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What are BCAA’s and why are they useful

by Freya 4 minutes read

Last updated: 04 Jul, 2022

Also known as Branched-Chain Amino Acids, BCAA’s are essential nutrients.

There are 20 amino acids that make up thousands of proteins in our bodies, 9 of which cannot be made by your body and are made through your diet but are essential. 3 of the 9 are BCAA’s, leucine, isoleucine and valine.

There are several benefits of taking BCAA’s, including:

Muscle growth

Lots of gym goers will take BCAA’s to help build their muscles, leucine activates a pathway in our body that will stimulate muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth).

One study showed that those who consumed 5.6 grams of BCAA’s after strength training had a 22% greater increase in muscle growth compared to those that didn't.

However, it will be more efficient if you take other supplements such as whey protein, as this contains all the other amino acids you need for muscle protein synthesis than just BCAA’s on their own.

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Decrease in muscle soreness

According to some small studies, BCAA’s can be helpful with reducing muscle soreness after exercise.

Muscle soreness after a workout is also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), an exact cause of this occurrence is yet to be explained but research suggests it is a result of tiny tears in the muscles.

BCAA’s are likely to decrease protein breakdown and decrease creatine kinase, which is a cause of muscle damage, thus BCAA’s are helpful with reducing the intensity of DOMS.

Another study suggested that taking BCAA supplements can be effective at speeding up your recovery time, especially if you take them before a workout.

Reduced fatigued after exercise

BCAA’s can be helpful at reducing your tiredness after a workout. Exercise fatigue is common but will vary depending on personal conditions. If you suffer from feeling fatigued after a workout, BCAA’s could be helpful.

During a workout, your muscles use BCAA’s and so your blood levels will decrease and levels of the amino acid tryptophan in your brain increase, resulting in fatigueness. This is due to tryptophan converting to serotonin which has links to the development of fatigue during a workout.

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Can benefit those with liver disease

It has been shown that BCAA’s can be effective for those with cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease, where your liver is unable to function properly. There is a 50% chance that those with the disease will develop hepatic encephalopathy, which is the loss of brain function as a result of the liver not being able to remove toxins for the blood.

A review of 16 studies showed that 827 people with hepatic encephalopathy found that taking BCAA’s reduced the signs and symptoms of the disease but unfortunately, it did not have any effect on mortality.

Another study from 2017, showed that BCAA supplements can improve low muscle strength with the disease.

Where can you find BCAA’s?

Of course, you can take BCAA supplements, but they can also be found in foods. These foods include:

  • Chicken breast

  • Protein powders

  • Tuna

  • Salmon

  • Turkey breast

  • Eggs

  • Greek Yoghurt

  • Ground Beef

Disclaimer: We provide this information for educational purposes only. No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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