Amino Acids are building blocks of protein. They are crucial for the structure, functions, and strength of our bodies. BCAAs stands for Branch Chain Amino Acids that are a group of essential amino acids comprising valine, leucine, and isoleucine. They derive their name from their branched molecular structure. It prevents the breakdown of muscle tissues, enhances stamina during work out, and supports protein synthesis in muscles.
Let us look at the uses and side effects of BCAAs:
- Instant energy: Typically, amino acids are digested in the liver with help from enzymes and bile. However, the muscles absorb BCAAs directly and metabolize the nutrients in them, bypassing the liver. This direct connection between the BCAAs and muscles means that the body gets instant energy.
- Prevents fatigue: As they consistently provide energy to the muscles, there is resistance to muscle fatigue after a strenuous workout session.
- Muscle soreness: The enzymes, creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase accelerate the process of muscle damage. BCAA decreases the level of secretion of these enzymes. So, if you take a BCAA supplement before and after a workout, it prevents muscle damage which is a significant cause for muscle soreness.
- Burns fat: During exercise, the body breaks down proteins and fats to provide energy for physical activity. BCCA preserves the proteins and accelerates the process of burning fat, resulting in a lean, sculpted body.
- Improved performance: Extended exercises accelerate the process by which tryptophan crosses the blood-brain barrier resulting in serotonin production leading to fatigue. Studies show that BCCAs may help mental focus by blocking tryptophan from crossing the blood-brain barrier, thereby increasing mental alertness. This delayed fatigue and alert mind help athletes train harder and longer and perform better.
- Accelerates protein synthesis: BCCA helps protein synthesis, facilitating muscle growth and repair.
- Other uses: Reports show that BCCAs can boost the immune system and improve gut health which is beneficial for athletes and non-athletes. It is used to treat various diseases like reduced brain function due to liver disease, a movement disorder often caused by anti-psychotic drugs (tardive dyskinesia), helps slow muscle wasting in ned-ridden individuals, and treats poor appetite in patients with kidney failure and cancer.
BCAAs supplements are generally harmless, and most experts recommend daily supplementation to increase effectiveness. However, stick to the recommended dosage as per age, weight, gender, and medical conditions. Large doses can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, loss of coordination, and increased insulin resistance, resulting in type 2 diabetes. BCAAs can affect blood sugar. Anyone with a surgery scheduled should avoid taking it before, during, and for some time after surgery. Individuals with a condition called branched-chain-keto-aciduria (or Maple Syrup urine disease), those suffering from kidney disease, heart ailments, liver disease, and alcoholics should avoid BCAAs. Pregnant and lactating women shouldn’t take bcaa supplements as there is insufficient research to validate their safety. Anyone suffering from any ailment, major or minor, or taking prescription medicines should consult a doctor before taking these supplements.