BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) have caused a revolution in the dietary supplement, quickly becoming one of the most consumed supplements of all time. BCAAs are found all throughout nature, and each of us consumes them every time we eat any amount of protein in our diet.
Although BCAAs are currently at peak popularity with many people swearing by the absolute necessity of their use, there is a much smaller but vocal crowd that contends that BCAA supplementation is not necessary due to the prevalence or these compounds found within the average athletes’ diet.
Although there is no conclusive evidence for either side yet, the fact is that the science behind BCAAs and their potential benefits for athletes of all types continues to grow and become more widely accepted every day.
BCAAs have been studied and shown to increase time to exhaustion in aerobic exercise, decrease mental perception of fatigue, reduce body fat, and preserve muscle mass while in a caloric deficit.
Anecdotal reports claim that BCAAs are capable of increasing lean muscle mass via an increase in mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin), as well as muscle protein synthesis (MPS), however definitive studies proving this have remained elusive.
During exercise, our body experiences a decline in serum BCAAs (a reduction of l-leucine, l-valine, and l-isoleucine). By supplementing with BCAAs, it is possible to prevent that decline, while simultaneously reaping the benefits of L-Leucine which has been shown to increase mTOR and MPS. Both mTOR and MPS are known as the “anabolic switch” in our bodies, and when increased, our body is considered to be in an anabolic or muscle building state. This is the primary reason many believe BCAAs are crucial for building muscle mass.
BCAA dosing suggestions vary widely. Dietary supplement manufacturer suggest as little as 5g/day during exercise, while studies have seen upper limits of 50g+/day.
Current science suggests that if adequate protein is being consumed per day (1-1.5g/kg of body weight), BCAA supplementation is not critical, however for those users who wish to add it to their daily regiment should look to consume approximately 7-14g of BCAAs via dietary supplements.