Tuesday, 25 October 2011


BCAA - We’ve all read this acronym somewhere. Yes, that little box behind the big whey box you always pick up. Did you ever wonder what it stands for, and how it worked for you? If you have, we’re to give a brief overview.
BCAAs stand for Branched Chain Amino Acids. Now, there are 9 essential amino acids in a complete proteinsource. These cannot be produced by the body, and need to consumed by the individual through food.Three of them – namely Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine – are especially important for protein synthesis and constitute the bulk of a BCAA product. These can be put to great use by the body if they are taken correctly.
Now, as a responsible reader, you may have wondered why you need BCAAs when you have quality proteinsources in your diet, such as whey, eggs, chicken et al. Those contain all the aminos we need, right? Yes, they do. But all of them, even whey, need to be digested by the body first. BCAAs skip the entire digestion process and are transferred straight to your musculature. It is the equivalent of a direct injection to the bloodstream.
But do you really need them? Let us consider a common scenario. During and right after workouts, the body quickly runs out of its primary source of fuel – glucose and other carbohydrate derivatives – and reaches into your muscle, breaks it down into amino acids in the bloodstream, and uses them instead. This is also common during fasting or during a crash diet. At this point, the body is literally burning through skeletal muscle for menial work - and of course, we don’t want that.
At such stages of glycolytic depletion, if the body already has some amino acids in its bloodstream, it will use these acids instead, and spare the muscle we have built up with so much difficulty. These muscle-saving acids will come from dietary BCAAs.
The reason why the usual protein supplements won’t help here is because they take time to digest, during which skeletal muscle will be lost. BCAAs also push the body into a muscle-building state due to the ready presence of leucine, the most important amino acid in its entire family for muscle synthesis.
In a study conducted by two doctors for J Sports Med Fitness in 2000, it was observed that BCAA supplementation played a significant role in reducing levels of plasma markers associated with muscle tissue damage after intense resistance exercise.
These are especially useful while trying to lose fat mass, as during such a period, it’s rather easy to slip into a catabolic state and begin to lose muscle as well. A single dose of BCAAs will halt this loss. Most professionals use them in the off season. Apart from that, before and after your workout, and in the morning when you first wake up is a good time to consume them as well.
BCAAs come in pill and powder form. The MIH store stocks on several such formulations here:
A common dosage scheme goes something like 5-10g in the morning and the same amount before and after your workout. This can be tweaked up or down according to your body weight and strength.
Hence, Branched Chain Amino Acids are a great tool in helping you preserve and build muscle. They are a great addition to anyone’s diet.
Train hard, eat right, and stay strong!