What Are BCAAs?
BCAA stands for branched chain amino acid. Three amino acids are part of the branched-chain amino acid family; they are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Many people who supplement protein use whey isolate as their primary amino supplementation.
Including BCAAs into your supplement routine can provide a few great benefits:
- Decrease fatigue
- Increase muscle mass
- Reduce fat
Who doesn’t want that?
Do They Work?
Because branched-chain amino acids are a supplement, and not considered food, they are not regulated by the FDA. There hasn’t been a lot of research about BCAA supplementation, so there is the possibility that the results people have seen with BCAA’s are a placebo effect.
However, in the few studies on branched-chain amino acid supplementation, it has been shown to be effective.
BCAAs are particularly useful to athletes who participate in intense training activities.
You don’t need to supplement BCAAs if you have an adequate level of these amino acids in your diet.
BCAA depletion can increase recovery time and decrease training gains.
Branched-chain amino acids have been used in the medical setting to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease, dyskinesia, McArdle’s disease, and to increase appetite in kidney failure patients.
Some healthcare providers have given branched-chain amino acids intravenously for brain swelling due to liver disease, and when the body has been under extreme stress, like a serious injury or widespread infection.
BCAAs Side Effects: Who Should Not Take Them?
- Lou Gehrig’s disease can cause increased lung failure for those patients using branch chain amino acids.
- A chronic alcoholic should not use branched-chain amino acids because of increased liver disease leading to brain damage.
- Branched-chain amino acids may interfere with blood sugar control before and after surgery.
- You should not take branched-chain amino acids if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, because there have not been enough reliable studies to show that it is safe for use.
- Branched-chain amino acids have also been shown to interact with certain medications. If you’re taking any drug, you should always talk to your physician about any supplements you decide to take. BCAA supplementation may not be right for you if you take:
- thyroid medication
- medication for diabetes
Because of the interactions with these medications, it is always important to let your doctor know of any supplements that you are taking.
What Are the Beneficial BCAAs Side Effects?
Assuming that you’re a healthy individual, branched-chain amino acids have a plethora of beneficial side effects. Here are some of the beneficial side effects that come with branched-chain amino acids that people see when used as part of their regular diet and exercise program
1. Immune Function
BCAAs improve immune function in athletes by reversing glutamine loss.
2. Protein Synthesis
Because BCAAs are essential amino acids, they stimulate protein synthesis in the body. BCAAs produce muscle gains even in the absence of weight training.
3. Fat Loss
One study showed that athletes on high BCAA diets reduced their visceral fat content by as much as 17%. Visceral fat is the dangerous fat. It accumulates in the abdominal cavity and surrounds organs and tissues.
Reduction in visceral fat is essential to longevity.
Athletes feel a substantial decrease in DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) experience with the intense exercise when using BCAAs. Increased recovery is due to the increased protein which reduces the catabolic effect of exercise.
5. Anti-catabolic Effect
Catabolism is a process the body goes through where it breaks down muscle for fuel. Supplementing BCAAs before a workout has been shown to decrease this natural fact in the body.
Decreased catabolism leaves you with more muscle at the end of your training, because of the increased protein.
Last but not least, endurance is one of the beneficial BCAAs side effects when supplementing. BCAAs serves to increase nitrogen in the formation of L-alanine, which provides glucose after glycogen stores are depleted.
Studies show that BCAA exercised rats are able to train to the point of fatigue for longer times, and at higher intensities.
Are you currently seeing any BCAAs side effects?
What are some of the positive outcomes that you’ve seen in your training because of BCAAs? And did you notice any bad side effects of BCAAs?
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