You hear of BCAAs often or if you haven’t, they are worth discussing. BCAAs, aka Branched-chain amino acids is the name given to three of the eight essential amino acids needed to make protein: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These three essential amino acids makes up about 1/3 of skeletal muscle in the human body.
Although not optimal, our bodies can actually break down muscle to get these BCAAs for energy. In order to preserve our hard earned muscle, it is important to supply ourselves with BCAAs prior, during or after a workout, to allow muscles and other tissues a smaller chance of breaking down.
Leucine is the most readily used BCAA. Leucine works with the other two BCAAs to protect muscle and act as fuel for the body. They promote the healing of bones, skin and muscle tissue, and, similar to glutamine, are often recommended for patients recovering from surgery. Food sources for leucine are: meat, nuts, beans, brown rice, soy flour and whole wheat.
Isoleucine stabilizes and regulates blood sugar and energy levels. Isoleucine works with the other two BCAAs to enhance energy, increase endurance and aid in the healing and repair of muscle tissue, making them essential for athletes. Isoleucine can be found in foods such as chicken, eggs, fish, meat, rye, almonds, cashews, chickpeas, lentils, soy protein and most seeds.
Valine is the third BCAA. It also aids in muscle metabolism, tissue repair and the maintenance of proper nitrogen balance in the body. Food sources for valine are: meat, mushrooms, peanuts, dairy products, grains, and soy protein.
BCAAs are a very popular supplementation for strength in athletes and for those looking to hold on to their precious hard earned muscle tissue, aiding in metabolism and fat loss. Supplements that combine all three amino acids are easy to find and convenient to use and can be found in powder or pill form, depending on your preference. Simply put, BCAAs should be highly considered, if you are considering embarking upon a regimented nutritional and training regimen.