Branched Chain Amino Acids for Bodybuilding – What Lifters Need To Know

Branched-chain amino acids’ (BCAA) supplements (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are an important supplement in bodybuilding and fitness routines. They are very useful for gaining muscle mass, especially during competition prep where competitive bodybuilders take their physiques to lean extremes. BCAA’s will help the bodybuilder maintain muscle mass during a calorie-deficit diet.

The Catabolic Effects of Dieting

Dieting leads to muscle breakdown due to catabolic effects. As the body gets leaner, from a diet, the body is holding on to body fat stores, and attempts to breakdown muscle. The body is looking for energy, attacking lean muscle which is an unwanted side effect of catabolic muscle loss.

Under the microscope, at a molecular level, catabolism occurs as the body increases’ protein breakdown to recruit muscle amino acids’ for metabolic energy and fuel. This leads to muscle loss and decreased levels of muscle protein synthesis due to a reduction in energy intake. So, dieting, without proper BCAA supplementation can increase muscle breakdown and lower protein synthesis.

Let’s take a look at the following equation:

Muscle Mass = rate of protein synthesis – rate of protein breakdown.

if, the rate of protein synthesis is equal to the rate of protein breakdown, then muscle mass will be either, gained or loss.

if, the rate of protein synthesis is less than then the rate of protein breakdown, then you lose muscle.

if, the rate of protein synthesis is greater than the rate of protein breakdown, then you gain muscle.

The leaner you get, the less energy you have, and you become very lethargic. Now, you have decreased your energy intake and glycogen storage leading to weaker performances in the gym. Your muscles understand this, and won’t use much energy during the workout, thus gym production is reduced as a result.

2 Metabolic Problems

  1. No new increases’ in skeletal muscle.
  2. Lean muscle gets broken down, as your body is seeking energy to survive.

BCAAs Keep Your Lean Muscles During Dieting

Branched-chain amino acids’ are important to keep your lean muscle and size during dieting.

Increasing Protein Synthesis

The stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, that leads to muscle gain.

Reducing Protein Breakdown

BCAA supplementation can reduce protein breakdown. This is done by inhibiting or decreasing the activity of the protein breakdown pathway and by reducing several metabolic processes involved in protein breakdown.

Our goal is to increase muscle protein synthesis, while reducing the rate of protein breakdown. Let’s refer to our equation on Muscle mass:

Muscle Mass = rate of protein synthesis – rate of protein breakdown.

Workouts That Produce Gains

BCAA supplementation can lead to more intense and meaningful workouts. Branched-chain amino acids’ fight with the amino acid tryptophan. I am sure you may be equating eating a Thanksgiving turkey and getting sleepy, due to the tryptophan.  Tryptophan converts to increased levels of serotonin.

Increased levels of serotonin makes you feel very fatigued, and your mental and physical conditions suffers.  Higher levels of serotonin reduces your workout production in the gym.

BCAA supplementation will reduce the amount of tryptophan that crosses the blood-brain barrier, and thus leading to reduced levels of serotonin.

BCAA supplementation will boost your gym workouts that equal more muscle gains.

BCAAs And Glucose Storage Levels

Branched-chain amino acids’ help regulate glucose.  It is released from the liver and internal organs and delivered to skeletal muscle to maintain healthy levels of blood sugar. BCAA supplementation can assist in improving glucose uptake and manage insulin sensitivity. Essentially, BCAAs will ramp up blood sugar production during workouts. This is very helpful when you are in a calorie restricted diet.

BCAAS, Balanced Carbohydrates, high Protein beverage intake during and post workouts, can produce an insulin response. This response transports amino acids’ into muscle cells to repair muscle damage and build muscle tissue. This replenishment will also reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness.

BCAAs Supplement Stack – How to Take It

Goal: Replenish Amino Acids for lean muscle gains and maintenance, while reducing fatigue.

When: Pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout, during the day

Dosage: 5-7 grams

** Monitor your dosage accurately. Excessive amounts of BCAA supplementation can lead to insulin resistance.

In Closing- BCAA Supplementation

BCAAs can help support muscle building, during weight loss by optimizing the metabolic process.

Muscle Mass = rate of protein synthesis – rate of protein breakdown.

Yes, you can get amino acids’ from diet, but they won’t hit your Blood Plasma as quick as BCAA supplements. By adding these supplements to your routine; pre-workout, intra-workout, and possibly during the day. This will help you maintain an anabolic state of building muscle.

BCAA’s are a vital supplement for your routine.


Terms & Definitions

Amino acids’: Amino acids’ are the compounds that are the building blocks of protein. There are essential amino acids’ and non-essential amino acids’. You get them from eating protein, and they are what your body uses to build muscle protein.

Branched-chain amino acids’ (BCAAs): BCAAs are a class of essential amino acids’ that the body can use for energy and muscle synthesis. The branched-chain amino acids’ include leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Catabolism/Catabolic: Catabolism is another name for muscle tissue breakdown. This is what happens when your body dismantles muscle tissue to use as fuel. Being in a catabolic state mean this is how your body is getting energy.

Glucose: Glucose is the form of sugar that is in our blood, also known as blood sugar. You get this from eating carbs, but the branched-chain amino acids’ isoleucine and valine can also be converted into glucose.

Insulin: Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps the body turn glucose into energy.

Protein synthesis: Protein synthesis is when your body makes new muscle protein, also known as gains.

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