The two pillars of weight training are physical exercise and nutrition. To reach the objectives in this discipline, a good nutritional intake is necessary, thus promoting muscle growth. There are many food supplements available for bodybuilders. Among them, the BCAA. We will present this food supplement, its roles and its dangers for health.
What is the BCAA?
The BCAA is first and foremost a dietary supplement of natural origin. Less known than Whey protein, it is consumed by many bodybuilding enthusiasts.
Indeed, the BCAA or Branched Chain Amino Acids is a combination of essential branched chain amino acids widely present in muscle tissue and that the human body can not manufacture itself.
The BCAA is composed of three amino acids :
These three amino acids are naturally present in muscle tissue. They represent one third of the amino acids present in the muscles of the human body.
Why consume BCAA
BCAA is naturally present in the body. It can be found in food, but in small amounts. However, the BCAA requirement of an athlete is much higher than that of a non-athlete.
An additional intake is therefore necessary to obtain the desired results. Moreover, the molecular structure of the amino acids contained in the BCAA means that they are directly absorbed by the human body. Its assimilation is therefore rapid unlike other types of amino acids.
Who is it for?
The BCAA is for all athletes. It is a dietary supplement that promotes protein synthesis and prevents catabolism due to muscle fatigue. Indeed, while working the muscles, there is a risk of degradation of the latter.
Essential amino acids prevent this phenomenon and also promote recovery. It is this property that interests bodybuilders. Intense exercise subjects the muscles to conditions of high stress.
By taking the BCAA, muscle mass is maintained. There is therefore no loss of muscle tissue during training. Consequently, the process of muscle growth is greatly accelerated.
Dosage and method of administration
Many food supplements contain BCAA’s in addition to protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. But they are often found in powder or tablet form.
The ratio of amino acids
On BCAA packages, there is often a series of numbers following the BCAA statement. This indicates the ratio between the three amino acids contained in the food supplement. The 4.1.1 statement is the most common, although ratios of 2.1.1 or 8.1.1 can be found.
For example, in a 100 g box of BCAA 2.1.1, there are 50 g of leucine, 25 g of isoleucine and 25 g of valine. Leucine is the most important of the three, hence its much higher level compared to the other two.
Method of consumption
It is advised to consume 10 to 15 g of BCAA per day. The treatment is more effective if the intake is spread throughout the day. You can consume 3 grams per meal if you take 5 meals during the day.
During the exercise day, it is best to consume 5 grams of BCAA 30 min before training and just after. Thanks to its rapid assimilation, it is even possible to consume it during training.
The role of the BCAA
If there is one aspect that attracts athletes to the BCAA, it is its ability to increase endurance. Indeed, the feeling of fatigue during exercise is caused by a degradation of muscle tissue. The BCAA will limit this phenomenon, which will help prolong efforts and facilitate recovery.
Prevention against catabolism
Catabolism is a phenomenon of muscle atrophy caused by overtraining. During exercise, a small portion of the muscle tissue will be destroyed. It is during the recovery phase that the muscles rebuild and it is at this time that there is a muscular gain. When the exercise is too intense, there is more loss than gain. When BCAA is consumed, the deterioration of muscle fibers is limited. This prevents the risk of catabolism.
In addition to the protective aspects of muscle tissue, BCAA also accelerates protein synthesis. In other words, it stimulates the muscle manufacturing process. From these two aspects results its power to accelerate muscle mass gain. It is most effective when taken in combination with quality protein supplements such as Whey Isolate.
Dangers of BCAA
Moderate consumption of BCAA’s poses no health risk. However, it should not be abused. Moreover, it is indicated on the packaging that it is not recommended for individuals in case of :
- Chronic alcoholism
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Excessive consumption of BCAA’s can cause certain adverse effects. The most common are digestive problems such as diarrhea or constipation. They are not alarming, but it is best to reduce the dose ingested.
In the medium term, a decrease in libido may also be observed in case of overconsumption. Indeed, BCAA treatment causes a decrease in serotonin production. The result is a migraine and a decrease in sexual desire.
More serious problems can occur with a high dose of BCAA. These include a decrease in motor function caused by an increase in serum ammonia. Too much ammonia can cause metabolic and brain disorders.
Be aware that the assimilation of essential amino acids is to the detriment of other amino acids important for the body. Its consumption also increases endurance, causing a significant increase in the body’s nutritional needs.
It is therefore advisable to consume the BCAA in the indicated dosage. It is also essential to ensure that the diet adopted meets the body’s needs. Since the risk of dietary deficiency is present, other health problems can occur at any time.
In short, the BCAA is not harmful to health if the recommended doses are respected. However, if you have any doubts, it is always best to consult a professional who will be able to give you additional advice.
Passionate about sports and STAPS graduate, I am your virtual sports coach. I share with you all my tips and tricks to get in shape and improve your performance. If you want to know more about me, please click here.