What are BCAAs?

Branched chain amino acids are truly an emblematic dietary supplement, which generations of sports practitioners have grown with. We can consider BCAA to be a golden type of supplement, because there have been many researches connected to it, plus a lot of personal experience to show its uses and effects.

If you’re not familiar, and you want to know everything about BCAAs, stay with us.

What are BCAAs?

Their scientific names are: L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine. Along with 6 other amino acids, they’re part of the so called essential amino acids. They’re called like that because they’re not produced by our body, meaning we must obtain them via food. If we don’t manage to supply ourselves with enough from the essential amino acids, we might very much start experiencing numerous health problems. Here’s an interesting fact: nearly 35% of the essential amino acids in the composition of human muscle proteins are namely the branched chain ones.

Combining the branched chain amino acids

Each one of the aminos has its own common and unique functions, but when taken combined, they have a different, and more complex influence. It is thought that taking BCAA in concrete proportions, modifies their impact, tipping it to one or another function.

The ratio: leucine : isoleucine : valine, usually varies in different formulas. Most famous combinations are:

2 : 1 : 1

This is the oldest, the most studied, and you can say the most affirmative combo. The researches regarding this proportion are related mostly to being a muscle protector.

4 : 1 : 1

This is the second most popular formula. The increased leucine dosage is for the stimulation of mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), which is a special protein-enzyme with a key role in coding the muscle rejuvenation and growth, for appetite regulation, and for boosting the insulinogenic action.

8 : 1 : 1

A relatively new combination, focused mainly on the stimulation of mTOR. The concept here is that by stimulating mTOR, we also trigger a group of anabolic and anti-catabolic hormones.

Combinations with non-whole numbers. This scheme often copies the amino acids ratio in the muscle tissue, in specific proteins, or the concentration of the amino acids in the plasma cell during repose.

There is no solid data to confirm whether a certain BCAA proportion is better than the others.

What do you need to know about branched chain amino acids?

Supplementing with BCAA is thought to be an interesting nutrition strategy that has the purpose of improving the protein balance in the skeletal muscles by a number of conditions. The most fundamental are:

A muscle protecting role – in cases of hard, continuous training sessions, or absence of glycogen (because of workouts or diets).

They stimulate the muscle development – in cases of diets with calorie excess thanks to mTOR, regardless of the insulin levels (low carb diets).

They improve the muscles working capacity, and lower the tiredness (both nerve and muscle). To boot, this lean weight gain supplement improves the work of the: creatine kinase, myoglobin, and the aldolase. Furthermore, BCAAs amend the concentration and the functional strength.

Please, take under consideration that there aren’t circumstantial and well-controlled studies about every single one of these branched chain amino acids effects. Further you’ll find proof for these every one of the statements.

The stimulation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscles, caused by consumption of certain foods (albumens, carbohydrates, fats) is owed mainly to the presence of BCAAs in foods’ composition.

One of the three amino acids – leucine, is a leading factor for the stimulation of protein build up under these circumstances, thanks to the favorable effect over the transportation of ribosomal RNA in the ribosomes of muscle cells. Those are nets of cells producing protein by attaching themselves to iRNA (informational RNA). A large number of mechanisms are a type of synthesis, including the phosphorylases of the ribosomal s6 kinase protein, as well as the binding proteins eiF4E and eIF4G. These mechanisms contribute to the leucine’s effect on the start of the informational RNA’s decoding. They not only promote global protein build up (in the entire body), but they also contribute to making a decision which protein should be synthesized between different informational RNA.

Again, we’ll have to refer to the protein kinase – mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), because it’s a key component in the signal regulation. Owing to leucine, it promotes synthesis of muscle proteins in comparison with synthesis of other albumen in the common centers for synthesis.

All of this means that depending on the consumption method, branched chain amino acids benefit the muscle growth and recovery, plus they also have an anabolic character when taken on a high-calorie diet.

By taking BCAAs orally, they reach the muscles and organs through blood and lymph, suppress the proteolysis (breakdown of albumen), and they have muscle-protecting functions regardless of the insulin. That means branched-chain amino acids can preserve your brawn even in cases of low-carb diets of low blood sugar.

There are also couple of more effects related to BCAA consumption. It seems that their metabolism as cell fuel, by oxidation in the cells during training sessions, is connected and associated with the one of fatty acids. The presence of BCAA increases fat burn in these circumstances (depleted glycogen).

BCAAs Metabolism1

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Uses and health benefits of BCAAs

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Despite being used in the sports nutrition sphere, branched chain amino acids still need to be further examined, in order for their properties to be fully backed, just like vitamins. Below you’ll read a pretty detailed resume of the most important information collected from more than thirty researches conducted in the last years.

BCAAs’ proven and potential benefits

They improve the increase of muscle growth and fat loss (the effect is even better when whey protein is taken in the course of time too).

Researchers have found that BCAAs prevent muscle damage and boost muscle rejuvenation by people training with resistance. The results are achieved via BCAA consumption before and after exhaustion. It’s believed that a BCAA supplement serves for protein formation, and reduces the secondary damage resulting from a hard workout. Similar results are shown after earlier studies. The final deduction points that the 3 amino acids protect muscle proteins from the catabolic processes during, and upon workout.

BCAAs improve mind concentration averagely by 20% during aerobic exercises.

The amino acids reduce the total exhaustion during long aerobic workouts. This effect comes from the ability of BCAAs to boost the tryptophan flow to the 5-HT brain receptor. The results are obtained after a 30 minute cycling simulation, which normally leads to dropping glycogen levels, as well as serious tiredness. However, it appears that the exhaustion-suppressing effect could be oppressed too, if the training person takes glucose during/after workouts. Until this moment, there is no information concerning what leads to suppressing the effects of BCAA like that.

BCAAs serve as muscle fuel in cases of prolonged training sessions which deplete the glycogen.

They increase the stamina and fat burn.

Branched chain amino acids support liver health. That’s why they’re a great supplement for people suffering from cirrhosis and hepatitis C. There are researches that show the use of a BCAA supplement for the diseased. In this relation, BCAAs lower the risk for liver cancer.

The dietary supplement increases the appetite in cancer-suffering individuals (increases appetite by 55%, while a placebo’s efficiency is only 16%).

BCAAs protect from loss of muscle mass and power in people sick from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There’s also some data that they slow the negative effect on the locomotor system in cases of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

By regular consumption before and after workout, BCAA lower the creatinine synthesis. It’s assumed that’s connected to their participation in the cell metabolism as energy or albumen build up.

Now when you know what BCAAs are, and what their uses are, maybe it’s time to move on with another important question:

How much BCAAs should I take?

How Much BCAA Should I Take1
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BCAA dosing is a very floating process. Amino acids usually have a high use limit, and until recently contingent risks weren’t part of the whole picture that much. There are experiments done with amounts varying from 2 to 40g a day. For athletes with weight 75-95kg that is from 40mg to 2g BCAAs for per kilo of personal weight. The testing periods continue from 30 days to 1 year.

The most commonly recommended amounts for sport-active people vary between 3g and 10g in two dosages (around 30 minutes) before and immediately after workout. Note that when you want a muscle-protective effect, you should comply with the weight of the muscularity you’re working on a specific day.

Let’s say that 10g per dosage or 20g daily is suppose to work efficiently (although there are no studies to fully prove that). Conform it proportionally to how much vim you put into your trainings (total weight lifting/muscle group you’re working on), and try to assess whether or not you reach a glycogen exhaustion or not.

If you’re planning on training on 5×5 schemes, or having more circular workouts, branched-chain amino acids aren’t needed in very high dosage, except when you’re in a precompetitive cross fit period. On the other hand, if you’re going to train in a bodybuilder regime doing intense exhausting series for more than an hour, or you’re opting for rowing or any other energy depleting sport, you should take the maximum allowed dosage.

The optimal amounts for non-professional athletes and sport-practicing fans is somewhere 5-10g, taking under consideration what and how heavily you’ve been training. Some people work more precisely by taking 10g in 2 dosages a day when they train for hand muscles, 12g when they train for chest and shoulders, 16g for back muscles, 20g for legs and butt. This plan is just an example for the upper explanations.

The harder you train, the lower the carbohydrates in your food, the bigger the synthesis of lactic acid. The lower the calorie consumption is, the larger the need for BCAAs.

The stimulation of mTOR is another case in which the dosages should be equal, but the using should be systematic and prolonged in order to see some effect. The effect on its own is not proportional to the dosage. One concentration and often stimulation is enough.

What if we take too much BCAAs?

The liver will oxidize them, just like it does with every other amino acid. You will not accomplish a better result, but if you take too much of the supplement for a longer period of time, that may pose a risk, as we discussed above.

We just can’t skip the next topic, as it’s very key too.

Are there any side effects of BCAAs?

Potential toxicity for the central nervous system (when overdosing). Don’t increase the recommended dosage by couple of times. Don’t combine with neurotoxins like glutamate, aspartate, aspartame, D-aspartic acid, monosodium glutamate. The neurotoxicity discussion has begun recently, after tests on Italian footballers, some of who tended to experience problems, connected to the central nerve system. The trials are still made with mice and are on initial stages, so nothing’s clear at 100%. For now, allegedly, the overdosing and the susceptibility to such health conditions lead to a higher risk.

There is also an indirect link to brain hyperammonemia. This is a condition that is a result from a problem connected to bad amino acids absorption by the liver, or too hard workouts on a regular basis. This is in compliance with the new theory of “ammonia exhaustion”. Basically, it’s about the amounts of ammoniac products, produced by the deamination of the adenosine monophosphate, and by oxidation of BCAAs. Inordinate amounts can’t be detoxified by the liver at 100%. They saturate the blood, and worsen the brain functions. Note, that this has nothing to do with taking BCAAs, it happens without them. The thing is, amino acids increase the endurance, hence individuals tend to train even harder. The risky approach to workouts is the reason for this potential threat.

Branched chain amino acids shouldn’t be taken by pregnant or nursing women, and babies, as there isn’t enough data to guarantee full safety. Furthermore, BCAAs shouldn’t be taken by people with Parkinson’s who are on special medicines, and people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. Also, don’t consume aminos with other products that have neurotoxic effects.

What are BCAAs? Well, now you can freely say that you’re acquainted with the branched chain amino acids in detail, and you wouldn’t have any difficulties answering that question to someone. If you’re willing to include this important food supplement to your eating and training regime, don’t hesitate to try these organic branched chain amino acids capsules. If you’re an active type of individual who’s on an organic diet, or simply want to make sure what you consume is particularly free of any harmful agents or constituents, organic BCAAs are perfectly suitable for your goals. Unlike many fitness supplements out there, organic means no artificial colorings, flavorings, wheat, soy, and preservatives. To boot, this premium recovery supplement is egg, milk and GMO-free. These capsules will provide you with the purest form of the particular aminos.

Make yourself a nutritionally-balanced healthy diet, supplement and train smart, and results will come!

Certified SportsNutritionist and Health Enthusiast

I’m Nick – a nutrition enthusiast who takes his healthy lifestyle at heart, and an avid Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete. Being the main author and founder of, I’m constantly looking to expand my experience and knowledge of food, health, sport, and organic living, so I can become the best version of myself, and help others achieve the same.

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