BCAA, branched chain amino acids, are one of the most popular sport supplements.
BCAA (branched-chain amino acids) are: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are the most used amino acid supplements used by athletes because of their well known effects on the muscle mass..
BCAAs may constitute up to 35% of the muscle mass and are fundamental for preserving the integrity and muscle growth.
Within the food supplement history, without a doubt, BCAAs have become a milestone thanks to their consolidated benefits and are a “must” for many athletes.
They have appeared on the scene during the 80s and from then on they have become the most popular supplements on the market.
Every form of skepticism has been overcome, it has been sufficiently demonstrated how they don’t bring any type of empath fatigue (on the contrary they have been used for liver disease).
We could define it as the best supplement and a must for all types of sports.
With the passing of years even BCAAs have gone through some restyling (to say the truth not that much) research has been made to find new connections between the different components of this supplement: isoleucine, leucine and valine.
Surely all three are part of the precious essential amino acid class (the ones the body is not able to produce) and are characterized by the same biochemical profile that classifies them as “branched chain”.
On top of this it’s important to mention that branched chain represent around 60% of the AAs within the skeletal muscle; so logically, by supplementing them, the body receives precious spare parts useful during the anabolic and recovery process.
It’s certain that the three BCAAs offer a series of common and synergetic functions, it is also true that each of these three AAs has specific qualities that are used during a long series of actions.
Specifically, power athletes focus on leucine, the cornerstone of anabolism, from which the body can metabolize HMB, a powerful anabolic and anti-catabolic component.
The conventional ratio between the 3 branched is of 2: 1 : 1, which means two parts of leucine for 1 of valine and 1 of isoleucine. Most of the studies available have been done using this formulation.
Recently on the market other formulas have appeared with a modified ratio of 3:1:1, 4:1:1 or even 8:1:1.
What we can be sure of is that even if leucine has excellent properties, it’s not true that the more you take the more benefits you have (for any type of molecule).
On the contrary it is often the abuse of an AA, in comparison to others, that may determine assimilation imbalances.
Having said this, it is certainly exciting trying to find out if and how much the ratio between the 3 BCAA may be changed in comparison to the established 2:1:1.
How much and when should we take BCAA?
First of all it is certainly useful to explain the purpose of these supplements and the answer is connected to the type of sport performed and the adjective that the person wants to reach by using BCAA.
For endurance sports, the athlete is looking for the best energy mechanisms and at the same time he is trying to avoid catabolism instead of increasing anabolism. According to our experience and logic, we believe the traditional ratio doesn’t change, 2:1:1 is still the most effective answer, to be used before, during and after the workout.
Within this context, isoleucine carries out and important role because of being an effective glucogenic amino acid (generating energy) and an absence of it brings to a rapid shortage of stamina during the workout; this is probably connected to the fact that it normalizes glycemic levels and uses triglycerides as fuel contributing to the endogenous production of hemoglobin (the molecule designated to carry iron).
If instead the target shifts on strength, with possible hypertrophic objectives, then things change. It’s important to evaluate in detail the powerful anabolic functions connected to leucine.
This is when the most ideal ratio may become 4:1:1 to be used for weight training, especially when used after working out in order to stimulate the anabolic/reconstructive activity.
When should we take BCAAs?
During intense training, our body needs specific nutrients to be used as an energy source. During power or resistance workouts, muscle fibers are put under intense stress.
To provide an effective solution, our body uses carbohydrates and amino acids in order to produce energy.
If the body is deprived from these energy sources, it will start using the amino acids available within the muscles, to reach the same objective.
This phenomenon called catabolism, reduces muscle mass. The more BCAAs found within the muscles, the less probability there will be for muscle cells to be fractioned into fibers in order to produce the necessary energy.
BCAAs have anabolic effects that favour recovery and facilitate training; they need to be taken before and after physical activity.