Ever seen people sipping on colorful kool-aid looking bevy’s at the gym? Maybe you didn’t bother wondering what they were swigging or maybe you we’ve been as curious as a cat. Well either way, I think you should read this blog… you may just be missing out on your new favorite gym partner, BRANCED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) construct ONE THIRD of muscle protein. They have a multitude of beneficial properties when it comes to the weight room and your physique. Scientific research and evidence has been able to prove that BCAAs, when taken orally, increase protein synthesis, regulate blood sugar levels, reduce muscle depletion during exercise, and helps with fat loss. These amino acids also delay fatigue in the central nervous system. BRILLIANT! Right? Don’t you just want to run out to Popeye’s and buy a tub?! The cool thing about these amino acids is that they are medically used for burn victims, diabetes, depression, anorexia, and even to control irritability. So what exactly are Branched-Chain Amino Acids? Well, there are 20-22 amino acids which are important to our cellular metabolism. BCAA’s are considered 3 out of the 8 essential amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
Amino aicds are essentially the building blocks of protein and they play a vital role in the human body: they build cells, repair tissues, construct RNA & DNA, work together to make antibodies which fight against foreign viruses and bacteria, create enzyme and hormonal systems, carry oxygen through the body, and play an important metabolic role. When we consume protein in our diets, our body breaks it down into amino acids which can then be utilized. There are 22 amino acids: 10-12 are non-essential amino acids, meaning our body naturally produces them from already available protein and glucose. The remaining 10-12 are essential amino acids are attained through the food we eat. Together, essential amino acids function to maintain positive nitrogen balance allowing them to create other amino acids, construct new cells and replacement old ones. Often bodies which undergo a lot of extra stress, such as athletes or sick people, need larger amounts of amino acids to compensate for higher metabolic demands. I don’t know whether you are finding this as interesting as I am, if not, bare with me I’m getting to the juice soon! No pun intended haha.Now, I will introduce to you our three friendly BCAAs and some of their functions: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
Enkephalins are our body’s natural painkiller, much like endorphins. Leucine is used to manufacture this painkiller. Other than being able to help in creation of these peptides, leucine stimulates insulin release which in turn encourages protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown; it also functions as a calorie, the same way the easily digestable sugar, dextrose does.Isoleucine is the one that helps with muscle recovery, regulating blood-sugar levels, stimulating growth hormone release,heals wounds, and helps form hemoglobin. Sounds like a serious illegal performance enhancing drug eh??? All natural baby!Valine, like the other amino acids is metabolized by our muscles and plays an important role in muscle synthesis as well as preventing depletion. It is the amino acid which provides energy when the body is going through overload and/or stress from say, lifting heavy weights, trauma, surgery, infection, fever, starvation, etc. Ooo there is SOOOO MUCH to say about amino acids. I’m getting really excited, but I really don’t think I should go into intense detail because you (and I for that matter) might be totally lost in a scientific jigsaw puzzle. So let’s make it simple. For our body to function it needs fuel. This fuel can only be utilized by the body once it is oxidized (meaning, combined with oxygen). Our body oxidizes carbohydrates effortlessly opposed to protein, which needs to go through a long process since it doesn’t do so well with oxygen. High school biology: protein has to go through krebs cycle: protein breaks down into amino acids in intestine -> blood tissues absorb amino acids -> amino acids move through liver and is then converted to ketones and now, FINALLY, they are used as fuel for the body. Now remember, this is true for most amino acids, BUT when the badass BCAA trio combines they have the magical power to detour and skip the liver. Instead, the body will use them as fuel in tissues other than the liver, like the SKELETAL MUSCLE TISSUES. So, when we’re vigorously exercising our muscles absorb BCAAs like a sponge. Also while exercising the BCAA trio is given priority in the oxidation process allowing them to quickly be used for energy and directly absorbed by muscles. BCAAs also have the power to help maintain and repair muscles and tendons AFTER exercise, injury, and illness. Together leucine, isoleucine, and valine help produce collagen, aid in the maintenance of connective tissue, and stimulate insulin production which allows blood sugar to be used up by muscle cells as a source of energy. Wowza right?! These three magical amino acids together are absolutely unf*ckingbelievable. Our brain has complete control over how tired, hungry, or fatigued we feel. BCAAs play a role in accessing the brain and offsetting fatigue caused by exercise. Since BCAAs are not metabolized by the liver, they swim around and compete with other amino acids for absorption into the blood-brain barrier which gives them access to the neural amino acid transport system. Thus, allowing amino acids to enter the brain and eliminate the feeling of fatigue elicited by physical activity. Research shows that BCAAs have the ability to reduce the neurotransmitter serotonin which sequentially improves mental and physical performance.
So BCAAs are useful to your intense workouts because they affect certain hormones which kick start protein synthesis; they have the ability to enhance endurance by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain which allows us to beat fatigue and workout longer; improves strength by rapidly providing fuel to skeletal muscle; protects muscle depletion because often our body will cannibalize on existing muscle tissue when in need of energy and BCAAs provide body with readily available energy; it allows us to burn more fat – particularly leucine plays a role in reducing body fat through increasing protein synthesis and forcing the body to draw energy from fat stores to synthesize muscles; and lastly BCAAs reduce cravings – leucine has been proven to suppress appetite by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain.
I personally have been using Xtend in the Watermelon flavor. Yummy! It’s sweet and is a good thirst quencher. Although, I have to admit, it does get expensive. I only take 2 scoops during my workout – I know people who take it before, during, and after. That’s a little too expensive for me. Anywho, hope this was helpful!!