If you are in the fitness regime you may have heard of BCAA powder or tablets as supplements for pre-workout requirements. BCAA uses for building muscle mass is among its top benefits that users look for.
What Is BCAA?
Talk about fitness and you’ve already heard of BCAA. BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids and is popularly known in its abbreviated form. There is a thin line between fat storage and gaining muscle mass in the body. So taking BCAA supplements might help you achieve muscle mass and shed that extra fat.
There are 9 essential amino acids that our body needs. Among them, the essential amino acids that are part of BCAA are valine, isoleucine, and leucine. Why are they known as ‘branched chain’ you might ask? The answer is simply because of their chemical representation as branched chains. You would ideally not want your body to go into the catabolic state where the body burns tissues because of calorie cut-down. It would then not burn fat and might result in loss of muscles instead of building it which happens in the anabolic state. The logic is simple: your body needs the amino acids to build muscles because it is the main source of energy. This in-turn is again important to boost fitness and sports performance. Among the important BCAA benefits is preventing muscle breakdown or loss.
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9 BCAA Benefits
1. Escalates protein synthesis
This is the extended BCAA benefit that prevents muscle loss. BCAA such as leucine promotes muscle growth and repair by escalating the process of protein synthesis in the body. It helps absorb the essential amino acids by breaking them down for your body to function. This in turn speeds up protein synthesis and more protein for the muscles, the more they strengthen.
2. Prevents muscle cessation
Breaking down of muscles should be ideally prevented for exercise and athletic purposes. Taking BCAA supplements or foods rich in the BCAA content orally (by mouth) can reduce the chances of muscle breakage.
3. Improves brain function
Amino acids essentially generate protein and thus energy in the body. They have been proven essential in supplying energy to the brain cells. Lower levels of brain functions due to liver diseases could be treated with oral doses of BCAA capsules and foods. But it is essential to consult a doctor first in such cases and not take BCAA without recommendation.
4. Effective in Treating Anorexia
Anorexia is a disease which entails severe muscle loss. The BCAA benefits prevent muscle breakage and therefore are an effective treatment for anorexic patients. Taking BCAA supplements or branched chain amino acid rich foods would start repairing muscles in the body and aid its growth. BCAA sources allow under or malnourished people to fulfill their nutritional needs. BCAA tablets or supplements can also be used for treating anorexic tendencies (via IVs sometimes) for cancer patients or the ones suffering from liver ailments.
5. Reduces fatigue in workouts
Usually, BCAA supplements are referred pre or post workout sessions. It significantly increases and generates energy for people working out for particular fitness regimes and for sports. It does so by decreasing the serotonin hormone which allows you to feel a sense of tiredness or fatigue in workouts. This results in boosting athletic and fitness performances. BCAA uses are thus known as performance enhancers.
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6. Reduces protein breakdown
There is a difference between BCAA uses for increasing protein synthesis in the body (refer to point 1) and the reduction of protein breakdown in the body. BCAA supplements allow muscle growth and repair through protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown. It also prevents protein breakdown from the synthesis so that muscles receive the amount of protein to build mass.
7. Improves appetite
This is always good news for people who are in the fitness industry trying to get the perfect shape. In order to build muscle mass, you will need to have access to nutritional foods. BCAA supplements increase appetite and even treats chronic appetite loss for people suffering from anorexia. It is also treatable for loss of appetite for cancer patients.
8. Treats muscle disorders
Taking BCAA supplements or foods in dietary routines can help overcome symptoms of tardive dyskinesia which is a kind of muscle disorder.
9. Protects muscle inflammation
If you are doing harder workouts then chances are to have a couple of sore muscles. BCAA benefits include prevention of muscle inflammation to give you the energy to push yourself in exercising. It is, however, suitable to do so with your trainer’s guidance.
Best BCAA Foods
The average question asked is always what to take for BCAA? In order to have a balanced nutrition of isoleucine, valine and leucine here are the following BCAA foods you can try:
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- Soybeans, brown rice, lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, cabbage and hemp to name a few for isoleucine.
- Whole grains, figs, dates, sunflower seeds, bananas could be taken for leucine.
- Broccoli, spinach, sprouts, and apricots are some of the valine-rich BCAA foods.
Others BCAA foods include Chicken, eggs and poultry, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chickpeas, lentils, whole wheat, soy milk, and almonds.
BCAA Side Effects
BCAA side effects are associated with the question of when to take BCAA. In the case of specific treatment or fitness regime, BCAA supplements can be taken orally for up to six months. It does not show notable side effects until prolonged duration of intake. The possible side effects may include:
1. Avoid taking BCAA foods or supplements pre or post- surgery
It is best to avoid taking BCAA supplements during surgery period or after surgery immediately because BCAA might intervene with glucose levels in your body. You may not be able to control blood sugar levels in your body so it is best to avoid it two weeks prior, if you are scheduled for a surgery around that time.
2. Side effects for pregnant or lactating women
There are no such safety guidelines on pregnant or lactating women who could use BCAA supplements so it is best to avoid during pregnancy. BCAA side effects are not suitable for women in these periods of time.
3. Side effects for chronic alcoholism
For chronic alcoholic people taking BCAA may not be conducive as it can cause liver-related problems and increase chances of damaging brain functions such as hepatic encephalopathy.
4. Lowers blood sugar for children
Taking BCAA rich foods is ideally considered safe for children. But there have been studies that showed BCAA side effects such as leucine could lower blood sugar levels in children or infants. This is a condition called idiopathic hypoglycemia and the causes could be that BCAA leucine helps secrete insulin from the pancreas thus lowering blood sugar levels.
5. Avoid if mental or physical conditions prevail
If branched-chain components such as these amino acids are taken in large quantities then chances of seizures or mental impediments can occur. It is best not to use BCAA supplements if pre-conditions for seizures or other mental or physical impediments prevail.
In case you experience any of the BCAA side effects it is best to consult your doctor. The question of when to take BCAA can also be answered by your doctor depending on the need of your body.