BCAA's - What are they and do you need them?

15 Apr , 2019


When it comes to getting maximum performance bang for your buck, it’s hard to go past the Branch Chain Amino Acids. This powerful combination of three essential amino acids work synergistically to preserve protein during exercise, promote anabolism post workout, prolong your endurance, offset exercise fatigue and ramp up your fat loss.

What are Branch Chain Amino Acids?

Branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are made up of three key essential amino acids; leucine, valine and iso-leucine. They are essential in the sense that they cannot be manufactured by the body and so must come from external sources. 35% of all of the essential amino acids found in muscle proteins are BCAAs. The unique thing about BCAAs is that they can be oxidized in skeletal muscle, whereas the other essential amino acids are mainly catabolized.

BCAA molecule structure

How Do Brach Chain Amino Acids Work?

The BCAAs are prime stimulators of protein synthesis (muscle building) while also preventing muscle breakdown. Their ability to be oxidized in muscle tissue means that they can also be used for fuel. This makes them a great source of endurance and energy while exercising. This is especially beneficial for long distance athletes such as endurance cyclists and marathon runners.

Performance Benefits

BCAAs play an important role in the preserving of muscle tissue during exercise. This occurs on a two-front basis; it regulates protein synthesis while also preventing protein breakdown. When taken prior to exercise, it can be used to offset the catabolic effects of exercise. When used as a post workout supplement, it is useful in supporting muscle repair and growth. The key BCAA involved in protein sparing is leucine.

BCAAs are able to positively affect exercise performance due to their ability to be oxidized and used as fuel by the muscle cell. As a result, many endurance athletes supplement with BCAAs before and during their event. The most important BCAA when it comes to promoting endurance and offsetting fatigue is valine.

BCAAs have also been shown to have a positive effect on fat loss. The most important amino acid here is isoleucine.


Jack Thompson ultra endurance cyclist and R3 Protein Athlete

The Research

There have been a number of studies to confirm the ability of BCAAs to prevent muscle breakdown during exercise. A 2011 study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. Another study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014, shows that Leucine supplementation of a low-protein mixed macronutrient beverage enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men.

As these studies indicate, leucine plays a key role in promoting protein synthesis. Leucine gets the ball rolling before the other two essential amino acids, valine and iso-leucine, lend a hand in the protein sparing and energy producing processes. For this reason, you should take a BCAA blend that has a ratio of the three amino acids in favor of leucine. There are all sorts of ratios in BCAA products in favor of leucine on the market, ranging from 1:1:1 to 10:1:1. However, the ideal ration appears to 2:1:1.

A 2008 study that was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, divided college aged men in to three groups. One group was given just leucine, another all three BCAAs in the 2:1:1 radio and the third group were given a placebo. Over a 1-week period the men were given the supplements after a leg workout. The greatest protein synthesis was achieved by the 2:1:1 ratio group.

The 2:1:1 ratio appears to also be ideal in terms of increasing energy and reducing training fatigue. Valine is the key player in this regard. When we exercise there is a greatly increased uptake of tryptophan to the brain. The brain converts the tryptophan to serotonin, which induces a feeling of exhaustion. However, valine competes with tryptophan for entry to the brain. The result is that less tryptophan gets into the brain and we feel less fatigued during our workout or event.

When it comes to fat loss, iso-leucine appears to have the ability to activate receptors that enhance fat burning and slow down fat storage. A 2010 Japanese study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, showed that mice who were give iso-leucine while on a high fat diet gained less body fat than mice who were not given the supplement. It was seen that iso-leucine switched on the receptor PPAR, which promotes the release of fat burning genes while diminishing the activity of fat storing genes.


Joshua Wright R3 Athlete battling ropes


The Bottom Line

BCAA’s are the go-to supplement for serious athletes, whether their focus is muscle building, endurance training, fat loss or general fitness.

At R3 Protein we’re excited to announce our brand new BCAA product, R3 Hydramino – which true to our mission, and unlike the majority of brand son the market, is 100% natural: containing zero artificial ingredients to hinder the digestive system; leading to maximal uptake and enhanced recovery. R3 Hydramino provides you with not only 6 grams of BCAAs per serve in the ideal 2:1:1 ratio, but it is also fortified with electrolytes to replace those lost during training, making it the ideal intra workout supplement.

Check it out here.



R3 protein HYDRAMINO BCAA electrolyte product banner 

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