Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) have been associated with a lot of different health benefits, such as weight loss, reducing health issues associated with liver problems, reducing muscle soreness, and more. Here’s some information about what branched chain amino acids are, as well as why you need them.

What They Are, And How They Work

There are three essential amino acids that make up BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Research indicates that leucine helps the body build proteins vital to forming muscle, while isoleucine and valine are believed to help regulate the level of sugar in the blood and also help the body produce energy.1, 2 They do this, studies show, by helping retain sugar stored in the muscles and liver, and by helping to stimulate the cells to absorb sugar from the blood.3

These amino acids are called “essential” because the body is unable to make them naturally. You either have to get them from the food you eat, or you need to get them through a supplement.

Fatigue Reduction When Working Out

Branched chain amino acids are usually broken down in the muscles, unlike most other amino acids that are broken down in the liver. This is one of the reasons they are thought to help the body produce energy during exercise sessions.4 BCAAs may also reduce the amount of the hormone serotonin in the brain, which can lead to drowsiness. As a result, they can also help limit fatigue while you’re working out. 5

The Role of BCAAs in Weight Loss

While BCAAs may help reduce the chances of becoming obese, more research is needed before any definitive statements can be made.6 Results of studies have been somewhat inconsistent, but research indicates that BCAAs may help the body do a more efficient job of ridding itself of excess fat. One study in particular analyzed two groups of athletes. One group ate a high-protein diet and used BCAA supplements, while the other had the same diet but used a soy protein supplement. The group using BCAAs were able to drop over eight pounds more, on average, than those who used the soy supplement.7

Another study involved two groups of athletes as well. One of them consumed 14g of BCAAs on a daily basis for two months, while another group consumed 28g per day of whey protein. The group taking BCAAs lost 1 percent more body fat and also gained more muscle. 8

BCAA | Gundry

The Effect of BCAAs on Muscle Soreness and Muscle Mass

BCAAs are also believed to help reduce the amount of soreness in your muscles after you exercise. They do this, research indicates, by reducing the amount of certain enzymes that are linked to muscle damage. As a result, BCAAs could help boost the recovery process after a workout, and could also reduce the amount of muscle damage that occurs.9

Many athletes take BCAA supplements, and one of the reasons is that research shows BCAAs help to build muscle mass. Supplements that are higher in leucine than valine and isoleucine seem to be more effective in doing so.10

Branched Chain Amino Acids and Liver Disease

Liver disease is a very serious health issue on its own, of course, but it can also lead to severe complications. Studies suggest that BCAAs could do a better job than other types of supplements in helping to reduce the risk of these complications. A separate study indicated that BCAAs could also help reduce the hospital stay of patients who do suffer complications.11, 12

How Much BCAA Do You Need?

If you are considering supplementing your diet with BCAAs, it’s only natural that you would wonder how much you should consume each day. Different people have different needs, and there are several scientific opinions regarding what sort of dosage would be best. For example, according to one study, an adult of average weight should take at least 15 mg per pound on a daily basis.13 However, according to another study, people should take in 65 mg per pound each day.14 The amount recommended might be even higher in athletes who regularly engage in large amounts of resistance training, such as bodybuilders.

One of the difficult aspects of obtaining BCAAs through diet is that the best sources are high-protein foods, such as red meat and cheese – but these are foods that can pack on the pounds if consumed in excess. So if you don’t want to run the risk of gaining a great deal of weight, but you want to ensure you have enough BCAAs in your system, a supplement may be the way to go, such as Gundry MD’s BCAA Blend. Make sure you talk to a doctor before starting any sort of supplement regimen to make sure they won’t adversely impact any kind of condition you may have or any medications you may take.

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2. Gualano AB, et al. “Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation Enhances Exercise Capacity And Lipid Oxidation During Endurance Exercise After Muscle Glycogen Depletion. – Pubmed – NCBI”. N.p., 2011. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

3. Doi M, et al. “Hypoglycemic Effect Of Isoleucine Involves Increased Muscle Glucose Uptake And Whole Body Glucose Oxidation And Decreased Hepatic Gluconeogenesis. – Pubmed – NCBI”. N.p., 2007. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

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8. Stoppani, Jim et al. “Consuming A Supplement Containing Branched-Chain Amino Acids During A Resistance-Training Program Increases Lean Mass, Muscle Strength And Fat Loss”. N.p., 2009. Print.

9. LR, Coombes. “Effects Of Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation On Serum Creatine Kinase And Lactate Dehydrogenase After Prolonged Exercise. – Pubmed – NCBI”. N.p., 2000. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

10. A, Mero. “Leucine Supplementation And Intensive Training. – Pubmed – NCBI”. N.p., 1999. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

11. Metcalfe EL, et al. “Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation In Adults With Cirrhosis And Porto-Systemic Encephalopathy: Systematic Review. – Pubmed – NCBI”. N.p., 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

12. “Meta-Analysis Of Branched Chain Amino Acid-Enriched Nutrition To Improve Hepatic Function In Patients Undergoing Hepatic Operation”. PubMed Health. N.p., 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

13. Organization, World Helath. “Energy And Protein Requirements”. N.p., 1985. Print.

14. Kurpad AV, et al. “Branched-Chain Amino Acid Requirements In Healthy Adult Human Subjects. – Pubmed – NCBI”. N.p., 2006. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.