Branched-Chain-Amino-Acids have come back into the fitness realm full force- and with good reason! Many fitness lovers take BCAA supplements for gaining mass, but they are also helpful for maintaining muscle and a lean form.
When we search to lose weight or fat loss, we tend to reduce calories. Often, this can lead to muscle breakdown because as the body gets leaner, then it will lose muscle mass as the body tries harder to hold onto fat stores. Therefore, the body will use muscle to gain energy. This is bad news for anyone who is looking for a defined/hard body. In addition, the muscle loss occurs because the body breaks down more protein in order to use amino acids for fuel.
Now, we are just talking purely about diet at this point. Imagine if you were working out for weightloss on a calorie reduced diet- well, with a decrease energy intake will make for a rough training session. Lifters can find that they are too tired or weak to lift as heavy and your muscles will adapt- refusing to use as much energy to get the work done.
In a nutshell, this all means that your body will not increase lean muscle mass and your body may possibly use lean muscle or energy since you are not using it to lift a heavy load.
So, how do BCAAs help?
Branched Chain Amino Acids stimulate protein syntheseis (possibly more than protein on its own!), and they can increase the cell's capacity for protein synthesis! In addition, BCAAs reduce the rate in which protein is broken down. With the combination of these two things, it is plain to see that if we can increase synthesis and decrease breakdown, then we can gain muscle or simply maintain.
In addition, BCAAs may also help improve workout intensity because BCAAs compete with amino acid tryptophan to enter the brain. Tryptophan can be converted into serotonin and cause the body and mind to feel fatigued. (Less intense workout!) When we supplement with BCAAs, it reduces the amount of tryptophan that enters the brain so we may be able to work harder and longer!
Why consume BCAAs in supplement form instead of solely through whey? Well, supplement form of BCAAs require no digestion and can be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. If we solely get BCAAs through whey, it takes several hours for all the amino acids to be absorbed into he blood stream. Supplement form spike blood amino acid levels allowing the plasma levels to be greater than the just the extent of protein alone.
There have been several studies that have shown that dieting groups supplementing with BCAAs increase muscle retention and maximize fat-loss than those who did not supplement. So, the more muscle we retain, the greater percentage of lost body fat.