCAA infusion. There were no differences between BCAA and Saline groups in the protein synthesis rate of muscle proteins before the insulin infusion. Insulin infusion did not increase the protein synthesis within either BCAA or Saline groups. However, whole-body protein breakdown tended to be lower in the BCAA vs Saline group, and decreased following the insulin infusion within both BCAA groups, with a significantly greater effect between groups during insulin. CONCLUSIONS: These findings show that the effects of BCAA are augmented by insulin, resulting in suppressed muscle protein breakdown with no changes in muscle protein synthesis.
Key Points: Adding carbohydrates to your BCAA drink will not improve protein synthesis rates, but it will reduce muscle tissue breakdown. BCAA’s will not reduce muscle tissue breakdown.
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