Branched chain amino acids or BCAAs are an amino acid that has a branched molecular structure. Amino acids are present throughout the body and are used for various energy producing functions. BCAAs have been found to be metabolized mainly in the muscle tissue.
Because of this BCAAs have become a popular supplement for enhancing muscle recovery after strength training, sparing muscle mass during fasting and increasing overall protein intake. Overall supplementing with BCAAs can keep the body in an anabolic state and maintain lean mass.
BCAAs are the most basic units that are put together in different ways to make proteins. Many amino acids can be made in the body, while essential amino acids can only be acquired from food or supplements. In exercising populations BCAAs in the muscle are broken down at a faster rate. It has be postulated that replacing BCAAs in the muscle will have a good effect on performance. Aside from exercise training, BCAAs have a known benefit for treating liver disease.
BCAAs can be taken in powder or tablet form. Powder forms are commonly flavoured because on their own BCAAs has a very strong taste. Most supplements are a balance of three BCAAs and are taken in 20g doses.
The structural form of the three essential BCAAs in muscle tissue.
BCAA intake is most beneficial before, during and after exercise for promoting muscle synthesis and reducing muscle soreness. Supplementation makes this more convenient. After a squat training session, the group that supplemented with BCAAs had less fatigue during the lifts and experienced less muscle soreness the next day. BCAA supplementation has also been observed to increase muscle power output in trained lifters.
Crowe, M. J., Weatherson, J. N., & Bowden, B. F. (2006). Effects of dietary leucine supplementation on exercise performance. European journal of applied physiology, 97(6), 664-672.
Shimomura, Y., Yamamoto, Y., Bajotto, G., Sato, J., Murakami, T., Shimomura, N., … & Mawatari, K. (2006). Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle. The Journal of nutrition, 136(2), 529S-532S.