Branch Chain Amino Acids Basics

What are Branch Chain Amino Acids?

Branch Chain Amino Acids, also commonly referred to as BCAAs, are amino acids which are considered to be essential to the human body. Their primary differentiating characteristic is that they have side-chains with a branch, hence their name “Branch Chain Amino Acids“.  Three of these which are proteinogenic amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.  When an amino acid is proteinogenic this means that it is a precursor to protein, or in other words they are parts that make up protein, and therefore aid in the construction of muscles.


Leucine is one of the three branch chain amino acids.  It is known for its ability to stimulate the synthesis of protein and muscle building.  An interesting graph shown on reveals that only a 2.5g dose of leucine will almost double the levels of plasma leucine in the body.  According to this study leucine significantly increased mTOR phosphorylation.  mTOR stands for mammalian target of rapamycin, and it helps regulate the growth of cells in our body as well as protein synthesis and cell survival.  That being said, leucine is vital when it comes to the body’s ability to increase muscle mass and muscle quality.


Isoleucine is primarily known for increasing endurance and also repairing muscle tissue.  Isoleucine is one of the amino acids, along with the amino acid valine, which can be used as an energy source when consumed due to being glucogenic amino acids.  This means they can be converted into glucose during exercise to fulfill needed energy requirements.  This is especially vital when you are consuming less calories than you are burning, also known as a calorie deficit, because your body will normally tend to break down muscle in order to have the fuel required to perform exercise.  When isoluecine or valine are introduced the extent to which muscles are decomposed is reduced.


One of the interesting things about valine is its ability to help regulate blood sugar levels and aid in stimulating the CNS (central nervous system).  Valine also increases nitrogen availability to cells in the body while simultaneously reducing excess nitrogen in the liver.  Along with the other two previously mentioned branch chain amino acids, valine cannot be made by the human body.  They must be introduced to the body by food and other supplementation.  There are many sources of supplementation on the market as well as natural food sources.

Benefits of Branch Chain Amino Acids

Over all there are many benefits to introducing additional branch chain amino acids to the body.  You can expect to see an increase in muscle gain, maintain muscle mass during a calorie deficit, and an increase in energy.  Branch chain amino acids also increase a cell’s capacity to synthesize protein.  In this study we see that “long-term dietary supplementaion with a specific BCAA-enriched amino acid mixture … increased average lifespan of male mice”.  The article goes on to say how an increased mitochondrial biogenesis, in other words more mitochondria, which are vital in the process of protein synthesis.

Another added bonus to supplementing with branch chain amino acids is an increased endurance during exercise.  Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted into serotonin which triggers the central nervous system to report to the brain that fatigue is being experienced by the body.  BCAAs compete with the amino acid tryptophan which aids in reducing fatigue experienced during exercise.  I’ve tried several different BCAA supplement products, but one of my favorite by far is the BCAA by Cellucor (watermelon flavor).  Other ones worth mentioning are by Adaptogen and also by Optimum Nutrition.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Branch Chain Amino Acids can be implemented into your health and fitness regime or for help reaching your goals, get your free fitness consultation below.


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