If you are active at the gym, you like working out, fitness and everything, then you probably know that the most important thing when it comes to growing or toning your muscles are proteins.
Without a doubt, proteins (actually, amino acids which proteins consist of) are essential for muscle mass.
But, one group of amino acids is incredibly important.
That’s the BCAAs.
So, today I will talk about this very important amino acid group.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs or Branched-chain amino acids are one-third of the essential amino acids which are necessary for building muscles.
BCAAs include 3 amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.
They are all essential amino acids, which means your body can’t produce them on its own.
You have to intake them through food or supplements.
What is the most important role of the BCAAs?
When you intake proteins and amino acids, they first come to your liver where they are broken down and used as fuel if there isn’t another source of energy available at the time.
If there isn’t another source of energy available, amino acids can’t be used for building muscles since they are used for producing energy.
However, it’s different when it comes to BCAAs.
Your liver separates the branched-chain amino acid and it sends it directly to your muscles where it can be used for building or regenerating muscles later. (1)
So, your muscles can use the BCAA amino acids for growth right away.
That’s why these amino acids are very popular among athletes.
In addition, you need to intake these essential amino acids through food because they have an important role in building muscle tissue and they represent one-third of your muscle tissue.
At the same time, they preserve your glycogen reserves during physical strain.
Thanks to that, when you work out, BCAAs provide energy to your muscles, and after your work out when you rest they build muscle cells.
So, BCAAs are 3 amino acids:
In fact, leucine is the most important of the three and that’s why supplements contain the biggest amounts of this amino acid.
And that’s why I will focus more on leucine.
But first things first.
What food is high in BCAAs?
Milk, dairy products, soy, and red meat are highest in BCAAs.
Here is the list of the best foods high in BCAAs:
- Low-fat beef
And what is Leucine?
Leucine is one of the branched-chain amino acids.
In supplements, leucine is the main part of the amino acid.
L-leucine helps you save your muscle tissue by balancing nitrogen, giving energy to your body when it’s stressed (during working out, too) and storing glycogen (carbs reserves in your muscles) which is used for muscle contraction.
It is a very important amino acid when it comes to creating ‘zones’ for building muscles and it even helps you stay focused when your training becomes more intensive and demanding.
L-leucine is the strongest amino acid of all three and if you don’t intake enough of this amino acid your body might not use completely what you intake.
A lack of L-leucine means you won’t be able to use the protein you intake.
And without proteins, you can’t build muscles.
The benefits of Leucine:
- You can build and retain muscles when you want to lose weight.
- Leucine helps to increase somatropin, a hormone which regenerates joints, slows down the aging process, helps decrease fats, and it enhances the strength and mass of your muscles.
- Leucine is the main component of hemoglobin, it helps regulate blood sugar levels, the production of the growth hormone, and healing wounds.
Best foods high in Leucine
Leucine is found in meat, dairy, and mostly in whey protein.
It is also found in soy, brown rice, almonds, wheat, peas, cashews, lentils, and corn.
So, the best foods high in leucine are:
Should you use supplements?
How to get enough Leucine?
Well, eating the above-mentioned food will definitely help you get enough leucine.
Also, supplements are one of the ways to provide enough leucine for your body.
When it comes to building and retaining muscle mass, BCAAs are the most important amino acids.
BCAAs have been used as supplements for years and the biggest consumers are bodybuilders.
BCAAs have an important role right after your training because they stimulate the work of the hypophysis, stimulating the excretion of the growth hormone which helps build muscles without fat.
The optimal ratio of the branched-amino acids in supplements based on BCAAs is 4:1:1 – leucine: isoleucine: valine.
So, if you are an athlete or you are frequently going to the gym the answer is yes.
When should you use supplements?
The best period to use BCAAs is before and after training.
BCAAs are an excellent source of energy during your training.
After many long, tiring workouts the reserves of BCAAs get smaller.
That’s why you need to take BCAAs before training, to allow your muscles to produce energy.
BCAAs affect the building process, they stimulate protein synthesis, and the most effective amino acid is leucine.
It has a key role in developing muscle cells, and it can increase the level of insulin which stimulates the protein synthesis.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Taking BCAAs before, during, and after training supports the muscle synthesis and reduces the breaking down of proteins (catabolism).
Also, BCAAs are very important when it comes to producing energy vital for vigorous exercise.
And leucine as one of the most important amino acids is necessary to build and retain lean muscles while losing fat.