Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids - Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine - that have a special branched structure. BCAAs are essential amino acids which means that your body can't synthesize them, so you must get them from food. It is important to note that all amino acids are essential for the metabolism of nutrients and are responsible for a variety of functions, from building tissues, to chemical production enabling our brains to function.

BCAAs are important because they're metabolized in the muscles instead of the liver like other amino acids,  where they are broken down into individual amino acids, and are either used to build new proteins, or to be burnt and used as fuel for energy production. BCAA collectively comprise 30% of the total muscle protein pool.

Many research trials have shown that BCAA's improve red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum albumin, fasting glucose levels, increased glycogenesis and rapid improvement in muscular inflammation.

Athletic Use
According to a 2006 study published in the "Journal of Nutrition,” BCAAs were shown to speed up muscle recovery and decrease delayed-onset muscle soreness. Branched-chain amino acids are oftentimes used by atheletes to improve performance with faster muscle growth and reduce muscle breakdown during intense exercise and muscle loss during weight loss.

Lowered Stress & Higher Testosterone
- Findings in the 2010 issue of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," showed that people who were given BCAA experienced significant decreases in cortisol levels compared to those administered a placebo.
- According to a study in the Chinese Journal of Physiology, testosterone was up significantly and the testosterone to cortisol ratio was much more favorable with the BCAA subjects than with a placebo.

Promotes Mental Health
BCAAs have been shown to play a role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, which will help you generate energy and drive when you need it and calm you when you don’t.
- Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have found in a lab study that BCAAs are highly effective at restoring cognitive function and balancing neurochemical levels in those who have undergone brain trauma.
- A study conducted on 25 patients with mania and published in the March 2003 edition of "The British Journal of Psychiatry" showed reduction of manic symptoms within six hours after consuming BCAA and experienced an improvement in symptoms that lasted up to two weeks.
- BCAAs are also used to treat tardive dyskinesia, which is a neurological disorder consisting of abnormal, involuntary body movements. This is common among those suffering from schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.
- Branched-chain amino acids seem to prevent faulty message transmission in the brain cells of people with advanced liver disease.

Decrease Fatigue
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that BCAAs decreases the transport of Trp into the presynaptic neuron in the brain and hence reduces the concentration of 5-HT in the presynaptic terminal: this could reduce the 5-HT level and hence prevent stimulation of the postsynaptic nerve and consequently reduce the level of fatigue.

Research shows that individuals with a higher BCAA intake in their diets have lower rates of obesity, lower body weight, and better body composition. A review in the journal Aging found that subjects with greater amounts of BCAAs in their diets were the slimmest and had significantly less chance of being overweight than those with lower BCAA intake.

Type-2 Diabetes
- According to the March 2003 edition of "Diabetes Care" journal, consuming a BCAA/protein supplement at the same time as carbohydrates stimulated the release of insulin and increased insulin response in type 2 diabetics.
- A 2007 report presented in "Diabetes" studied the ability of branched chain amino acids to prevent the development of diabetic symptoms. Study showed that subjects given the branched chain amino acids had lower body weight, less body fat and had better regulated their blood sugar level than the ones who did not receive it.

A research published in the journal Cell Metabolism has found that supplementing with BCAAs not only increases overall energy levels, but also appears to lengthen lifespan as well. BCAA tends to increase activity in mitochondria which provide cells with needed energy and SIRT1 a longevity gene which helps prevent the oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

Branched-chain amino acids are also used to help slow muscle wasting in people who are confined to bed.

Food Sources
Beans, lentils, brown rice bran, corn, peanuts, brewer's yeast, caseinate, nuts, seeds, soy, whey, whole grains, mushrooms, milk, cheese, seaweed, eggs, turkey, chicken, lamb and fish.

Supplement Precautions
Always consult your health care professional before starting a supplement. Do not take BCAA supplements during pregnancy, while breast-feeding, if you have Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease), Branched-chain ketoaciduria or in Chronic alcoholism.