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Branched-Chain Amino Acids - What Are They?

Updated on February 26, 2014

I’m sure that by know you’ve probably heard of amino acids and you know that they’re the “building blocks” of protein?

But have you heard about branched-chain amino acids?

Maybe you have, but do you know why people supplement with them?

I like to know why I should take something before I start spending money on it so I’ve started to research branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, for the benefit of myself and others.

First, we want to figure out what they are.

What are Branched-Chain Amino Acids?

When people talk about branched-chain amino acids they’re referring to 3 specific amino acids:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

They’re referred to as “branched-chain” because of their chemical make up. They have non-linear side chains that “branch” off and don’t form a ring. So there’s a pretty logical reason for their name.

These branched-chain amino acids are special because, after proteins are broken down in our stomach and intestines, they’re metabolized in our muscles instead of our liver. They’re broken down small enough to be absorbed into our bloodstream and thenused to build new proteins or burned as fuel to produce energy.

They’ll help you build muscle and prevent your muscles from breaking down. So you can probably see why people who workout aim to up their intake of branched-chain amino acids. You’ll see a boost in your gains and get to hold onto them longer.

Branched-chain amino acids will also:

  • Help You Recover Faster
  • Boost Your Endurance
  • Boost Your Immune System
  • Stimulate Fat Loss

These three amino acids are all essential amino acids, which means our bodies cannot create them; we have to get them from the food and drink we consume. You don’t want to slack on your BCAA consumption because they make up about 1/3 of the amino acids in your muscle!

Where Can You Get BCAAs?

You could take the easy route and get a BCCA supplement or you could aim to eat specific types of food.

If you’re looking to get more leucine in your diet then you could eat things like:

  • Almonds
  • Oats
  • Peanuts
  • Soy Protein
  • Wheat Germ

If you’re looking to get more isoleucine in your diet then you could eat things like:

  • Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Turkey

If you’re looking to get more valine in your diet then you could eat things like:

  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Sesame Seeds

So it’s obvious that it’s not going to be hard for you to get BCAAs in your daily diet. There are a lot of different foods that contain these three amino acids that I didn’t list, but you get the idea.

Some people either don’t eat enough food that contains BCAAs or they want a physical boost in their workout gains so they turn to branched-chain amino acid supplements. If you take straight BCAAs, then your body doesn’t have to break them down; the amino acids are ready to be used right away. This speeds up the recovery process for you.

Let’s take a look into how this sort of supplementation came about.

>> Continue Reading Part 2 - First Supplement Usage >>


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