BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) are the essential aminos leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The combination of these three amino acids makes up approximately 1/3 of skeletal muscle tissue in the human body. BCAAs play a very important role in protein synthesis (the production of proteins in cells from amino acids to build muscle).*
What do BCAAs do?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When you eat food containing protein, it gets digested through the intestines and stomach. During this process, the protein is broken down into individual amino acids and short chains of amino acids. These amino acids are small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream.*
Once the amino acids are absorbed into the bloodstream they have far-reaching effects across the entire body. Amino acids are involved in muscle repair (lean muscle building), essential brain functions and even hair growth just to name a few.*
- BCAA's Build Muscle
- Increases Endurance During Performance
- Decreases Muscle Soreness From Gym
- Enhance Muscle Protein Synthesis
- Increase Fat Burning and Can Support Weight Loss
- Equalizes Muscle Building Between Young and Old
- Supports Hormone Balance During Intense Training
- Can Improve Strength Development
- Prevents Muscle Loss During Training
See All LifeSource Vitamins Workout Products, Articles, and Studies: Click Here
What is a metabolic pathway?
To understand just how important BCAAs are to muscle building and recovery you need to know what a metabolic pathway is. Put simply, a metabolic pathway is a chain of chemical reactions that take place within a cell (in this case, a muscle tissue cell). When adequate amounts of BCAAs are ingested they create their own metabolic pathway which results in increased protein production. This means more muscle tissue will be grown and muscles will be repaired faster.*
BCAAs and muscle growth.
Generally, after a session of resistance training the body is in a catabolic (the breaking down of muscle tissue) state, with a protein synthesis deficit. This is because post exercise the MAPK signaling pathway (the body's own way to signal muscle growth) is activated. While this is a pathway that will increase protein synthesis, it is not as effective as when combined with the BCAA signaling cascade.*
The two pathways act independently of each other. Because of this, when adequate amounts of BCAAs are ingested post workout (usually in the form of a post-workout drink) the body is placed in a greater state of hypertrophy with a positive amount of protein synthesis. This is extremely important for athletes because it will decrease recovery time as it increases the rate at which lean body mass is gained.*Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body. You must get them from complete protein foods or combinations of incomplete vegetable foods. See table above for a list of essential aminos. Your body can make non-essential amino acids by itself from vitamins and other amino acids.
The term "non-essential" can be misleading since all amino acids are essential for proper metabolism. There are some non-essential amino acids, such as glutamine, that are very essential in the process of muscle tissue repair. The 13 non-essential amino acids are listed in the table on the right.
The essential BCAAs are of special importance for athletes because they are metabolized in the muscle, rather than in the liver. This means they are more likely to be used to build muscle rather than burned as fuel for energy.
- Are BCAA supplements safe to use?
Studies have shown that supplemental intake of the BCAAs in the range of 5-20 grams per day in tablet form and 1 to 7 grams per liter in liquid form with no adverse side effects. Higher intakes should be avoided due to the possibility of competitive inhibition of the absorption of other amino acids from the diet and the risk of gastrointestinal distress.
In the quest to build muscle, bodybuilders can't seem to get enough protein. We eat copious amounts of chicken, steak, eggs, and fish to get it. We isolate the various types of proteins like whey and casein and make them into powders to take advantage of different digestion rates. We don't stop there though, we then isolate individual amino acids that protein is comprised of and consume them separately as well.
Even the most serious of lifters are left wondering why they need to take additional amino acids when they are already getting so many amino acids in all the protein they are consuming. The truth is that individual amino acids can influence muscle growth through a variety of different pathways, and of all the amino acids none have been shown to be more important than the branched chain amino acids.
Branched chain amino acid supplements (BCAA’s) have been around longer than others such as creatine and beta-alanine, but few realized the full range of their capabilities regarding muscle growth and performance. Branched chain amino acids have jumped to the forefront of research in recent years and the results have been turning heads within the bodybuilding world. We now know that BCAA’s go far beyond simply being building blocks for muscle tissue and can affect muscle growth through pathways that few thought possible.
The Three BCAA’s
The BCAA’s are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The name "branched-chain amino acids" is derived from the structure of these compounds. Each one has a forked outcropping that looks a bit like a branch, hence the name branched chain amino acids. The three BCAA’s are incredibly essential and actually fall into the category of essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are amino acids that the body cannot synthesize on its own and therefore must get adequate amounts through dietary sources. In fact, even though there are about 20 amino acids that the muscles use for growth, the BCAA’s comprise roughly a third of the aminos within muscle tissue. So if muscle growth is your goal BCAAs are a must.
It may not seem like the metabolic process of different amino acids matters as long as the endpoint is muscle tissue. The truth is that the manner in which amino acids are metabolized plays a large role in their functions within the body. The metabolism of BCAAs is different than the metabolic processes of other amino acids. What truly makes BCAA’s special is how they are metabolized. While most amino acids are metabolized in the liver BCAAs are metabolized primarily by muscle. Despite their structural similarities, the three branched-chain amino acids have different metabolic routes. The breakdown of leucine is accomplished solely through fat pathways. Valine is broken down solely through carbohydrate pathways, and isoleucine through both. The different metabolic pathways of these three amino acids lead to varying requirements for each.
BCAAs, unlike most other amino acids, are metabolized within the muscle tissue, allowing them to be oxidized (used as energy) by muscle cells to produce cellular energy in the form of ATP. ATP is the primary source of energy that fuels muscle contraction and allows you to lift weights.
The fact that leucine, isoleucine, and valine are metabolized within muscle tissue allows them to be a quick energy source when the body needs it. There is a significant increase in BCAA metabolism during prolonged exercise simply because the body requires more energy during periods of stress such as training. This makes BCAAs incredibly effective when taken around workout time.
The unique metabolic processes, requirements, and versatility of BCAAs allow them to impact nearly every aspect of training.
BCAAs and Performance
Improving performance during training is of utmost importance no matter what your goals. If you are an athlete, improved performance will help you in your sport of choice during actual competition. Improved performance is just as important to bodybuilders since improved performance translates into more weight lifted for more reps, which eventually translates into more muscle growth.
BCAA’s have been proven in many studies to be a potent performance enhancer, and as previously mentioned, BCAAs make a great energy source for working muscles because of their unique metabolism. This can have a positive impact on performance. Not only can BCAAs be used as energy themselves but they also enhance fat oxidation in glycogen-depleted subjects. This allows individuals to train harder for longer without fatigue due to the higher energy demands being met. This goes for both high-intensity training as well as endurance training.
Another way that BCAAs can enhance performance is through their ability to spare glycogen during training. Found as stored carbohydrates within muscle tissue and the liver, glycogen is the favored fuel source for working muscles engaged in high-intensity exercise. This makes glycogen availability and preservation vitally important if you wish to continue to train hard for longer periods of time. Studies have shown that by ingesting BCAAs before and during training glycogen levels can be spared by 25%. It is thought that the ingestion of BCAAs boosts blood alanine levels which get converted to glucose in the liver and then sent back to a working muscle to be used as fuel. This glycogen sparing effect of BCAAs will not only allow for longer more intense training sessions but also allows for faster recovery leading to a better workout tomorrow.
Effects on Hormones
They are the primary determinant for how much muscle someone will build. They are what separate top-level bodybuilders from the rest, elite athletes from everyone else, and cause the muscular differences between men and women. They are hormones! The hormones that are of most importance to us as serious lifters are anabolic hormones. Anabolic hormones are hormones within the body that promote protein synthesis (muscle growth), and the most notable anabolic hormones are testosterone, insulin, and growth hormone (GH). These hormones play a large role in controlling your muscle building destiny. Luckily it has been shown that BCAA intake can have a positive effect on anabolic hormone release.
Testosterone may be the most well know of the anabolic hormones. BCAA’s can have a positive impact on testosterone levels when consumed pre-training. During intense training, it is normal for testosterone levels to rise. After training is ceased testosterone levels will begin to fall back to normal baseline levels. Studies have shown that when athletes were given BCAA’s prior to training, post-workout testosterone levels remained elevated for several hours, whereas the control groups noticed a significant drop in testosterone once training ceased. This can go a long way to maximizing growth from every single training session.
Ingestion of BCAA’s not only increases testosterone in the post-training period but also builds muscle by improving the body’s testosterone to cortisol ratio. While testosterone is an anabolic hormone and promotes muscle growth, cortisol is a catabolic hormone and breaks down muscle tissue. Anyone looking to build muscle will want testosterone levels to remain high while minimizing the release of cortisol. It has recently been found that taking BCAA’s while resistance training results in significantly higher testosterone levels with a lower creatine kinase and cortisol response. This leads to more muscle tissue being built and less muscle tissue being broken down.
Lastly, the amino acid leucine has also shown promise for increasing insulin sensitivity. Essentially, insulin sensitivity ensures that the insulin within your body maintains its effectiveness. This leads to easier fat loss, more muscle growth, and defense against diabetes.
As a natural lifter, it is important to take advantage of every opportunity we get to optimize anabolic hormone levels. BCAA’s are a safe and effective way to naturally manipulate hormone levels leading to greater results all around.
BCAAs and Fat Loss
The effects of BCAA intake on fat loss is something that has only been explored in more recent years. Newer research is showing that BCAA’s can have a positive effect on fat loss. This doesn’t mean you can eat pizza at every meal with a side of BCAA’s and the fat will just melt away though. BCAA’s seem to maximize fat loss when one is already on a fat loss diet. On any fat loss diet, carbohydrates will need to be lowered to some degree. It seems that BCAA’s ability to spare glycogen and increase insulin sensitivity may play a role in speeding up the results of a fat loss plan.
BCAAs should also be used as a supplement during any fat loss plan because of the muscle preserving effects. On any calorie restricted diet plan, muscle tissue loss is a serious concern that must be addressed. All of the positive effects that BCAA’s have on muscle growth will also serve to protect muscle during periods of calorie restriction. It is always important to remember that anything which builds muscle will also preserve muscle.
BCAAs as Signaling Molecules
Last, but most certainly not least, of BCAA’s many functions is their ability to act as signaling molecules within the body. This has been bringing about some of the most exciting new research within the bodybuilding community in recent years. To get an understanding of how important this is you must first understand the role of protein within the body.
It has long been known that amino acids act as a substrate for muscle tissue. This essentially means that when you consume protein, your body will take the amino acids from that protein to compose muscle tissue and other proteins. This is why people often refer to amino acids as building blocks. BCAA’s have been proven to be much more than simple building blocks though. Within recent years it has been discovered that BCAA’s, particularly leucine, an act to send signals to the body that inform it to build muscle.
One of the ways leucine works to signal muscle growth is through its interaction with mTOR which stands for mammalian target of rapamycin. The mTOR is located within the cells and, among other things, is responsible for detecting an excess of amino acids. It has been shown to play a key role in regulating muscle hypertrophy (growth). Though this process is not entirely understood, the mTOR pathway has been discovered to be extremely sensitive to the amino acid leucine. Recent tests have shown that when leucine is taken orally it activates mTOR, which activates protein synthesis (muscle growth), and increases a cell’s capacity to produce new proteins (muscle tissue). This means that along with resistance training there is a way to send messages that control growth right at the cellular level. This is truly exciting news.
Many people will ask “If leucine has the greatest effect on muscle growth, then why not take leucine alone without isoleucine and valine?” It has consistently been shown that the greatest results in protein synthesis are seen when a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine are taken. When leucine is taken alone it can lower concentrations of the other two amino acids.
It is also important to note, although BCAA’s can act to signal muscle growth, there must be a full spectrum of amino acids to act as a substrate for muscle growth. This means that you can send signals to your body to build muscle all you want, but if it has nothing to build with you are out of luck. So make sure you ingest enough protein every day.
LifeSource Vitamins - BCAA 5,000 - Powder - Clean and Pure - Branched Chain Amino Acids play a very important role in protein synthesis, the production of proteins in cells from amino acids to build muscle, strength, and endurance.
Don’t forget your Blender Bottle Shaker!
Every LifeSource Vitamins product exceeds the standards and requirements set forth in the FDA's Code of Federal Regulation (21 CFR, 111) Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP).
Proudly Made in the USA, with ALL USA Ingredients!
E-mail Us: info@LifesourceVitamins.com
or Call Us: 800.567.8122
We Are Built on Compassion - Driven by Faith & Powered by God!
Have Questions? It can be overwhelming we know. Call us, we will walk you through what supplements will help you and which ones you really don’t need.
LifeSource Vitamins: Since 1992
*Disclaimer: None of the above statements have been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. As always, consult your physician before taking any and all supplements. LifeSource Vitamins. Individual results may vary.
Disclaimer: All the information contained throughout this website is based upon the opinion of the founder of LifeSource Vitamins, Bruce Brightman, and the entire team at LifeSource Vitamins whose relentless research and studies have been ongoing on since 1992. Other articles and information are based on the opinions of the authors, who retain the copyright as marked on the article. The information on this site is not intended to replace your health care professional, but to enhance your relationship with them. Doing your own studying and research and taking your health care into your own hands is always best, especially in partnership with your health care professional. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or have any medical conditions, always consult your health care professional before taking supplements based on the information on this site.
BCAA 5,000 - Powder - Clean and Pure - Builds Muscle, Increases Endurance, Decreases Soreness, Increases Fat Burning, Prevents Muscle Loss, Strength Development, Muscle Protein Synthesis, Weight Loss Enhancement, Hormone Balance During Training, Body Building Post Workout Supplement.