What Are Branch Chain Amino Acids(BCAAs) and When to Take Them

If you’ve spent some time on bodybuilding sites, you’ve probably seen the acronym BCAA around or read the name – branched chain amino acids. A lot of people know only that these things exist, without knowing what they actually do, which just adds to the mystery. Truth of the matter is that they’re very effective if you know how to use them, and that’s what we’re looking at in this article.

Branch chain amino acids are named this way because of their chemical composition. When you look at their chemical structure, they’re shaped like a branch. BCAAs are made out of three amino acids, all essential – valine, leucine and isoleucine. BCAAs can help you gain a lot more muscle, much faster, according to recent scientific studies. Namely, the study conducted for eight weeks on trained athletes demonstrated that those who took BCAAs experienced about double the muscle growth of those who didn’t take them and only took regular whey protein in the form of a shake. However, just taking them isn’t enough – you have to know when to take them, as that is the most crucial thing with BCAAs – timing.

Amino acids and branched chain amino acids are not interchangeable. Your system treats them in very different ways and so they visibly affect it in different ways as well. You can start taking BCAAs only when you have a grasp on what it is that makes them different from regular amino acids. As you’ve probably heard, your muscles are composed of protein, which itself is composed of amino acids in the shape of a necklace. The key to building muscle is getting your body to create more protein, so you want this necklace to get bigger to accommodate that. This is a process that creates proteins from amino acids and it’s called protein synthesis.

However, this process can’t go on without the participation of branched chain amino acids. The BCAAs are literally the stuff from which muscles are made of and you really can’t get anything done without them. All three branched chain amino acids have a part to play in the muscle building process, so none of them can be omitted. When you put amino acids in your body, they are transported straight to your liver, where they can become one of two things: either they will be made into fuel and then burned up as energy to be used by your bodily systems, or they will be sent to various locations in your body to repair or create muscle tissue.

This means that your muscles won’t get all of the necessary acids if the acids are turned into fuel beforehand. But when it comes to branched chain amino acids, the process is entirely different – they go right to your muscle tissue instead of going through the liver first. The muscles burn them up as energy to be used to power your body or they use them to repair existing damage in the muscle tissue. It’s exactly because of this reason that BCAAs have become more and more popular in the bodybuilding and fitness industries.

Taking BCAA supplements should be carefully thought out according to the needs of the person consuming them. They’re good at repairing and growing muscle, but they also help you in not getting tired during your exercises, they increase fat loss and boost your mental focus and strength. A lot of roles for just one supplement, right? Well, this is why they’re popular. The essential amino acids comprising the BCAAs play vital roles, but each acid has a different one.

VALINE, for example, competes with tryptophan to get inside the brain. Tryptophan is the amino acid that creates serotonin which in turn tells the brain when the body is exhausted. This means that when you take valine before exercising, you can push back your fatigue red line by significantly lowering the amount of tryptophan that gets into your brain. Also, this also means that aside from bodily function, BCAAs also help you stay more focused and boost your mental abilities.

LEUCINE helps you grow more muscles by the process of protein synthesis. It’s a main amino acid which is needed to start the muscle building process by combining various other amino acids. Also, it increases your insulin levels, which is good because insulin is an anabolic hormone which in turn makes your muscles grow faster. Also, it increases secretion of the human growth hormone which makes even more muscles but also dials down on cortisol, which is an agent in breaking muscles down.

ISOLEUCINE activates PPAR receptors in your body which help you burn more fat and make sure you aren’t storing any more of it. If you take isoleucine, your body will start using up stored fat for energy. Protein synthesis can combat the body fat you already have, and BCAAs boost the protein synthesis processes in your body, which then makes your body burn more energy which in turn burns body fat. With isoleucine, this process is even faster and stronger.

In order to have the best results with branched chain amino acid supplements, you will need to take them in three instances:

  • Before working out.  You can take them before exercising to help you disintegrate fat molecules to be used up as energy. This way, you can get more muscle activity in less time, and you won’t feel as tired. Also, you should take BCAAs when you wake up in the morning because your body will be in a catabolic state and BCAAs go directly against that, stimulating an anabolic, muscle-producing state instead.
  • While working out. If you take BCAAs while exercising, they will give you a constant stream of energy which your body will use to delay any possible fatigue and help you spend your gym time productively. Also, if you take them while exercising your mental focus will grow at the same time.
  • After working out. You can take BCAAs after working out to help your muscles repair themselves and to help your body recover from the exhaustion it’s just been put through.  Put them in your post-workout shake or take them after your post-workout meal to boost the protein synthesis in your system, but also help your body repair itself and create new muscle with greater speed.

The recommended dosage for branched chain amino acids is between three and five servings per day, with each serving being five or more grams. Take them throughout the day to keep your energy levels high, muscle growth constant and muscle soreness at a minimum level and they will do wonders.

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