Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine, the three branched chain amino acids(BCAA’s), are one of the most popular supplements discussed in the fitness industry. Amino acids are the “building blocks” for making protein inside your body, and there are actually 20 total amino acids that you need in order to build a protein in your body; nine of which are essential which means that you must consume them in your diet since your body cannot make them. The three BCAA’s are part of this essential amino acid group, and are specially named because they play a large role in the overall production of muscle protein- especially the amino acid leucine. BCAA’s can be taken before, during, or after your training session; once consumed, these amino acids can be turned into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis, so that your body doesn’t have to breakdown actual muscle tissue to release proteins for energy. Also, BCAA’s have been shown to increase the rate of recovery after training sessions, so people may experience less soreness the following days after training. Another thing to add is BCAA’s can be very beneficial during times of injury- studies have shown that consuming BCAA’s while being injured can help limit muscle atrophy(breakdown) and fat gain.
All of these things sound pretty good, right? No question they are, however, if you are consuming a diet that is adequate in protein and making sure you are consuming different types of protein sources; there is not really much need to supplement with BCAA’s. By consuming a few different types of protein sources(eggs, chicken, beef, fish, etc.) you will make sure you get all of the essential amino acids, which includes the BCAA’s, so supplementing with them at this point won’t do much benefit. A great time to supplement with them, however, is when you are in a caloric deficit(fat loss phase) such as preparing for a bodybuilding show; once you reach lower and lower body fat levels your body will fight you to hang onto the limited fat that it has left, so your body will begin to breakdown muscle tissue for energy to release amino acids into the blood stream as fuel. However, by supplementing with BCAA’s, you can help minimize the chances of this happening since the BCAA’s can be turned into glucose for energy.