Guest Author: Darren Wilson
Your body is mostly made up of protein. Protein is the main component of bones, muscles, and other body organs. Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids, which are categorised further into two groups. There are nine non-essential amino acids and eleven essential amino acids that make up protein. The non-essential amino acids can be produced by your body as long as there are enough essential amino acids around. However, the 11 essential amino acids cannot be provided by the body and therefore obtained from consuming protein-rich foods.
Your body needs to have a regular supply of protein. However, you cannot keep consuming protein all the time, all day, every day. Also, protein-rich foods such as those coming from animals or vegetables may not give your body the correct amount of protein required by your body, especially if you are an athlete. It is, therefore, important for athletes to take protein supplements and BCAAs.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs include the essential amino acids, namely Valine, Isoleucine, and Leucine. Since the body cannot naturally produce these amino acids, you must introduce these BCAAs to your body via supplementation.
Why are BCAAs Important?
Why are these three amino acids known as the BCAAs singled out? The answer has to do with how these BCAAs function within the body. These BCAAs are the only amino acids that are oxidised within the muscles, compared to the rest of the amino acids. The rest are catabolised within the liver. BCAAs help your body synthesise protein so that you can get more out of your diet and workout.
Muscle Breakdown. When you work out, you are increasing the amounts of oxidation of BCAAs occurring within the muscles as part of the natural process of protein synthesis and protein degradation.
- If you are an athlete and want to bulk up, you should keep your serum levels of BCAAs elevated so that you won’t go into a protein deficit. Since BCAAs are depleted when you are working out, you would not want to have a negative amount of BCAAs within the muscle. When a deficit happens, your body has no choice but to breakdown your existing muscles to get more usable BCAAs. This will be counterproductive to your workout goals.
- DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS occurs when your body is in a very catabolic state since it is recovering from a workout. During a DOMS occurrence, your body is recovering and trying to build muscles by synthesising protein. High levels of BCAAs in your muscles will help reduce the symptoms of DOMS after an intense workout. BCAAs will help you continue to build muscles faster without getting sore afterwards.
- Protein Homeostasis. The primary role of Leucine in the body is to maintain the protein homeostasis within the muscle. The amounts of Leucine in your muscles will trigger a switch that will result either in protein synthesis or protein degradation. Elevated levels of Leucine in your body will switch on the production of protein to build up existing muscles. On the contrary, low levels of Leucine will result in muscle degradation.
- Energy Production. While Leucine is responsible for making sure that the protein synthesis goes well; Isoleucine and Valine are essential in regulating the blood sugar levels in the body while working out. These two amino acids prevent your body from experiencing muscle fatigue during workouts.
Branched-chain amino acids are crucial dietary supplements that you must take when you are planning on a workout to gain more muscles without the hassle of being sore afterwards.