What are BCCAs?
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential nutrients. They are proteins found in food. Your muscles “burn” these amino acids for energy.
Branched-chain amino acids are essential nutrients that the body obtains from proteins found in food, especially meat, dairy products, and legumes. They include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. “Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of these amino acids. People use branched-chain amino acids for medicine.
Branched-chain amino acids are used for reduced brain function in people with advanced liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy) and for a movement, disorder often caused by antipsychotic drugs (tardive dyskinesia). They are also commonly used to improve athletic performance, prevent fatigue, reduce muscle breakdown and other conditions, but there isn’t enough reliable information to support these other uses.
Role of BCAA in the Body
BCAA plays an essential role in the building and repairing of muscles. They get their name from their chemical structure, which also affects the way the body uses them.
BCAAs are a rapid supplement metabolized primarily in skeletal muscle, meaning they skip your liver and directly enter your bloodstream to provide your body with these essential amino acids. They are the building blocks of protein.
Branched-chain amino acids stimulate the building of protein in muscle and possibly reduce muscle breakdown.
How Does BCAA work?
Branched-chain amino acids stimulate the building of protein in muscle and possibly reduce muscle breakdown. Branched-chain amino acids seem to prevent faulty message transmission in the brain cells of people with advanced liver disease, mania, tardive dyskinesia, and anorexia.
Health Benefits of BCAA’s
- Muscle Growth: The BCAA leucine activates a particular pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which is making muscle. However, your muscles require all the essential amino acids for the best results.
- Decrease Muscle Soreness: Some research suggests BCAAs can help decrease muscle soreness after a workout. This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which develops 12 to 24 hours after exercise and can last up to 72 hours. BCAAs have been shown to decrease muscle damage, which may help reduce the length and severity of DOMS. Therefore, supplementing with BCAAs, especially before exercise, may speed up recovery time.
- Reduce Exercise Fatigue: BCAAs may help decrease exercise-induced fatigue, but they are unlikely to improve exercise performance. Everyone experiences fatigue and exhaustion from exercise at some point. How quickly you tire depends on several factors, including exercise intensity and duration, environmental conditions, and your nutrition and fitness level.
- Prevent Muscle Wasting: Taking BCAA supplements can prevent the breakdown of protein in specific populations with muscle wasting. Muscle wasting or breakdown occurs when protein breakdown exceeds muscle protein synthesis. Muscle wasting is a sign of malnutrition and occurs with chronic infections, cancer, periods of fasting, and as a natural part of the aging process.
- Benefit People With Liver Disease: BCAAs may improve health in people with cirrhosis, a chronic disease in which the liver does not function properly. Liver cirrhosis is also a significant risk factor for developing hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer, for which BCAA supplements may also be helpful. BCAA supplements may improve the health outcomes of people with the liver disease while also possibly protecting against liver cancer.
Disorders with Decreased BCAA Levels
The studies have shown that BCAA deficiency impairs mRNA translation, and dietary inadequacies of BCAA result in impaired growth and protein wasting. Decreased BCAA levels may influence the synthesis of neurotransmitters and adversely affect brain function.
BCAA supplementation seems rational in disorders with decreased BCAA levels, which occur in liver cirrhosis, urea cycle disorders, and chronic renal insufficiency.
WHAT IS THE PROPER DOSAGE WHEN TAKING BCAA’S
A World Health Organization report from 1985 states that the average adult should consume a minimum of 15 mg of BCAAs per pound (34 mg/kg) of body weight each day. However, according to more recent research, the daily requirements may be as high as 65 mg/lb (144 mg/kg) of body weight per day.
Based on these newer studies, healthy adults should aim to consume:
Women: A minimum of 9 grams of BCAAs per day
Men: A minimum of 12 grams of BCAAs per day
Average daily intakes of 5–12 grams of BCAAs are probably sufficient for most people and can be easily met through diet alone. Athletes may benefit from supplements with 10–20 grams of BCAAs per day.
Sources of BCAA are the following:
- Meat, poultry, and fish: 3–4.5 grams per 3 oz (84 grams)
- Beans and lentils: 2.5–3 grams per cup
- Milk: 2 grams per cup (237 ml)
- Tofu and tempeh: 0.9 to 2.3 grams per 3 oz (84 grams)
- Cheese: 1.4 grams per 1 oz (28 grams)
- Eggs: 1.3 grams per large egg
- Pumpkin seeds: About 1 gram per 1 oz (28 grams)
- Quinoa: 1 gram per cup.
- Nuts: 0.7–1 gram per 1 oz (28 grams), depending on the variety.