BCAAs – What Are They and Why You Need Them
Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAA’s for short, are beginning to grow in popularity and use among many athletes and general health buffs alike.
To understand what BCAA’s are and why most people should probably be supplementing with them it is important to first gain clarity on what amino acids as a whole.
Most people would say they know the basics of amino acids and this is usually followed by, “they combine to form protein.” This is not an inaccurate statement, but it does fall short of all that amino acids do and are responsible for in the human body. There are 22 amino acids in the body and they fall into three categories; essential, nonessential, and conditional.
What are amino acids?
The term essential amino acids refers to the nine amino acids that are required in the body but must be taken in through external sources, diet or supplements, because the body cannot make them on its own. Nonessential amino acids are still needed, however, the body can produce these even if they are not consumed through diet. Conditional amino acids are those that are considered nonessential until times of illness or stress when the body may not produce them at sufficient amounts so they need to be taken in through diet or supplement.
To summarize the role of all amino acids in the body they are necessary for developing protein, encouraging wound repair, buildy healthy tissues like muscles, skin, bone, and hair. They also play a crucial role in eliminating waste from the body as it relates to metabolism. Among those impressive benefits amino acids also aid in immune function, nutrient absorption, and may also improve mood and sleep.
Three of the nine essential amino acids fall into a subcategory known as the BCAA’s. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The phrase, “branched-chain” is used to refer to the chemical structure of these amino acids. These three amino acids alone account for 35 percent of the essential amino acids in muscle.
Why are these three amino acids grouped together and highly encouraged to be consumed, especially among health and fitness enthusiasts? The benefits of BCAA’s are what set them apart and make them ideal for supplementation or greater consumption.
Type I, II & III Collagen may all be taken together for maximum benefit.
Why take amino acids?
Muscle growth is probably highest on the list of reasons men and women supplement with BCAAs. When the muscles in the body are worked out they begin a repairing process quickly after and this is the step where muscle growth occurs most rapidly. BCAA’s are vital in repairing and rebuilding these muscles. Therefore, it stands to reason that ensuring their abundant supply in the body during this time will result in greater muscle gains.
Fat burn is a close second if the benefits of BCAA’s were to be placed in number order. A study by the College of Charleston investigated the benefits of BCAA’s as they relate to fat burning. This study showed that they athletes had 2.5 times more fat reduction, especially belly fat, when they supplemented with BCAA’s rather than a sports drink. This same study showed those same athletes burned 50 percent more fat than those who had a whey supplement instead.
Two other impressive benefits of BCAA’s are their ability to Increase endurance and enhance muscle recovery. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that supplementing with BCAA’s decreased athletes fatigue by more than 17 percent. This is because they enhance lipid oxidation for energy when glycogen stores are depleted. Post workout recovery can be defeating and keep an athlete from reentering the gym when they would like. BCAA’s are been studied many times over for their ability to improve muscle recovery.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids can be consumed through many high protein foods such as baked and lima beans, chickpeas, lentils, brown rice, almonds, whole wheat products, and soy proteins. For those who prefer animal sources of protein they can be obtained through beef, chicken, eggs, fish, whey, and milk.
Supplementing BCAA’s is the preferred method for most athletes due to time restraints and ease in calculating total intake. Supplements are available as powders and capsules. When supplementing it is desirable to have a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. A major benefit to supplementing is that these amino acids bypass liver metabolism making them more readily available for the muscles. An ideal goal is to consume around 91 mg of BCAA’s per pound of body weight.
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Collagen is a key protein for our body and one of the most abundant. Unfortunately, it is mostly absent from our standard modern diet. You can find collagen in many parts of your body including your muscles, your digestive system, the bones, your skin, face, tendons and even your blood vessels. For tendons and joints, you can imagine collagen as the adhesive that keeps our bones together.
As we get older, our body produces less collagen of its own. We can see this happen when we experience joint pain, additional or more visible imperfections on our youthful face and other similar challenges to our health and overall vitality.
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For those seeking improved performance or better overall health, BCAA’s may be the next supplement to add to their health regimen. These amino acid are rapidly absorbed in the body and provide an excellent source of fuel for the body. They are definitely worth giving a chance.