Wednesday, March 25, 2015

BCAA, you really need them, BUT...

BCAA - Branched Chain Amino Acids

BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids)

The building blocks of muscle's protein - Branched Chain Amino Acids (L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine). This (in combination with a full protein with all the EAA / Essential Amino Acids) is the most important supplement you can provide to your body for muscle fiber reconstruction and enhancement during your rest periods, and the most crucial role between them corresponds to L-leucine. It is even more important that your body cannot produce these three amino acids by itself, therefore it depends by taking them from your food & supplements, which are the only source.

Studies have shown that BCAA very effectively increase protein synthesis (anabolism) in the muscle cells, during and especially after physical exercise. They achieve this by activating the mTOR pathway (mechanistic Target Of Rapamycin, which is a serine/threonine-protein kinase) that promotes cell growth, cell proliferation, cell motility, cell survival, protein synthesis (anabolism), and cell transcription. BCAA also increase the levels of Insulin and its anabolic activity through the mTOR pathway, too (study). Remember that Insulin is the most anabolic hormone that your body produces, and it's much more anabolic than testosterone. But there are even more benefits. BCAA can increase Testosterone while decreasing the extremely catabolic stress hormone Cortisol too (study)! Briefly, it is a 'miracle' supplement for preserving muscles, muscle hypertrophy (building/enhancing muscle fibers), and well being.

BUT. You have to have an adequate amount of a full protein in your stomach (with all the EAA / Essential Amino Acids) to be able to get the advantage of BCAA. If you don't, BCAA alone can and will cause muscle breakdown (catabolism) instead of hypertrophy (anabolism)! (explanation).

* Contrary to the common (marketed) beliefs, the best kind of BCAA to buy and use for your body is not the instantized (iBCAA) which dissolves very quickly in water. In reality, the instantized (iBCAA) powder does not dissolve instantly, it "sinks" and spreads in the liquid, without really dissolving. You can understand this by shaking the glass slightly and then by looking at your glass of iBCAA in an angle, with a light source in front of the glass (not behind it). You will see pearly-looking particles floating around inside the liquid (it's the iBCAA powder). Regular BCAA are hard to dissolve, but they do dissolve completely after a while, iBCAA do not.

The regular, pure, not over-processed BCAA which are hard to dissolve, are the best and the most effective ones! Keep that in mind. BCAA in the purest and most bioavailable form (naturally-correct molecular structure) are hard to dissolve because they are naturally hydrophobic compounds, especially L-leucine. The process that makes them easily dissolvable and/or sink-able in water makes them less effective (I have a detailed experience experimenting on my self). Try to find a completely pure BCAA powder that is not instantized. Not only it costs less, but it's better for your goals too.

Try to avoid the artificially flavored & colored versions, except if you don't mind your supplement to have some toxicity on you. Yes, BCAA in pure form taste awful and bitter, but you have to think about the positive effects, for you are not buying ice cream or candies, you are buying a supplement for muscle growth (+ you will have more BCAA per dose). Get real! Of course, you can use BCAA in tablet/capsule form, but, you will have to swallow unimaginable amounts of tablets/capsules throughout the day, and their cost is extremely higher than the powders (by comparing the dose amount and the quantity for which you are paying for).

In my experience, the most optimal way to use BCAA for muscle hypertrophy is by consuming about ±0.25g of BCAA per 1kg of body weight (1kg = 2.2 lbs) per day. So, a person who weighs 70kg (154 lbs) should consume ±17.5g's of BCAA throughout the day, with the last dose to be consumed before going to sleep (important), for sleeping is the time when your body starts to rebuild and enhance your damaged muscle fibers. Remember that you have to have an adequate amount of a complete protein in your stomach (with all the EAA / Essential Amino Acids), otherwise, BCAA alone can cause muscle breakdown!

The first dose should be consumed approximately 30 minutes before exercise, and another one right after. The third dose should be consumed before going to sleep. If you have enough money to support your supplementation and you're willing to even greater results, you can have extra doses. An extra dose in the morning and one dissolved in your gym-bottle for in-between your workouts.
On rest days, it is advisable to have the three (or more) doses dissolved in a bottle of water or juice that you are going to sip evenly throughout the day until you reach bedtime. Just do not forget that you must have adequate amounts of a complete protein or at least all the EAA / Essential Amino Acids in your stomach, every time you're taking the BCAA!

Product recommendations to buy online (Amazon)

From the currently available (in stock) products on Amazon, I recommend the following for you to buy without losing any more time by searching the better choice. Unfortunatelly there's only instantized versions allover Amazon. The second product (by Pure Encapsulations) is the real deal, pure BCAA, although at the moment I wrote this it was out of stock.

1) iBCAA Powder (2:1:1, 900g, Unflavored) by Nutricost

2) Pure BCAA Powder (Hypoallergenic, 8 Ounces/227g, Unflavored) by Pure Encapsulations

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, without any added cost to you.

* This article is a part of my Complete guide for muscle building