Of the 9 essential amino acids, the three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine, play a key role in protein synthesis and energy metabolism— accounting for approximately 20% of your total protein intake (dairy has an abundance of BCAAs). BCAAs also make up about 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins and 40% of the human requirement for preformed amino acids, which is why they’re so critical for athletes.
BUT…..BCAAs are much more than components of proteins, in fact most of the benefits for athletes comes from their direct impact on energy production and fatigue resistance, noted when taken preworkout. BCAAs are readily broken down (catabolized) during exercise. The status of BCAA breakdown is dependent on the branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase complex (BCKDH) activity, which is relatively dormant under resting conditions and becomes activated with exercise. When we train hard, BCAAs are reduced to their basic components and are used as fuel. Based on this fact alone, it’s obvious why BCAA supplementation may benefit those undergoing a heavy exercise regimen: They’re being used for energy purposes, so you better have enough of them hanging around. Either you supply them by taking BCAAs as supplements or your body will find them on its own – and by that route it will strip them off protein chains that could have instead been used for building muscle.
Over the past decade, BCAA supplements have been shown to help with fat burning, energy production, fatigue, glucose regulation, glucose transportation, gut health, embryo development, and immunity!
ACTION POINT: As always we recommend taking 5-10 g of BCAAs, 3 times per day, in the form of 2:1:1 Leucine:Isoleucine:Valine. On rest days, take BCAAs once in the morning and 2 other times throughout the day between meals (for a shot of energy). On training days, take 5-10g preworkout and another 5-10g intraworkout. For an added intraworkout anabolic spike, take 5g of BCAAs with 5 grams of essential amino acids during your training session. Postworkout, take 20-30 g of Whey protein Isolate, which naturally contains high levels of BCAAs.
Zhang S, Zeng X, Ren M, Mao X, Qiao S. Novel metabolic and physiological functions of branched chain amino acids: a review. J Anim Sci Biotechnol. 2017 Jan 23;8:10. doi: 10.1186/s40104-016-0139-z. eCollection 2017.