BCAA (branched chain amino acids)
BCAA is the abbreviation for the English term: Branched-Chain Amino Acids, in German: branched-chain amino acids.
The BCAA include the amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine. They are among the essential amino acids and cannot be produced by the body itself. Therefore they have to be ingested with food.
The BCAA are involved in muscle building and muscle supply. They also have a significant influence on the formation of various tissues and at the same time support wound healing and metabolism.
Does BCAA Supplements Make Sense?
BCAAs are used more and more often as dietary supplements, especially in fitness and weight training, but also in endurance sports. Whether this always makes sense depends on various factors.
Read more on the topic: Dietary supplements
A supply of BCAAs definitely makes sense if the diet is inadequate and as a result there is an insufficient supply of proteins in the body. This has already been confirmed by various studies. Whether a supply of BCAAs makes sense if sufficient proteins and thus BCAAs are supplied with the daily diet has not been conclusively clarified.
Read more on the topic: Areas of application of BCAA
Taking BCAA in the form of dietary supplements is not absolutely necessary for fat loss or muscle building, as the need for BCAA can usually be covered by a high-protein diet.
The additional intake of BCAA should therefore not replace protein or a meal, but (if any) only briefly cover the high amino acid requirements that arise during muscle training. Care should be taken to ensure an adequate supply of protein through food.
BCAA and muscle building
BCAA are very popular in the bodybuilding scene and in weight training. One advantage of BCAAs for muscle building is that these amino acids can be absorbed directly into the muscles, while other amino acids must first be processed in the liver. For this reason, BCAA provide energy for muscle training very quickly and quickly supply the muscles with amino acids after training.
Read more on the subject at: BCAA to build muscle
The amino acids leucine and isoleucine are particularly important for the formation of muscle protein. At the same time, they prevent muscle mass from being broken down into glucose.
About 35 percent of the contractile (able to actively contract) Proteins in muscles are made up of BCAA. But the essential amino acids not only serve as a pure building material for the body cells, but also support muscle building through their insulogenic effect. This means that the BCAA improve the production of the anabolic hormone insulin regardless of carbohydrates.
Should you take BCAA before, during, or after weight training?
The additional requirement arises mainly directly during training, due to the loss of amino acids due to exercise and after training, since more amino acids are required for anabolic regeneration processes.The breakdown or loss of BCAA happens very quickly and massively during heavy exercise during training, so that a rapid replenishment of the amino acids can have a positive effect on muscle building.
If BCCA is taken immediately after training, it increases the secretion of the hormone insulin. Among other things, insulin transports sugar into the muscle cells, which is equivalent to providing energy. The released insulin also accelerates the transport of the essential amino acids into the muscles. That is why BCAA unfold their greatest effect immediately after strength training.
Read more on the topic: Supplements for building muscle
BCAA in endurance sports
BCAA are mainly supplemented in weight training. They work to a large extent in the muscles and ensure the provision of energy during exertion. For this reason, endurance athletes are using BCAAs more and more often.
In this way you can be sure that you have enough energy available at the end of a race, for example. This has a positive effect on endurance performance and increases performance.
It is important that endurance athletes take care not to consume BCAAs excessively. In contrast to weight training, BCAA can be taken not only after, but also before endurance exercise and help the athlete to achieve better performance.
However, it should only be taken irregularly so that the urea levels of the athletes do not exceed a certain level in the long term.
Read more on the topic: Endurance sports and nutrition
When dosing the BCAA, always pay attention to the recommended dosage of the respective product. The dosage of BCAAs should be roughly based on the weight and training goals of an athlete. Scientifically, a requirement for isoleucine of approx. 42 - 48 mg per kilogram of body weight per day has been proven. . For athletes, an amount of 5 to 20 grams per day is usually recommended, whereby the composition should consist of about 2 parts of leucine and one part each of valine and isoleucine.
Although the dosage depends on the weight and training intensity of an athlete, an amount of 50 grams of BCAA per day should definitely not be exceeded.
The individual, optimal dosage can be discussed with a nutritionist.
For detailed information see: Dosage of BCAA
Proper intake of BCAA
BCAA can be processed by the body faster in powder form or as capsules than in tablet form. It is generally recommended not to exceed the amount of food supplements specified by the manufacturer.
Read more on the topic: Taking BCAA
BCAA powder and capsules
BCAA can be taken as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules or powder.
Both variants have the same effect on the whole, but powder is digested a little faster in our body than capsules. On the other hand, the BCAA content in capsules and tablets is usually higher than in powder.
This can be due to the fact that the powder is still flavored and therefore the proportion of BCAA's is lower. Once you have decided on the powder form, you just have to choose the right product. Given the large number of suppliers and different compositions, this is not that easy and usually requires trying out different varieties.
Among the best-known powders are five products that have a very similar composition (ratio 2: 1: 1 for leucine, valine, isoleucine) and are therefore easily comparable.
Another advantage of taking BCAA as a powder is explained by its rapid absorption in the stomach and intestinal tract. This means that the supplements are available to the muscle cells more quickly. The addition of BCAA in addition to the normal diet makes sense for athletes, because you do not take in additional calories by taking BCAA powder, but you are still more efficient and improve muscle growth.
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- BCAA powder.
- BCAA capsules
Effect of the BCAA
Only if all three of the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine are supplied together can there be an effective potential for building muscle and preventing muscle loss. If they are supplied individually, there can be an imbalance that would lead to a breakdown in protein synthesis.
BCAA supplementation is particularly useful for training, as it can increase the training intensity. During training, the muscles get tired after a certain time, depending on the intensity, until they can no longer perform. Taking BCAA directly after training prevents muscle mass from being broken down in favor of the formation of new sugar! The amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine have different effects:
Leucine is involved in the production of sugar (glucose), so it can be useful, especially on low-carbohydrate diets, to take leucine in the form of food supplements.
Valine stimulates the release of insulin. This regulates the blood sugar level and accelerates the absorption of amino acids into the muscles and the liver. (Anabolic effect is enhanced)
Isoleucine stimulates insulin production in the pancreas and ensures that the body's natural nitrogen balance is maintained. This effect is particularly important in the formation of new tissues and enables healthy growth, especially in children and adolescents.
This effect of the BCAA can also be helpful in disorders with increased protein breakdown (such as tumor diseases). Even with chronic liver diseases, care must be taken to ensure an adequate supply of BCAA, as the branched-chain amino acids prevent the transfer of various (brain toxic) Substances into the brain (about the Blood-brain barrier).
BCAAs also affect the brain. For example, supplementation can shorten reaction times. It also increases brain power and makes the brain tire more slowly.
You can also read our topic: Effect and function of BCAA
BCAA intake while dieting
BCAA can also have an effect on diet. Because with a diet, not enough nutrients are supplied to the body, which means that the body burns carbohydrates and fat for energy, but amino acids are also needed for energy supply.
On the one hand, the effect is that the BCAA stimulate and optimize muscle growth or muscle protein synthesis.
On the other hand, protein breakdown is reduced during a diet and more energy can be provided for endurance performance. However, the effects of BCAA also depend on how they are supplied.
The intake of BCAA during a diet ensures that additional muscle mass is not also lost during fat loss. So it slows them down catabolic effect t and maintains muscle mass in the body.
Since the amino acid leucine in particular is broken down during a diet, a sufficient intake of leucine can serve as an energy source for the body and valuable muscle protein is spared. This is also known as anti-catabolic (gentle on the metabolism) Effect.
Side effects of BCAA
In principle, side effects or side effects do not have to be expected as long as the dosage specified by the manufacturer is adhered to and the dietary supplements do not absorb more than necessary. Even athletes with a sensitive stomach or nervous system usually do not react to BCAA with side effects, as they are well tolerated.
However, when taking BCAA you should take into account that the required amount of essential amino acids is not exceeded and that the calculation is made in combination with the BCAA contained in the food. In rare cases, the increased BCAA intake leads to increased hair growth.
You can find more information under: Side effects of BCAA
What happens if I overdose on BCAA?
If you overdose on BCAA, you should normally not experience any side effects as BCAAs are found in food and the human body is used to them. BCAAs that are ingested too much are simply washed through the excretions from the human body. So the only thing to fear in the event of an overdose is that you will unnecessarily throw money out the window if you take too much BCAA.
In rare cases, however, a side effect does occur. Since BCAAs are made up of amino acids, high doses can lead to increased hair growth in the long term.
Occurrence of BCAA
The main sources of BCAAs in food are raw grain products and cow's milk products. These include
The BCAA content of cow's milk is only exceeded by that of soy milk
There are now many different manufacturers on the market who offer BCAAs and of course each manufacturer has found the "best" composition for their BCAA dietary supplement. As shown by extensive testing, the supplement doesn't always contain exactly what it says on the outside.
For example, 23 of 24 BCAA tested contain less isoleucine than stated on the label. And for the other two amino acids, leucine and valine, the values sometimes deviate greatly from the packaging information.
Five of the 24 products even differed 50 percent in the composition of the ingredients from the packaging information.
All the BCAA examined showed only minimal traces of heavy metals, which are well below the required and health-critical limit value.
In addition to BCAA, dietary supplements usually contain other minerals or trace elements. Half of all products contained iron, but calcium was also found in many products.
BCAA’s are branched-chain amino acids that we can consume through a balanced diet.
Active people have a higher need for these protein building blocks, as they are important for muscle growth and also play a greater role in energy production.
Especially endurance and strength athletes benefit best from BCAA's.
Endurance athletes need this supplement to prevent deficiencies in the supply of energy and to counteract the breakdown of muscle protein.
For strength athletes and bodybuilders, BCAAs play an important role, especially in the muscle building phase. It is particularly important here that the body does not go into a state of protein breakdown. In the case of muscle breakdown caused by BCAA deficiency, the protein from the muscle fibers is burned for energy production and muscle growth is thus interrupted.
In addition to building muscle and helping to generate energy, many BCAAs have other tasks in the human body:
They are the building blocks of all proteins in our body and control various processes. In addition to stimulating the secretion of insulin, they control the serotonin concentration in the brain. It should be taken before and after training and the dosage should not exceed three to four grams per intake.