Benefits Of BCAA: What You Thought You Knew But Didn’t

by IanW on March 18, 2013

Amino acids

Some of the benefits of the three essential Branched Chain Amino Acids found in most supplements, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine have been talked about in the main post on this site.

The most significant benefit being that these supplements come up with a completely clean bill of health. Despite extensive research and trials over many years BCAA benefits are all positive.

The BCAA Family

While the three essential BCAA above are those found in most supplements there is a whole family of amino acids that often go unmentioned when supplements are discussed.

All told there are around 20 amino acids that the body needs for muscle growth. They are classed as Essential and Non-Essential. The truth of the matter is that they are are all necessary.

The difference is that some (the Essential) the body cannot synthesis itself. They must be provided for in the diet either in food or as a supplement. There are 9 essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and valine. 

Foods that provide them are complete proteins and typically include meat, dairy and legumes. These essential BCAA’s are metabolized in the muscle rather than the liver.

When protein is digested it is broken down into separate amino acids that can be used to create new protein or alternatively burned as fuel for energy.

Non essential amino acids can be made by your body from vitamins and other amino acids.

 First A Caution

Much of the enthusiasm for supplements resides in the sports, athletics and body building community. And while the benefits of  BCAA supplements are all well documented – the key is they are supplements.

Supplement - Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole.

Some folk lose sight of this fact – that supplements are additional and not the whole thing. No supplement will compensate for a poor or inadequate diet or unhealthy lifestyle.

So before rushing off to the local health food store (where you can spend untold dollars) make sure that your daily diet is healthy and appropriate.

Supplements should not replace good, nutritional eating. They should ‘supplement’ it. Have a ‘considered purpose’ when when you think about using a dietary supplement.

BCAA Benefits – Are They Really That Good?

If we had to make one general statement about these supplements then it would have to be – Yes, when used correctly, they are good.

Early investigations found that using a BCAA supplement on injured and sick rats helped preserve muscle mass. This work was followed up with work on bed ridden cancer patients who had an increase muscle without any physical activity. This impressed those who became aware of the results and the knowledge quickly spread to the sports science world.

Burn Fat Not Muscle

Leucine was the major contributor to this  result from which it can be concluded that leucine supports the growth of protein in muscle and increases the loss of fat. The fat loss happens because the body preferentially burns fat for fuel rather than muscle.

Because leucine encourages the fat burn rate for energy the body becomes more lean – which is good. With less being taken from your muscles it means it takes longer to become tired or fatigued.

This is particularly good news for men many of whom often carry visceral fat or belly fat around the midriff. One of the benefits that comes with the higher leucine content in the  4:1:1 ratio  found in Biotrust’s BCAA Matrix is that it better targets belly fat.

Greater Strength and Endurance

While more related to those who are into training and sport there are other BCAA benefits not yet mentioned.

For those exercising strongly BCAA’s can help reduce those sore muscles if they are taken at regular intervals through the day. As well as that they add to the gains in strength achieved because training can be more intense  and there is an increase in protein conversion or synthesis.

Anyone involved in strength or endurance sports will find that using a BCCA supplement will enable them to last longer with more strength.

Smarter, Faster, Better and Live Longer Too

Then there is the brain and plain just feeling better.

It has been shown that one of the several other  BCAA benefits is that they help keep your brain function at a higher peak when tired. This is important for quick reaction times and has advantages for some sports too.

There there is an improved sense of wellness which may be experienced that can act as a counter to depression.

Insulin sensitivity is also improved with BCAA’s and that may reduce the risk of diabetes.

So a BCAA supplement can aid in maintaining your health as well as perhaps slowing the aging process – younger and healthier perhaps.

The Best Supplement There Is?

Much has been researched and written in the last 40 years about the benefits and advantages of using a BCAA supplement containing the three key ingredients Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.

All of which points to a supplement that has an impeccable reputation but which has changed little in this time.

While there are some moves afoot to look at it from a new perspective the majority of products on the market today still have a 2:1:1 ratio for Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. However recent research has shown that a 4:1:1 ratio is much more beneficial but few products in the market have this ratio.

BCAAMatrix Ingredients

BCAAMatrix Ingredients

Another factor is the transport mechanism – the means by which each of the amino acids in a supplement are absorbed within the gut. Three transport mechanisms available  but in their raw state the three amino acids in your supplement all use the same one – the “neutral” one.

An intake of a regular BCAA supplement can overload the transport system with less of the product being absorbed.

It may also have unpleasant side effects such as gas and bloating in the colon.

BioTrust has recognized this as an issue in developing their BioMatrix supplement. Not only does it use the more effective 4:1:1 ratios it also presents each of the BCAA’s in the product in in three different forms – free form, as a “peptide” and as an “ethyl ester.”

The result – a markedly improved product which does not overload the transport mechanism and has no adverse side effects. Benefits that are worthy of a closer look.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorie April 20, 2013 at 1:58 am

Spot on with this write-up, I honestly believe that
this website needs much more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the advice!

Reply

Peter Simmons July 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I started taking Modern BCAA for energy. I feel much better and have clearer energy when I take about 3/4 of one scoop several times a day.
I liked reading this article about the benefits.
Peter

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