Accounting for 14-18% of the makeup of the amino acids in your muscles, Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are critical to your muscle protein production. There are nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce itself and must consume through food and supplements. Of those, L-Leucine, L-IsoLeucine, and L-Valine play a key role in muscle development as they are metabolized in the muscle rather than the liver, where they can be used for building new proteins or for energy. BCAAs protein can also help increase the availability of carbohydrates in your muscles and help protect them from exercise-induced protein breakdown.
The major benefits of taking BCAA supplements include; muscle growth and enhancement through stimulated recovery, supporting strength and power, and managing the catabolic crisis or the loss of muscles.
Dieting is catabolic, which means it can lead to muscle breakdown, for several reasons. The leaner a body gets, the more likely it is to lose muscle mass as the body tries harder and harder to hold onto body fat reserves. In doing so, the body will turn to muscle to satisfy its energy needs. This is bad news for anyone interested in a hard body.
On the molecular level, muscle loss occurs because the body increases protein breakdown (catabolism) in order to liberate muscle amino acids for fuel. If this isn’t bad enough, muscle loss is compounded by the fact that levels of protein synthesis will also decrease due to reduced energy intake.
The basic equation for muscle mass is; Muscle mass = the rate of protein synthesis – the rate of protein breakdown.
When the rate of synthesis equals the rate of breakdown, you don’t gain or lose muscle. If the rate of synthesis exceeds the rate of breakdown, you gain muscle. When the rate of breakdown exceeds the rate of synthesis, you lose muscle. If you’re dieting, you may be burning the candle at both ends: elevating muscle breakdown and reducing protein synthesis.
Working out compounds the metabolic effects of dieting. The leaner one becomes, the more lethargic one can become. Decreased energy intake and decreased glycogen storage make for some rough training sessions. If you’re too tired or weak to lift as heavy as your body was getting used to, your muscles will adapt, and they won’t use as much energy to get the work done. That means your body won’t increase lean muscle mass; it might also mean that your body will use lean muscle for energy because you aren’t using it to lift a heavy load.
When should I take BCAAs?
It is recommended to take BCAAs when muscles are most receptive as they are absorbed directly into the muscle. Pre and post-workout are the ideal times to take a BCAA supplement as BCAAs are oxidized in the muscles during exercise for energy.
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