The Basics of Branched Chain Amino Acids
BCAAs are three essential amino acids called ‘Branched Chain Amino Acids’ which make up approximately 1/3 of muscle protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which make up the tissues within our muscles and organs. There are nine amino acids the body is unable to make that we must source from our diet, these amino acids are called ‘essential amino acids’ and include the BCAAs. All nine essential amino acids can be oxidised for use as energy by skeletal muscle, however, BCAAs are the preferred amino acids oxidised during endurance training or high-intensity muscle contraction exercises, such as weight lifting (1.).
Muscle is important for all types of exercise whether the focus is strength, power, endurance – or muscle size and shape for figure and bodybuilding disciplines. Regardless of your chosen sport, one important focus should be on maintaining positive nitrogen balance to cater for day-to-day protein turnover, as well as the additional muscle repair and growth stimulated by exercise. A positive nitrogen balance can be achieved by including adequate protein in the diet from food and drinks. It’s also important not to forget about muscle retention and maintenance, by ensuring the body has amino acids from protein in the system before heading into a training session, especially BCAAs.
BCAAs can compliment any type of exercise by providing an alternative fuel source for skeletal muscles to use during intense exercise. BCAAs may help limit muscle damage and protein catabolism (the breakdown of muscle), and help to build lean muscle tissue. BCAAs have also been shown to support lean body mass, strength and muscle function. This means BCCAs can help support body builders and athletes who are looking to gain or maintain muscle or support their recovery periods after exercise.
- Burke, L., & Deakin, V. (2010). Clinical Sports Nutrition.NSW, Australia: McGraw-Hill Education.