If you have read any of the muscle magazines or checked out the online bodybuilding sites, than I’m sure you’ve seen Amino Acids advertised somewhere in the form of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), Essential Amino Acids, Non-Essential Amino Acids, etc.
Amino acids are basically the building blocks of proteins. To give you an analogy of how it all works. Let’s picture a cross section of muscle tissue as this very paragraph of text that you are reading right now. Then imagine that each word you are reading resembles the protein of that section of muscle. And each individual letter represents an amino acid.
Just like certain combinations of letters make up words, certain combinations of amino acids make up proteins. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. There are approximately 500 known amino acids. They all play numerous roles in the body, everything from aiding with metabolism to performing critical biological roles as neurotransmitters.
In humans, there are 20 standard amino acids that are used to synthesize proteins. Of the 20 standard amino acids, 9 are called Essential Amino Acids because the human body cannot synthesize them from other compounds at the level needed for growth, so they must be obtained from food.
Failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 9 essential amino acids will result in degradation of the body’s proteins (i.e. breaking down muscle tissue). Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use, that’s why we must eat protein frequently throughout the day in order to provide our body with the amino acids it needs for proper growth and development.
The 20 Standard Amino Acids Are:
Glycine, Alanine, Valine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Proline, Phenylalanine, Tyrosine, Tryptophan, Serine, Threonine, Cysteine, Methionine, Asparagine, Glutamine, Lysine, Arginine, Histidine, Aspartate, and Glutamate.
The 9 Essential Amino Acids Are:
Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Histidine.
The 3 Branched Chain Amino Acids Are:
Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Branched Chain Amino Acids fall into the category of essential amino acids. But unlike most other amino acids, BCAA’s are metabolized within muscle tissue, allowing them to be oxidized and used as energy by muscle cells.
An advanced supplement trick that’s common in bodybuilding circles is to keep a bottle of Branched Chain Amino Acids in your gym bag. And take a serving of BCAA’s right before you start lifting and another serving 1/2 way through your workout.
The benefit to taking pure branched chain amino acids like this is that they are rapidly absorbed and utilized by your working muscles. By consuming BCAA’s when you need them most (i.e. during a hard workout) your body will get the amino acids it needs from the BCAA supplement, rather than catabolizing your lean muscle tissue.
BCAA’s taken during your workouts will also enhance your performance in the gym through their ability to spare glycogen. Glycogen is stored carbohydrates within the muscles and liver. Studies have shown that ingesting BCAA’s during your training like this can spare glycogen levels by 25%. This glycogen sparing effect of BCAA’s will not only allow for longer more intense training sessions, but also allow for faster recovery leading to a better workout the following day.
Advanced Supplement Trick:
To keep your body in an anabolic state during your workouts. Take a serving of Branched Chain Amino Acids right before you start lifting. And then take another serving 1/2 way through your workout. This help prevent your body from breaking down muscle tissue (i.e. anti-catabolic) and help speed up the post workout recovery process.
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Should You Take BCAA’s?
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