Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) refer to the structure of particular amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.
1. In the presence of the other 6 essential amino acids, BCAAs have been shown to maximally prevent muscle damage and wastage from exercise, and increase muscle repair and growth post-exercise.
Although BCAAs alone do help, when consumed along with essential amino acids, there is much greater muscle synthesis.
2. Muscle wasting (atrophy) is determined by the balance between break-down and regeneration. In muscle protein, BCAAs account for 35% and 40% of essential amino acids in the whole body. During times of high need, increasing the amount of BCAAs can slow or prevent muscle atrophy.
3. Higher BCAA levels in the blood can help to prevent exercise induced fatigue, as muscles use BCAAs during exercise. When blood levels decline, the transport of an amino acid called tryptophan increases across the blood brain barrier. This amino acid is converted to serotonin in the brain, and rising levels of serotonin are attributed to the development of fatigue during exercise. So, when BCAAs are higher, it can help to prevent fatigue, and lack of mental stamina during exercise.
4. Leucine is crucial for the activation of protein synthesis pathways. So, although all essential amino acids are needed for optimal muscle regeneration and synthesis, ensuring enough Leucine will help to support these pathways, as well.
5. The presence of BCAAs may prevent muscle soreness, often referred to as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Several studies have shown that, as mentioned above, high levels of BCAAs in the blood help to prevent protein breakdown during exercise, which may in turn can prevent ‘soreness’ from what is thought to be tiny tears in the muscle.
Creatine kinase in an enzyme that is measured and related to muscle damage. When there are higher levels of BCAAs, less creatine kinase is measured, also, which indicates less muscle damage.
So, supplementing with BCAAs, particularly prior to exercise, may prevent high levels of damage, while increasing recovery time.
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