Are you a supplement guru? Do you take your protein shake shaken or stirred? With milk or cold water? Or are you lost when you enter that section of the grocery store meant for the weight lifters and health nuts of the world? I’m here to tell you how BCAAs can help you, whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or both!
There are a lot of supplements out there that may leave you feeling confused and wondering which supplements actually work. In recent years, BCAA supplements have come back into vogue in the bodybuilding and fitness community and with good reason. There’s more research that supports the use of BCAAs than most other supplements on the market. BCAAs are most beneficial to those who are trying to maintain their muscle mass while on a calorie-deficit diet.
Leaning and bulking at the same time?
Dieting is catabolic, which means it can lead to muscle breakdown. The leaner a body gets, the more likely it is to lose muscle mass as the body tries harder and harder to hold onto body fat stores (survival of the fittest). In doing so, the body will turn to muscle to satisfy its energy needs. On the molecular level, muscle loss occurs because the body increases protein breakdown in order to liberate muscle amino acids for fuel. The basic equation for muscle mass is: Muscle mass = rate of protein synthesis – rate of protein breakdown. If you’re dieting, you may be burning the candle at both ends: elevating muscle breakdown and reducing protein synthesis.
Working out compounds the metabolic effects of dieting. The leaner one becomes, the more lethargic one can become. Decreased energy intake and decreased glycogen storage make for some rough training sessions. If you’re too tired or weak to lift as heavy as your body was getting used to, your muscles will adapt. They won’t use as much energy to get the work done. What does this mean? Your body won’t increase lean muscle mass, and your body might use lean muscle for energy because you aren’t using it to lift a heavy load.
BCAAs can help you
It’s well established that branched-chain amino acids stimulate protein synthesis, and might do so to a greater extent than a normal protein on its own. BCAAs also increase synthesis of the cellular machinery responsible for carrying out the process of protein synthesis. Therefore, BCAAs not only increase the rate of protein synthesis, but they also increase the cell’s capacity for protein synthesis! They also work in your favor by reducing the rate of protein breakdown. They do this by decreasing the activity of the components of the protein breakdown pathway, and also by decreasing the expression of several complexes involved in protein breakdown. This leads to muscle gain/maintenance if you refer back to the equation for muscle mass.
But wait, there’s more!
BCAAs have even more positive benefits than reduced breakdown and increased protein synthesis. They might also help improve workout intensity! During workouts, serotonin levels rise and can increase the perception of fatigue. BCAAs reduce the amount of tryptophan that enters the brain, and therefore reduces the amount of serotonin produced. This might allow you to work harder, longer.
Do you use BCAAs? If so, comment with your favorite flavor/brand!
My favorite is the Xtend brand, and the Blue Raspberry is the best!