So you can benefit from the effect of the branched-chain amino acids
BCAA can be metabolized directly by the body, which is why they play an important role not only in building muscle, but also in maintaining muscle.
BCAA has long been an integral part of the list of dietary supplements. BCAA (branched-chain amino acids) is the name for the branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are of great importance in the area of muscle building. Instead of going through the liver first, unlike other amino acids, BCAA can be metabolized directly in the muscles. We'll show you the benefits of branched-chain amino acids and which supplements are available.
BCAA: what are branched-chain amino acids?
BCAA are the branched-chain amino acids
which belong to the eight essential amino acids. Essential means that we have to get the amino acids from our diet because our bodies cannot make them ourselves. In animal proteins, especially in red meat, the three amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine occur in an optimal ratio of 2:1:1.
Compared to the remaining essential amino acids, BCAA is not metabolized by the liver, but in other tissues, for example in muscle tissue, because the chemical structure differs from other proteinogenic amino acids. This has the great advantage that they not only support muscle building, but can also help you lose weight.
The largest proportion of BCAA can be found in the skeletal muscles, whereby the blood plasma also has a very high concentration of branched-chain amino acids. Since the amino acids themselves can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, the brain is also supplied with BCAA.
BCAA effect & function
Like all other essential amino acids, BCAAs are vital because they are found not only in the muscles, but also in the blood plasma and brain. Since we cannot form them ourselves, we rely on the supply of nutrition in order to provide our bodies with sufficient BCAA.
Branched-chain amino acids are mainly used for the muscles, since a large part of the BCAA is found in the skeletal muscles. BCAA can not only contribute to better muscle building - they can also protect the muscles against the breaking down of pathways (catabolism) when losing weight.
1. BCAA for building muscle
BCAA is very popular in weight training and bodybuilding to support muscle building or to prevent breakdown. Taken immediately after training, BCAAs can increase the production of glutamine in the muscles, which in turn can lead to faster muscle building.
Muscle building can even be improved if BCAA and carbohydrates are taken immediately after training. Carbohydrates promote the release of insulin, which has an anabolic effect and can, therefore, have a positive effect on muscle building.
2. BCAA to reduce fatigue
BCAA can be useful not only in bodybuilding and weight training, but also in endurance sports because the branched-chain amino acids should contribute to a reduction in fatigue during intense physical activity. This positive effect is it should work especially when BCAA is taken after training. Since the branched-chain amino acids are metabolized in the muscles, they can support the repair of the smallest cell damage and thus improve regeneration.
3. BCAA to protect the muscle substance
The branched-chain amino acids are also repeatedly associated with the protection of the muscle substance, which is of great advantage not only for sports. This is due to the fact that the body attacks its own protein reserves in order to gain energy from the existing muscle protein. If too little protein is supplied through the diet, it can lead to the breaking down of pathways (catabolism), especially after training, which in turn can result in muscle loss.
BCAA intake can help to protect the muscles because the body primarily uses the freely available branched-chain amino acids instead of using the body's own protein stores for energy.
4. BCAA when losing weight
While BCAAs are not fat burners, they indirectly contribute to weight loss because they can help build muscle. Muscles also consume energy at rest, which means that the more muscle you have, the more muscle mass you can increase.
In addition, BCAAs do not contain any calories, since these are not complex proteins, but rather isolated protein building blocks (amino acids), which usually do without additives as food supplements.
What foods contain BCAA?
In addition to food supplements, BCAA is also found naturally in food. The best sources include meat and fish. The branched-chain amino acids are also contained in plant-based foods, which is particularly important for vegans and vegetarians. Legumes, grains, and nuts are the best sources of BCAA, but nuts have the disadvantage that they not only bring a lot of protein, but also a lot of fat.
Most protein-containing foods mostly contain a large proportion of BCAA, so that the daily requirement with a protein-rich diet is usually very well covered. In athletes, however, the food intake is often not sufficient, which is why the additional intake of a food supplement is recommended to cover the increased need for BCAA.
These foods have a high BCAA content:
|Food||Leucine / 100 g||Valine / 100 g||Isoleucine / 100 g|
|Beef||2 g||1,3 g||1,2 g|
|Chicken||1,7 g||1,1 g||1,1 g|
|Tuna||2,2 g||1,4 g||1,2 g|
|Wild salmon||1,8 g||1,4 g||1,2 g|
|Peanuts||2,0 g||1,5 g||1,2 g|
|Egg||0,54 g||0,4 g||0,3 g|
|Rice||0,67 g||0,46 g||0,33 g|
|Whole milk||0,4 g||0,2 g||0,2 g|
BCAA as a dietary supplement
BCAA is increasingly used as a dietary supplement, especially in sports. They are either offered as capsules or tablets or occur naturally as a component in protein powders, for example in whey protein, or fitness drinks.
Since the food supplements are no longer extracted exclusively from animal proteins, but are also obtained from plant components, for example by fermentation from corn, BCAA is even suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
The content of branched-chain amino acids - depending on the manufacturer - can vary widely, but you should be able to achieve the best effect with a ratio of 2:1:1 (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), which is why this quantity distribution has also been accepted internationally.
How useful are BCAAs?
BCAA is mainly used by athletes as dietary supplements - and not without reason. Athletes have an increased need for BCAA, which they can often not meet through diet alone. The daily requirement of an adult human is around 140 milligrams of BCAA per kilogram of body weight.
Those who train intensively several times a week and are otherwise very physically active often have great difficulties in meeting their daily needs. The content of BCAA in animal foods is quite high, but large amounts of it would also have to be consumed in order to meet the high demand for BCAA. This is especially true for vegetarians and vegans, whose selection of foods with a high BCAA content is severely restricted.
If athletes don't do this, the body uses the body's own muscle protein, which consists of 35 percent branched-chain amino acids. This loss of muscle mass can be prevented by taking BCAA - either before or immediately after training.
When should BCAAs be taken?
BCAA can be taken either before or after training, which can have a different effect. If the branched-chain amino acids are taken, for example, before training, they primarily serve to protect the muscles, since the body can mainly use this BCAA instead of attacking its own muscular BCAA reserves.
This can especially be an advantage for
- weight loss,
- endurance training,
- morning training (on an empty stomach).
Mostly BCAA is not taken before but rather after training in order to supply the muscles with branched-chain amino acids as quickly as possible and to stimulate protein synthesis, which in turn can have a positive effect on muscle building. If the BCAA is taken directly after the training, this can even be beneficial for regeneration, to allow micro-injuries to heal faster and to prevent having sore muscles.
How long can you take BCAAs?
BCAA can easily be taken over a longer period, if not permanently. In contrast to caffeine-containing dietary supplements, which can affect mental performance, there is no habituation effect when taking BCAA.
The intake of BCAA is especially recommended
- during a diet,
- during a long break from training,
- after training,
- for particularly long training sessions,
to prevent muscle breakdown and/or to support muscle building.
Do BCAAs have side effects?
Can taking it adversely affect health? With the abundance of advantages, the question naturally arises whether the branched-chain amino acids also have any side effects and can therefore have a disadvantageous effect on health.
Since BCAA is a natural amino acid that is found in many protein-containing foods, an overdose and associated side effects are rather the exception. If BCAA is taken in large quantities, bloating, gastrointestinal disorders, or skin problems can occasionally occur. For this reason, users should adhere to the dosage and daily maximum recommended by the manufacturer.
How does BCAA intake work?
BCAA is not noticeable through a direct effect, but rather through subjective effects on the body. Since the branched-chain amino acids primarily have a positive effect on the muscle substance, athletes can primarily profit from
- better muscle building,
- better fat burning,
- an increased performance.
The biggest advantage of BCAA is that it is absorbed by the body very quickly and directly, which is not the case with protein powder, for example.
How are BCAA taken?
BCAA can either be taken as
Which variation is chosen is primarily a matter of taste. As a post-workout shake - ideally in combination with a high-quality whey protein and a simple carbohydrate source (e.g. glucose) for fast absorption - a BCAA powder is the best choice for many athletes.
Which is better: BCAA or whey protein?
Since the branched-chain amino acids are often an integral part of a whey protein powder, the question naturally arises whether BCAA is as good - if not better - than a protein powder.
This question cannot be answered so easily, since the branched-chain amino acids are only a part of the essential amino acids (EAA) and are therefore not a complete protein. Although they can achieve a satisfactory effect with regard to muscle building and muscle maintenance, users should nevertheless ensure that they have an adequate supply of all the amino acids necessary for humans.
In this case, for example, it is advisable to take a high-quality whey protein powder that contains all EAA and is supplemented by the addition of BCAA.
BCAAs are one of the most popular nutritional supplements because they are the only amino acids that are metabolized directly in the muscles directly and can therefore either help to build muscle better or be used to protect against catabolic pathways.