Branched Chain Amino Acids…Are they important to your fat loss goals??
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) is a term used to refer to three amino acids that are grouped together due to having branched chains; these are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
Of these three amino acids, leucine appears to be an important player in muscle protein synthesis and preventing muscle protein breakdown (via its metabolites HICA and HMB) while isoleucine appears to be a fairly potent amino acid to induce glucose uptake into cells; the combination of the two potentially aids in muscle cell growth. Valine is underresearched relative to the other two, and the role valine plays in a BCAA supplement (whether it is actually vital or whether it is just included due to its structure) is not ascertained.
When a diet is fairly low in BCAAs overall (due to being either low in dietary protein or just having protein sources with a low BCAA content such as a vegetarian diet) then supplemental BCAAs are able to promote muscle protein synthesis and aid in muscle growth over time. Since this is not reliably seen in those with a protein sufficient diet (1-1.5g/kg or higher) it is likely that dietary protein sources or protein supplements that confer BCAAs are also able to be used.
A potential unique role for BCAA supplementation (rather than BCAA containing food sources) is anti-fatigue, as supplying BCAAs is thought to prevent a serum decline in BCAAs that occurs during exercise (which would indirectly cause tryptophan influx into the brain, and serotonin production from that would cause fatigue). This goal would be hindered if dietary protein is used due to ingested tryptophan, and it seems this antifatigue effect may only apply to novice athletes (as studies in trained athletes fail to find a significant anti-fatigue effect).
Overall, aside from the possible anti-fatigue effect BCAAs are highly important compounds to ingest on a daily basis but supplementation is not required if the diet is sufficient in BCAAs. If the diet is insufficient and cannot be modified easily, then BCAA supplementation is a simple solution.
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