By Robert A. Schinetsky
If you’ve ever spent any time in a gym, you’ve no doubt seen people of all kinds from bodybuilders to soccer moms sipping on all kinds of neon blue, dark red, or electric yellow drinks. You’ve probably wondered what’s in those drinks and are those drinks actually doing anything or are they merely flavored water?
Those drinks are more than likely full of branched-chain amino acids -- BCAAs.
We’ve got all the information ahead on what BCAAs are and why they should be included in your workout drink.
What are BCAAs?
To understand what BCAAs are, you first need to understand how muscles are made. Muscles are composed of protein, and protein are composed of amino acids held together together by peptide bonds.
In total, there are 20 different amino acids classified as either essential, conditionally essential,
Essential amino acids (EAAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through the diet. Conditionally essential amino acids are those which are normally in ample supply in the body, but during times of illness, injury, or stress (i.e. exercise), the body’s production cannot meet up with demand. In these times, conditionally essential amino acids must be supplemented or obtained from food. Finally, there are non-essential amino acids (NEAAs) which are the amino acids that the body can produce from other amino acids
So, where do BCAAs fit into this grouping of amino acids?
BCAAs are a specialized “subclass” of the essential amino acid category. They’re given then name branched-chain due to their unique “branched”-like molecular structure. The three BCAAs are:
Together the BCAAs account for roughly 35% of muscle mass
-- now you can see why they’re so important!
BCAAs can be found in large amounts in animal protein, particularly whey protein
. They can also be consumed through supplements
, as you’ve witnessed first hand in the gym.
What do BCAAs do?
The special structure of BCAAs enable them to perform a pretty cool “trick” in the body. As opposed to most other amino acids which must be processed in the liver, the BCAAs are directly transported to your muscles, where they’re oxidized (i.e. broken down) and used as a source of energy for the muscles, helping to enhance performance and prevent catabolism (muscle protein breakdown. There’s a few other big benefits that BCAA can offer, which we’ll get to next!
Benefits of BCAAs
- Stimulates muscle protein synthesis
The biggest benefit (and purpose) to consuming BCAAs comes from their primary action in the body -- to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs, particularly leucine, activate the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway in the body, which regulates several components involved in protein synthesis. Without sufficient BCAA intake you won’t have the stimulus required activate protein synthesis, impairing recovery and growth.
- Prevents catabolism
BCAAs also help to prevent muscle breakdown in the body by reducing the activity of the protein breakdown pathway. They also decrease the expression of several other complexes involved in catabolism. Reducing muscle breakdown is key to decreasing soreness and enhancing muscle growth, leading to more frequent training bouts for better results long term.
- Boosts endurance
We touched on this up top, but BCAAs can be oxidized (“burned”) for energy in the muscle to support ATP production, the cellular “currency” for energy production. Supplementing with BCAAs can prolong endurance, by enhancing energy production and increasing your lactate threshold. This is one of the key reasons we’ve included 5g of research-backed 2:1:1 BCAAs in every serving of Apollon Nutrition Chainsaw. Athletes need to be able to last longer than the competition, and consuming BCAAs (like those in Chainsaw) can help prolong endurance and increase stamina.
- Improves mental performance
During exercise, serotonin levels rise in the body, which increases feelings of fatigue, causing you to end your set early. BCAA supplementation reduces the amount of serotonin produced since they compete for uptake in the brain with tryptophan, the amino acid that fuels serotonin production. Less fatigue allows you to push harder for longer in your workouts, making bigger and better gains.
- Reduces soreness
Several studies have shown that BCAA supplementation during and after training helps to reduce soreness in the days following an intense workout, which may be partly explained by their ability to reduce muscle damage induced by vigorous exercise. This also helps to promote faster recovery too!
- Regulates blood sugar levels
BCAAs are released from the liver and other organs to the skeletal muscles, which maintains blood sugar levels. These three amino acids are a major contributor to blood sugar production during exercise, and having sufficient amounts of them in the body helps improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake in skeletal muscle.
- Enhances fat loss
Higher BCAA intake is associated with having less body fat, more lean muscle mass, and better body composition. They enhance fat burning and glucose utilization, both of which contribute to a superior physique.
Who are BCAAs for?
BCAAs are a necessity for everyone, but really benefit those regularly engaged in intense training. The body’s requirement for BCAAs (and protein in general) goes up considerably the more frequently and aggressively you train.
BCAAs can be consumed pre, intra, or post workout, and are an absolute necessity if you’re looking to optimize performance, recovery, and growth. Consuming BCAAs in and around your workout (like the ones you get in each serving of Apollon Nutrition Chainsaw
) will decrease muscle soreness and promote greater endurance and stamina.
Experience the Benefits of BCAA with Chainsaw!
When you’re ready to see what BCAAs can do for your athletic performance and muscle growth, there’s only one choice -- Apollon Nutrition Chainsaw
Chainsaw is the ultimate BCAA recovery drink containing a full 5g of research-backed 2:1:1 BCAA. Each serving of Chainsaw also comes with added electrolytes and glutamine to replenish those crucial nutrients depleted during training. Consuming Chainsaw around your workout and throughout the day helps prevent muscle breakdown, accelerate recovery, and support growth.
With Chainsaw, you’ll experience less fatigue during and after training, and you’ll also have dramatically less soreness, which ensures you can get back in the gym day after day to keep getting bigger, stronger, and faster.
Conquer soreness and crush your workouts with Chainsaw!
- Monirujjaman and Afroza Ferdouse, “Metabolic and Physiological Roles of Branched-Chain Amino Acids,” Advances in Molecular Biology, vol. 2014, Article ID 364976, 6 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/364976
- Blomstrand E, Ek S, Newsholme EA. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on plasma and muscle concentrations of amino acids during prolonged submaximal exercise. Nutrition. 1996;12(7-8):485-490.
- Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9:20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20.
- Blomstrand, P. et.al. “Administration of Branched-Chain Amino Acids During Sustained Exercise – Effects on Performance and On Plasma Concentration of Some Amino Acids.” European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology (1991), 83-88, Accessed November 20, 2014, doi: 10.1007/BF00235174
- Shimomura Y, Inaguma A, Watanabe S, et al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010;20(3):236-244.
- Mero A. Leucine supplementation and intensive training. Sports Med. 1999;27(6):347-358.
- Qin L, Xun P, Bujnowski D, et al. Higher Branched-Chain Amino Acid Intake Is Associated with a Lower Prevalence of Being Overweight or Obese in Middle-Aged East Asian and Western Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 2011;141(2):249-254. doi:10.3945/jn.110.128520.