BCAAs - Branched Chain Amino Acids

By Bill Willis, BSc, a PhD candidate at The Ohio State University.

BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), consisting of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are “essential” amino acids, meaning that the body cannot synthesize them from precursors. They must be obtained directly from the diet.

BCAAs increase protein synthesis, have a positive effect on recovery, and encourage an overall anabolic state in the muscle.

There is a greater requirement for BCAAs during intense exercise such as weight training, as the body obtains BCAAs mostly from broken down muscle tissue.

BCAAs Trick the Body

Supplementing the diet with BCAAs to satisfy some of your BCAA requirement prevents the usual muscle breakdown to obtain them. BCAAs also cause an increase in fat burning, most likely because high BCAA levels in the blood are a signal of muscle breakdown. Increased BCAA levels after supplementation can “trick” the body into revving up the fat-burning machinery to drastically increase fat burning.

The scientific literature on the effectiveness of BCAA supplementation is ambiguous, with as many studies demonstrating their benefits as those that show no effect at all. It turns out that BCAAs are only effective during catabolic conditions. BCAAs really shine in situations such as during a reduced calorie diet in combination with intense weight training. BCAAs are also used medically, again during catabolic conditions where muscle is readily lost such as after a trauma or severe burns.

BCAA Dosage

Most of the research which shows a positive effect with BCAA supplementation utilized a dosage of 10-20 grams/day. To date, this is the best recommendation there is for BCAA dosing; take 10-20 grams/day, with a significant portion of this adjacent to intense weight training. Divide this dose evenly with meals on non-training days. BCAAs also seem to be extremely effective when taken adjacent to intense cardiovascular exercise. Taking BCAAs before intense cardio increases fat-loss and decreases muscle protein breakdown. While BCAAs are available in powder-form, the taste of the powder is rarely tolerable enough for the average user to stomach. Buy creatine in pill form.