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What Are The Branched Chain Amino Acids?

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) consist of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. They are essential amino acids as humans cannot survive unless these amino acids form part of their diet.

Role of BCAAs

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Protein foods get digested and broken down in the stomach and intestine into individual amino acids and short chains of amino acids, small enough for their absorption into the bloodstream for transportation around the body. These amino acids are responsible for a variety of functions, from building tissues, to chemical production enabling our brains to function.

Importance of Branch Chain Amino Acids

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) collectively comprise 30% of the total muscle protein pool. They are very important, not only because they cannot be made by the body, but because they act as the primary nitrogen source for glutamine and alanine synthesis in muscle. As a result, BCAAs are amongst the most beneficial of supplements in any sports nutrition program.

Difference Between Essential And Non-Essential Amino Acids

  • Essential Amino Acids cannot be made by the body. They must be ingested  from complete protein foods, or combinations of incomplete vegetable foods in the case of vegetarians. The essential acids are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. 1
  • Non-Essential Amino Acids by comparison can be made by your body from vitamins and other amino acids. It is important to note that all amino acids are essential for the metabolism of nutrients. Some non-essential amino acids, such as glutamine, are still very important. The non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, cystine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, hydroxyproline, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

Importance of BCAAs

The Branched Chain Amino Acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are important for bodybuilders as they form the building blocks of protein and make up a third of muscle protein. They cannot be made by the body, hence must be ingested as part of the diet. BCAAs are metabolised in the muscle, rather than in the liver, where they are broken down into individual amino acids, and are either used to build new proteins, or to be burnt and used as fuel for energy production. Without adequate amounts of BCAAs, muscle cells won’t recover or grow. As a result, BCAAs would be considered one of the most effective sports supplements available to bodybuilders. Users of BCAAs can expect faster muscle growth when combined with intense training, and less muscle loss during weight loss.

1 Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements, p. 486

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