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Understanding Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)

Author: FITivate | Published date: April 14, 2024 | Category: Nutrition
BCAA benefits

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What are BCAAs?

BCAAs or Branched Chain Amino Acids are made up of 3 essential amino acids, namely, leucine, isoleucine and valine. In the amino acid profile, BCAAs (essential amino acids) are amongst ones that the body cannot produce on its own.

BCAA supplementation is tied closely with body building, its far reaching benefits in muscle recovery and energy supplementation have also made it staples for endurance athletes.

Benefits of BCAAs in Exercise 

Fuel for your Runs

During aerobic exercises such as running, as carbohydrate stores (glycogen) becomes depleted, the body will turn to protein, BCAAs in particular, gets utilized more. Having a good level of BCCAs will ensure greater consistency in energy supplementation during extended exercises, and prevents the body from catabolizing lean muscle mass. 

BCAAs are also said to help cells more efficiently absorb and utilize glycogen. This is especially important for runners, as glycogen is the primary source of energy supply.

The Fatigue Buster 

Central fatigue is a syndrome where the brain gets tired due to imbalances from the levels of amino acids in the body. During endurance training, BCAAs are actively depleted for energy and will cause a skew in its level as compared to another amino acid known as Tryptophan. Tryptophan are precursors to serotonin, where an increase in serotonin levels is known to cause lethargy and sleepiness. 

As such, an elevated level of BCAAs in the body will help to reduce serotonin production, and this helps to alleviate fatigue, making endurance athletes stay focused for an extended period of time.

Immune System Fortification

Intense training (typically more than 90 minutes) is said to compromise the immunity system and make individuals susceptible to sickness many hours after the activity. BCAAs play a crucial role in bolstering the immune system, where researchers have found that immune cells use BCAAs as a fuel source within the gut. This process enables the immune system to recuperate more efficiently, thereby shielding the body from harmful bacteria and viruses.

Infuse positivity in your surroundings 

Our physical environment can have an enormous impact on our mindset and sense of well-being. We can make specific efforts to infuse them with positivity.

Is your work desk plain, empty and void of colors? Placing pictures of your loved ones can constantly remind you of happy thoughts while you are slogging the day away.

Fight Muscle Soreness

Experiencing muscle soreness after exercise is not uncommon and this sort of discomfort, also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), usually occur a couple of hours post workout. BCAAs have the ability to reduce exercise induced muscle damage. Having a good level of BCAAs in the system will ensure a faster recovery process, ensuring individuals to bounce right in to their next workout with minimal level of muscle soreness.     

Encourage Lean Muscle Development

BCAAs, together with the entire profile of amino acids, facilitates muscle protein synthesis (MPS) which is the process where working muscles are continually repaired and built. For those who are seeking to build lean muscles, BCAA supplementation may help.

When to consume BCAAs? 

Although BCAAs are already abundant in what we put on our plate, such as, eggs, fish, chicken and nuts, consuming direct, free-form BCAA supplementation pre, during and post exercise can further help to maximize its benefits.  There is no hard rule as to how much BCAAs to consume a day, but typically for an active individual, the suggested dosage should be between 15 to 20 grams, split into 2 to 3 dosages.


By : Alvin Ho

B (Eng), MBA, Certified Allied Healthcare/Fitness Professional (EIMS), Master Fitness Trainer / Fitness Nutrition, Resistance & Endurance Training Specialist (NFPT)

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