What are BCAAs and what are they for?

by Natalia Urdiales April 01, 2021

Branched Amino Acids, Explained:

Many of us have heard of the famous BCAAs or perhaps seen bottles in supplement stores that say BCAAs on the label, but; What are they really? They can be of great help if we know how to use them properly in our lives and understand or stop believing that they are a supplement; actually these branched-chain amino acids are found in many foods that we eat in our daily lives. Later we will talk about them and you will discover the reason for their great importance in our life and health.


What are they?

BCAA’s are Branched Amino Acids, there are only 3 in all of our nutrition, these are:

  • Valine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine

The term comes from its acronym in English: Branched-Chain Amino Acids, thus abbreviated BCAA's, they're called branched due to their structure since they have an aliphatic compound and are non-linear amino acids, this gives them the characteristic of being the 3 most hydrophobic amino acids from the 20 amino acids of our nutrition.


Why are these 3 so necessary?

All our tissues and skeletal muscles are composed of these three amino acids, and they are very important in the synthesis of proteins, that is why they are used in the clinical hospital area for people who have suffered from burns and need to repair skin and tissues, it serves them a lot. Let's not forget also its great use in the sports area that helps to repair muscles.


Physical and structural characteristics of BCAAs:

The amino acid side chains are what give the molecular characterization of each of the 20 amino acids their unique properties. In the case of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, these side chains are called aliphatic, a general term that designates organic compounds composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms, which do not contain a benzene-like ring. All 3 BCAAs contain a 3- or 4-carbon side chain and are of virtually the same molecular weight (leucine 131.17 g / mol; isoleucine 131.17 g / mol; valine 117.15 g / mol). Together, the three branched chain amino acids account for approximately 33% of all amino acids in the body.


Recommended dose:

A large proportion of these three amino acids are found in skeletal muscle, where they act as a structural element and as a store for systemic nitrogen. They are known as essential amino acids, which means that mammals cannot synthesize them on their own, requiring that we consume them forcibly in food.

The human body should consume approximately 40, 20 and 19 mg / kg / day of leucine, valine and isoleucine (essential amino acids), respectively. Together this represents a total of about 5.5 g / day for a 70 kg adult. Vegans can obtain sufficient amounts to meet their needs by judiciously consuming soy protein and other vegetarian products.

The role of BCAAs in sport:

Many professionals in the health area recommend the healthy intake of BCAAs for physical activity and people with an active life where there is a lot of muscular activity, since these benefit the growth of the muscles, prevent muscle depletion and also, if that were not enough, they help to recover faster from muscle tissues.


What goes well with BCAAs?

Thanks to human physiology we can know that it is advisable to take BCAAs in conjunction with other proteins (that is, with other amino acids) since they work better that way, and it is also advisable to consume them in conjunction with vitamins, especially the B complex. It is recommended to consume them in complete protein powders, almost all protein powders contain BCAAs and a great example of this is Falcon Protein.



Before or after exercise?

There really is no better or worse time to consume BCAAs, although according to scientific literature, everything indicates that it is better before training, whether it is consumed in an isolated supplement (that is, only the 3 branched chain amino acids) or in protein powder, It has been found to greatly help replenish muscles after heavy workouts.


What other benefits do BCAAs have?

Recent studies have found that long-term supplementation of BCAAs could potentially improve liver function and slow liver complications. It is also said that frequent consumption of these promotes sarcopenia to be avoided, a condition that we will all have at some point in our lives since we are in the aging process that deals with the loss of muscle mass with the passage of time. Years, if we do not eat in the correct way and do not contribute with our diet sufficient amounts of BCAAs, we will have significant muscle losses: that is its importance.


What you should take into account:

It has been discovered in recent scientific studies that the excessive consumption of BCAAs in the diet in people who suffer from obesity is somewhat counterproductive, and not only in reference to their being consumed as a dietary supplement but also consumed in protein food sources such as seeds, meats, fish , egg, dairy, etc. What the studies point out lately is that the high consumption of BCAAs should be exclusive to people who practice physical activities to regain muscle and create new tissues of good quality.

A person who does not do physical activity and consumes an excess of proteins and branched-chain amino acids, whether in supplement or not, may be at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance and dyslipidemia. But in a person who practices physical activities frequently and has a healthy intake of BCAAs, it is quite beneficial and healing since the body is using them in metabolism.


f you want to discover more tips that will benefit your health, remember that you can explore our Birdman Blog and you will surely find something that catches your eye!

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  1. Mero, A., Leikas, A., Knuutinen, J., Hulmi, J. J., & Kovanen, V. (2009). Effect of strength training session on plasma amino acid concentration following oral ingestion of leucine, BCAAs or glutamine in men. European journal of applied physiology105(2), 215.
  2. Cole, J. T. (2015). Metabolism of BCAAs. In Branched Chain Amino Acids in Clinical Nutrition (pp. 13-24). Humana Press, New York, NY.
  3. Szpetnar, M., Pasternak, K., & Boguszewska, A. (2004). Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) in heart diseases (ischaemic heart disease and myocardial infarction). In Annales Universitatis Mariae Curie-Sklodowska. Sectio D: Medicina (Vol. 59, No. 2, pp. 91-95).
  4. Caplan, B., Bogner, J., Brenner, L., Malec, J., Sharma, B., Lawrence, D. W., & Hutchison, M. G. (2018). Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and traumatic brain injury: a systematic review. Journal of head trauma rehabilitation33(1), 33-45.
  5. NAGASAWA, H., IKEDA, T., & GOMI, I. (2017). Is it effective on physical function improvement combined therapy of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and low intensity exercise in frail and pre-frail elderly people requiring long-term care?. BIOPHILIA2017(2), 63-63.
  6. Park, J. G., Tak, W. Y., Park, S. Y., Kweon, Y. O., Jang, S. Y., Lee, Y. R., ... & Lee, H. J. (2018). O-113: Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) on the Progression of Advanced Liver Disease a Korean Nation wide, Multicenter, Prospective, Observational, Cohort Study. 춘· 추계 학술대회 (KASL)2018(1), 69-69.
  7. Blomstrand, E., Eliasson, J., Karlsson, H. K., & Köhnke, R. (2006). Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. The Journal of nutrition136(1), 269S-273S.
  8. Blomstrand, E., & Saltin, B. (2001). BCAA intake affects protein metabolism in muscle after but not during exercise in humans. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism281(2), E365-E374.

Natalia Urdiales
Natalia Urdiales


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