Amino acids are the very building blocks of life. You could say that these unassuming little molecules are the very roots from which the tree of life grows – and just as roots supply the nutrients that allow the rest of a plant to grow and thrive, amino acids play a crucial role in providing the energy your body needs through proteins, such as meat and dairy products.
Fitness professionals have long understood the role that certain types of amino acids can play in maximising both muscle growth and performance. Of these, certain types known as ‘branched-chain amino acids’ (or BCAAs) have become increasingly popular as a supplement to reduce muscle breakdown and support repair and function. But what are branched-chain amino acids and what benefits can they provide for health conscious individuals like you?
Firstly, there are three types of BCAAs: Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine. All are referred to as branched-chain amino acids simply due to the shape of their molecular structure. Primarily acting as turbo-chargers for your body’s own methods of protein synthesis, supplements which contain one or more of these BCAAs act to promote muscle growth over time, enabling athletes to increase mass – even whilst they might be actively reducing their calorific intake through dieting at the time.
Secondary benefits reported have also included helping to regulate blood sugar levels and improving blood-sugar metabolism – leading to greater endurance and the ability to train harder for longer.
In addition to their widespread use in the world of sports and fitness amino acids are also credited with helping to manage sleep and mood. With such proven positive benefits, branched-chain amino acids supplements aren’t just for those looking for professional sports performance or a super-ripped six-pack in double quick time – BCAAs are also great if you’re following a strict diet regime or even intermittent fasting. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs in supplement form are not broken down in your liver, instead these mass mounting molecules are absorbed directly by your muscles – delivering a welcome boost of protein building blocks just when you need it!
Depending on your fitness goals, branched-chain amino acid supplements can be taken as part of a pre-workout fuelling session, during exercise to combat fatigue and prolong performance or as part of your post-exercise recovery programme. In any case, BCAA supplements should be at the root of your active lifestyle.