BCAA: Are you trying to gain lean body mass and build more muscle definition? Spending hours at the gym will only take you so far – nutrition counts too. To get ripples, you have to get adequate amounts of dietary protein – although most weightlifters only need about 1.7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight – even if they’re lifting hard. On the other hand, type of protein may be important too. There’s recently been more focus on BCAA or branched chain amino acids for building lean body mass. Do they work?
Branched chain amino acids or BCAAs consist of three amino acids – valine, isoleucine, and leucine. These amino acids are “essential” meaning the body can’t produce them – so they have to come from diet. Because these amino acids are incorporated into muscle tissue, if there aren’t enough of them, the body breaks down muscle tissue to get them. You can easily see how this would be counterproductive to building lean body mass. Experts also believe that supplying the body with branched chain amino acids after a workout boosts muscle development and makes it easier for a person to get the defined muscles they joined the gym for in the first place.
There hasn’t been a lot of research into this issue, but BCAA or branched chain amino acids do help to prevent muscle breakdown in people who take part in endurance exercises such as long distance running. Ever notice how long distance runners look so long and lean with little muscle definition? This is because long periods of endurance training causes muscle breakdown – to supply the body with more fuel. Providing the body with branched chain amino acids helps to prevent the type of muscle loss that’s commonly seen in long distance runners.
Some experts claim that they boost energy and help athletes achieve better focus and mental clarity. Studies show they may also be helpful for treating victims of chronic wasting diseases where muscle tissue is broken down.
If you’re a long distance runner or doing heavy weightlifting, adding more branched chain amino acids to your diet may help to preserve muscle tissue. On the other hand, there’s no reason to go above the recommended amount of protein since this could be harmful to the kidneys if sustained over a long period of time. Make sure you’re getting enough protein and branched chain amino acids – but don’t overdo it.
Take home messages