BCAA Sources, Benefits, And Side Effects

BCAA 101

Introduction

BCAA is the protein supplement that has taken the fitness industry by storm from the past few years. 

Want to know everything about this magic bodybuilding supplement BCAA? Then you are on the right page.

BCAAs are three of the most important branched-chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are really unique and they perform many critical metabolic functions. They come with ample health benefits, such as building muscles, supporting the overall growth of the body, and even burn fat.

Let’s take a closer look to know everything about the BCAA to find out how they work and their ample health benefits and how you should take this supplement.

What is Amino Acid?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. These are a type of organic compounds that are made with at least one amine (-NH2) and carboxyl (-COOH) functional group. Along with another element side chain. This side chain is specific to each amino acid. To build the proteins, the amino acids are connected with each other through peptide bonds. Synthesis of hormones, and neurotransmitters the amino acids are necessary.

Now, to grow and perform essential functions, our body needs 23 different amino acids. Now though all of these 23 amino acids are important for your health, only nine amino acids are essential. These amino acids are histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, valine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan. Our body cannot make these essential amino acids, therefore, you need …

What Is BCAA or Branched Chain Amino Acid?

Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs are those amino acids that have a carbon-containing aliphatic side chain. Amongst the above-mentioned nine essential amino acids, three branched-chain amino acids are very important for mammals, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. 

BCAAs come with many natural food sources such as animal proteins, milk, egg, soybeans, quinoa, etc. These branched-chain amino acids come with several physiological and metabolic roles. They promote protein synthesis, increase the oxidation of fatty acids, and boost the signaling pathways. They also help in normal brain functionality.

Natural Food Sources of BCAA

Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs are the main building blocks of protein. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine, these BCAAs are usually found in a variety of foods. Though these are mostly found in animal protein, some plant proteins like lentils and pulses are also filled with these.

Chicken and Fish

Naturally chicken and fish contain a large number of essential amino acids. The fish and chicken protein contain a significant quantity of leucine and isoleucine. These two BCAAs are the main components of any dietary protein. Leucine is the most important factor in building proteins, thus necessary for gaining muscle mass.

Eggs

The egg white contains albumin protein. Albumin is filled with BCAAs. Also, a trace amount of BCAAs is also found in the egg yolk. But you need to cook the egg properly to get the benefits.

Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the best animal sources of these three essential BCAAs. Most importantly quinoa has way more lysine than any type of rice or wheat. Also, quinoa contains a huge number of proteins and fiber. Thus, it is not only healthier but also fills you up quickly.

Lentils

Lentils usually come with a huge number of health benefits and thus we incorporate them in our daily diet. Almost all type of lentils contains each one of the nine essential amino acids that you need to grow the human body. Usually, these lentils and pulses provide almost 0.2 g of leucine and 0.1 g of isoleucine per ounce serving.

Soybeans

Just like lentils, soybeans also come with all of the nine essential amino acids. Usually, soybean can isolate 18% of branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs. The only con of soybeans is that the leucine content of this is not so great. But it contains amounts of isoleucine and valine.

Brown Rice

Cooked brown rice has five grams of protein a cup. It contains all of the essential amino acids except for lysine. Brown rice has the full muscle-building ability if you can consume it after proper weight training.

Nuts and Beans

Nuts like almonds and cashew are great sources of proteins thus amino acids. The BCAAs can stabilize blood sugar and also boost energy. Some nuts like walnuts, brazil nuts, and peanuts come with ample amounts of valine and leucine that help to secret oxytocin thus enhance mood.

Milk

Healthier milk options like low-fat milk, cheese, sour cream, and yogurt are some healthy sources of BCAAs. Milk comes with 0.2 g of leucine, 0.1 g of isoleucine, and 0.1 g of valine per ounce servings. 

Sources of Foods

Food SourcesServing QuantityQuantity of BCAAs
Chicken100 g5.88 g
Beef100 g6.8 g
Soybeans100 g5.5 g
Whey Protein Supplements100 g5.5 g
Tuna100 g5.2 g
Eggs2 eggs3.25 g
Salmon100 g4.9 g
Turkey100 g4.6 g
Cheese50 g4.5 g
Yogurt150 g2.1 g
Milk200 ml2.2 g

Benefits of BCAA

BCAA or branched-chain amino acids have become very popular among the athletes and bodybuilders. These are essential for their effect on muscle growth and cell regeneration. BCAAs also have various other health benefits as well.

1. Increase Muscle Health

BCAAs can increase muscle growth thus these branched-chain amino acids improve muscle health. The most important branched-chain amino acid leucine activates the key enzymes that are essential for protein synthesis. Also, the leucine amino acid helps in the initiation of translation.

Translation: Translation is the procedure of protein synthesis or creating proteins in the body.

2. Reduces Muscle Fatigue

Intaking BCAAs in your diet regularly helps you to reduce the fatigue caused by exercise and to improve muscle endurance. Branched-chain amino acids boost energy metabolism and lower muscle damage by reducing lactate dehydrogenase and lactate kinase. You should intake enough BCAAs with your diet or consume BCAA supplements regularly. Make sure to not to consume 8-10 grams of BCAA a day without consulting a doctor

3. Decreases Mental Fatigue

BCAA reduces perceived mental fatigue by suppressing the production of serotonin. The serotonin hormone gives the brain the signal of fatigue and asks it to stop. BCAAs suppress serotonin production and increase oxytocin production. Oxytocin is the ‘love hormone’ that is important for your overall mental and physical well being. 

4. Helps to Burn Fats

If you are attempting to lose weight and gain muscle mass then these BCAAs can help you out. BCAA helps to burn fats and increase lean muscle mass by boosting the metabolic rate of the body. Branched-chain amino acids help to increase the resting energy expenditure (REE). BCAAs allow lipolytic hormone production.

5. Beneficial for Liver Diseases

Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs can help those who have any liver-related diseases, like cirrhosis or any chronic liver problems like hepatic encephalopathy. BCAAs also save you from liver cancer in people suffering from cirrhosis. Therefore, always consume a balanced diet that includes a proper amount of BCAAs.

Side Effects of BCAA Supplements

Usually, the branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs are completely free of any side effects. There are some side effects known to occur such as sudden muscle fatigue or problems in coordinations. But all of these problems can be resolved after your body gets accustomed to the BCAAs.

Also Read: 10 Best BCAA in India

BCAA Dosage for Women

Exercise TypeDosage
Normal Gym Schedule3-5 g per day
Rigorous Training12 g per day

BCAA Dosage for Men

Exercise TypeDosage
Normal Gym Schedule10-12 g per day
Rigorous Training15-20 g per day

BCAA Dosage for Bodybuilding

Leucine16 mg/kg bodyweight
Isoleucine10 mg/kg bodyweight
Valine16 g/kg bodyweight

BCAA Dosage for Weight Loss

BCAA works wonder in your body and tends to reduce hunger, therefore, reduces body fat. For weight loss, you need to consume 4-6 g of BCAA powder per servings.

Risk of BCAAs

Breastfeeding and Pregnant Women

Though the side effects of BCAA on any breastfeeding or pregnant woman is not noted. Still, to be on the safe side do not intake BCAAs supplements if you are pregnant or lactating. 

Children

BCAAs or Branched-chain amino acids are probably safe for the kids. But always consult a doctor before giving these BCAA supplements to any children. 

Surgery

BCAA can interact with blood sugar. Therefore, stop consuming BCAA supplements after any surgery for at least 2-3 months. Also, stop consuming these supplements 2 weeks prior to any surgery.

Also Read: 10 Best Creatine in India

Bottom Line

Usually, the BCAA or the branched-chain amino acid supplements come with a ratio of 2:1:1. Where leucine content remains 50% and isoleucine and valine come with 25% portions. These branched-chain amino acids come with ample health benefits. 

But if you are consuming enough BCAA per day from your natural foods, then consult a doctor before incorporating a supplement in your diet. 

Did you find this article helpful? Did we miss anything? Should we add anything more? Don’t forget to give your feedback in the comment section.

Dr. Pritpal Singh, MBBS
Dr. Pritpal Singh is amongst the best doctors in Kolkata who is specialized in Nutrition. Dr. Pritpal Singh practices at Addlife Caring Minds Clinic in Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata. A highly trained & specialist doctor who has completed MBBS, and has experience over 6 years as a practicing doctor in Nutrition.

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