In recent years, branched-chain amino acid 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.
While BCAA supplementation may be useful for gaining mass, I believe BCAAs are especially helpful for maintaining muscle mass while on a calorie-deficit diet. They’re particularly useful for bodybuilding competitors who take their physiques to the lean extreme.
It’s well established that branched-chain amino acids (particularly leucine) 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. Thus, BCAAs not only increase the rate of protein synthesis, but they also increase the cell’s capacity for protein synthesis!
BCAAs And Whey protein
Despite the numerous positive benefits to BCAA supplementation, there are many skeptics who suggest that BCAAs are overpriced and that, to get more BCAAs, one should just consume more whey protein. While whey is rich in BCAAs, this isn’t the most effective strategy.
The BCAAs in whey are peptide-bound to other amino acids and, in order to be effective, must be liberated through digestion and then absorbed into the bloodstream. Even though whey protein is relatively fast digesting, it still takes several hours for all the amino acids to be liberated and absorbed into the bloodstream.
BCAAs in supplement form, however, are free-form, require no digestion, and are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. They spike blood amino acid levels to a much greater and faster extent than peptide-bound aminos. Even a few grams of free-form BCAAs will spike BCAA plasma levels to a much greater extent than 30 grams of whey protein, thereby impacting protein synthesis and protein degradation to a much greater degree.
The reason BCAA supplements have such a powerful effect on blood-BCAA levels is that, unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are not significantly metabolized by the small intestine or the liver. Therefore, an oral supplement is more like a BCAA infusion because it reaches the bloodstream so rapidly.
New studies have shown that dieting groups supplementing with BCAAs (like leucine) increase muscle retention and maximize fat loss much more effectively than non-supplemented groups. That’s the bottom line, my friends: more muscle mass retained, and a greater percentage of lost body fat.
Forget other supplements that are long on promises but short on results. Instead, check out the power of BCAAs.