Acting as the primary source of nitrogen for glutamine and alanine synthesis in the muscles, BCAAs are metabolized in the muscles rather than in the liver, which makes them safer to use in people with liver diseases. Since BCAAs do not have hepatic degradation, oral intake of BCAAs increases their levels in the blood and muscles.
BCAAs also increase the alanine level in the muscles. Then alanine enters into the alanine – glucose cycle, generating more energy and rebuilding glycogen stores. The most important cofactor for the proper metabolism of BCAAs is vitamin B6 followed by vitamin B3. Therefore, supplementation with vitamins B6 and B3 enhances the effectiveness of BCAAs.
Athletic Benefits of BCAAs:
- Increase protein synthesis.
- Help increase training strength and lean body mass.
- Improve exercise recovery.
- Delay muscle fatigue and onset of soreness after exercise (post – exercise exhaustion).
- Improve muscular endurance.
- May act as an insulin-mimetic.
- Enhance glucose synthesis via the alanine-glucose cycle.
- Act as powerful anti-catabolic agents in prolonged and intense exercise.
- Prevent from post-exercise rhabdomyolysis.
- Are helpful in weight management. Leucine decreases appetite and increases basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Non – Athletic Benefits of BCAAs:
BCAAs may be beneficial in the following conditions:
- Liver cirrhosis.
- Hepatic encephalopathy.
- Phenylketonuria (PKU). It is a genetic disorder characterized by an increase in phenylalanine levels in the blood and damage to the nervous system.
- As an anti-catabolic agent in severe burns, major surgeries, and trauma.
- Healing wounds and broken bones (leucine).
- May be helpful in treating addictions.
- May help control tardive dyskinesia. It is a movement disorder caused by antipsychotic medications and characterized by repetitive and involuntary movements.
- Useful in reducing symptoms of mania.
Contraindications and Interactions:
BCAAs should be avoided in the following conditions:
- Maple syrup urine disease (MSUD). It is a genetic disorder due to deficiency of an enzyme responsible for breaking down BCAAs and characterized by elevated blood levels of BCAAs and symptoms of involvement of the CNS (central nervous system).
- Ice Bucket Challenge Disease (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ALS).
- Sickle cell anemia.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- BCAAs should not be taken along with the following medications:
- Levodopa (anti – Parkinson medication): BCAAs decrease the absorption of levodopa.
- Insulin and anti-diabetic medications: BCAAs might lead to a severe drop in blood sugar levels.
- Diazoxide (a medication for high blood pressure): it reduces the effectiveness of BCAAs on protein synthesis by inhibiting the secretion of insulin from the pancreas and counteracting the insulin-like activity of BCAAs.
- Corticosteroids: they decrease the ability of BCAAs to synthesize proteins by offsetting their insulin-like activities.
- Thyroid hormones: they may decrease the metabolism of BCAAs.
BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) inhibit the transport of dietary tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier, leading to a decrease in the production of brain serotonin. Therefore, people with depression should avoid taking them or they should take them under the supervision of their doctors.
BCAAs are available as tablets, capsules, and powders. Athletes benefit from 5 – 15 grams a day taken before, during, and after exercise. BCAAs show better results when taken along with vitamin B – complex.
A combination of BCAAs, glutamine, arginine, creatine monohydrate, and vitamin B – complex, which is referred to as the “Abazar`s Pentad”, surely makes a wonder as a sports – performance enhancing blend!