Know what BCAA's are:
The BCAAs are comprised of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These three aminos alone make up about one-third of the total amino acids in muscle. The human body has about 20 amino acids, so this should give you a sense of just how important these three key BCAAs are. Essential amino acids are those that your body cannot make itself; they must be provided by the diet, and that’s one reason why BCAA supplementation is so important.
Learn why the BCAA's are special Amino's:
The BCAAs are not just important because they are essential aminos or because they make up a good proportion of muscle protein. The reason these three are special aminos is because of how they are handled in the body. Most amino acids go directly to the liver after being digested, where they can be broken down if the body needs them for energy. BCAAs tend to be spared by the liver and go directly to the muscles intact. Muscle fibers can use BCAAs directly for fuel which is crucial for helping to strengthen, build and repair muscle tissue that has been stressed by continual weight training.
BCAA's are used to energise your muscles:
Besides boosting energy by being used as a direct fuel source for muscle fibers, BCAAs also enhance energy by reducing the amount of tryptophan that gets into the brain. Tryptophan produces the neurotransmitter serotonin (this can make you tired). During exercise, serotonin notifies the brain that the body is fatigued and causes it to reduce muscle strength and endurance. The BCAAs, namely valine, compete with tryptophan for entry into the brain and therefore lowers the amount of fatigue you feel.
Maximise how BCAA's can improve muscle and strength:
Of all the benefits that BCAAs offer, the most interesting is their ability to enhance muscle growth and strength. They do this by directly stimulating muscle protein synthesis (getting the protein to the muscle fibers). Of the three BCAAs, leucine appears to be the most critical for stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
BCAAs also work to enhance muscle growth and strength by altering levels of anabolic and catabolic hormones. One anabolic hormone the BCAAs boost is insulin. BCAAs have also been found to increase levels of growth hormone.
BCAAs also blunt levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol. Since cortisol normally increases muscle breakdown and inhibits testosterone’s anabolic actions, blunting cortisol works to increase muscle growth and strength gains.
BCAA's are perfect for helping reduce your fat:
Another benefit of BCAAs is their ability to enhance fat loss. Research on leucine alone has shown that this amino acid can increase metabolic rate, and therefore the amount of total calories and fat burned.
In addition, research shows that leucine helps to blunt hunger. It is theorized that leucine is used by the brain as an indicator of the levels of total amino acids in the bloodstream. Having more total amino acids in the blood signals your brain that you are well-fed, which means hunger should be reduced to prevent overeating.
When to take your BCAA's:
When it comes to BCAAs, timing is crucial. To gain more muscle mass, strength and energy, the most critical time for taking BCAAs is around workouts. For best results, you should take one dose within 30 minutes before your workouts along with your pre-workout protein shake and carbs, and another dose within 30 minutes after workouts along with your post workout protein shake and carbs.
Supplementing with BCAAs before and after workouts keeps cortisol levels low during exercise, which encourages greater muscle growth. A dose of BCAAs right before workouts will provide your muscles with the energy they need to stave off fatigue throughout the workout. Additionally, research confirms that taking BCAAs around workout time will help to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which results from intense training.
Another critical window for taking a dose of BCAAs is as soon as you wake up in the morning. This dose gets the aminos immediately to your muscles to use as fuel and for repair, which will stop the continued breakdown of your hard-earned muscle from your night-long fasting, and help build it back up.
The fourth time of day you should take a dose of BCAAs is late in the day with dinner or with your last meal. This helps to keep protein synthesis and GH up, and cortisol down throughout the next day.
You may also want to consider taking additional doses of BCAAs between meals to keep hunger down and metabolism up for optimal fat burning.
What do you take with your BCAA's:
To maximize their effectiveness, take BCAAs with protein and carbs, such as a whey protein shake (after workouts), eggs and toast (for breakfast), or steak and a sweet potato (for dinner). Taking BCAAs with protein and carbs will help to drive more of the BCAAs into your muscles thanks to the greater insulin boost.
For those following a low-carb diet, you will obviously not want to eat carbs every time you take a dose of BCAAs. That’s fine, because the leucine will help boost insulin on its own. In addition, you can take BCAAs with supplements, such as alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), that enhance insulin’s release and its action at muscle cells. Take 300–500 mg of ALA when you take a dose of BCAAs to further enhance insulin’s actions and get more BCAAs into your muscles.
Dosing your BCAA's:
A minimum of 5g and up to 10g of BCAAs per dose is recommended. Start off with just 1 or 2g of BCAAs per dose to allow your stomach to get used to them. Then slowly increase the dosage (by about 1g per dose every three or four days) as your tolerance allows until you’re up to at least the minimum dose of 5g.