Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids that may play a role to support muscle and recovery.* BCAAs, made up of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are essential amino acids, meaning that they cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through diet or supplementation.
BCAAs might be useful for athletes and fitness enthusiasts as they help support muscles and recovery, positively support muscle breakdown during intense physical activity, and endurance.* In addition, BCAAs might have, in some cases, a potential impact on muscle mass and strength, even in older adults.*
The 3 BCAAs
Leucine, the most abundant of the three BCAAs, is known to play a potential supportive role for muscle growth and recovery. It may help stimulate protein synthesis, the process by which cells build new protein, and helps repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissue.* Isoleucine and valine might play a supportive role in muscle growth and recovery, as well as in energy production during exercise.*
Some research suggests that taking a BCAA supplement before and after exercise might potentially help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time in some populations.* BCAAs might also help support performance during endurance exercise, as they are a direct energy source for muscles which could then play a role on fatigue.*
BCAA and overall health
In addition to their support for muscle and recovery, BCAAs may also have a supportive role on overall health. Research suggests that BCAAs might be involved with glucose metabolism, support liver function, and muscle wasting in certain patients.*
It is important to note that while BCAAs may be beneficial, they should not replace a balanced diet that includes all essential amino acids (EAAs). A diet that is rich in protein, such as eggs, dairy, meat, fish, and poultry, can provide adequate amounts of BCAAs. However, for those who are physically active or have increased protein requirements, a BCAA supplement may be useful.*
In conclusion, BCAAs should be a component of a balanced diet and could play a role in supporting muscle growth and recovery*, especially for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. While BCAAs can be obtained through a balanced diet, a BCAA supplement may be a useful addition for those who have increased protein requirements or are physically active.* As always, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.