BCAA_moleculeSo imagine this — you made it to the gym, got your favorite tunes blasting through your headphones, you jump on the elliptical for 30 minutes of cardio; 5 minutes in, your heart rate is up and you’re already sweating buckets. That’s a good thing, right? (We like to think of sweat as our fat crying; so cry me a river, and blast that fat!) You’re kicking butt and on your way to creating a body that you love, right? As much as we wish it was this easy, it doesn’t always happen this way. The reason you aren’t seeing the results you crave might be smaller than you think. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle-building protein and have various functions related to cellular repair, muscle maintenance and muscle formation.

As folks who want to create superhero, lean and toned (think muscular!) bodies, we are concerned about three amino acids in particular, valine, leucine and isoleucine. These are the three major amino acids that are oxidized in skeletal muscle, and the three make up branched-chain amino acids (don’t get worried, the name just refers to their molecular structure!).
Branched-chain amino acids are essential amino acids (specifically, valine, leucine and isoleucine). “They are essential, meaning we must get them in our diet because our bodies do not produce them – Read more here. 
We’ve all heard of amino acids. Perhaps you remember them from 9th grade biology class, or have seen them listed on the ingredients in protein powders.

Dieting is catabolic, which mean it can lead to muscle breakdown. Carbohydrates are the number one energy source and fat is number two, but if adequate supply of dietary fat and cabs are not available, our body turns to its very own muscle for the fuel. During heavy long-bouts of exercise, amino acids can be stripped from our muscles, some of which are then converted into glucose for energy. That’s right sirs and ma’ams – our bodies catabolize aka break down muscle! This is bad. Not only does this cause muscle shrinkage, but it increases soreness and may lead to injuries. And, ain’t nobody got time for that! When caloric intake goes down (dieting for fat loss) or exercise frequency goes up (more muscle tears), protein requirement goes up.  In order to build and retain muscle (knowing that it’s being constantly broken down from cardio and resistance training), you need adequate protein intake and supplemental branch chain amino acids to replace what’s being lost. BCAAs actually stimulate protein synthesis and reduce the rate of protein breakdown!!! BCAA are essential amino acids, meaning that your body doesn’t make them and they must come from food sources. BCAA can be found in some foods and protein powders. So why would someone supplement with BCAA when you can get them in foods? Good question! The answer is that BCAAs in food or protein shakes are peptide-bound to other amino acids and in order to be effective, must be digested and then absorbed by the bloodstream. This process takes several hours. Supplemental BCAAs are free form, require zero digestion, and are quickly absorbed by the bloodstream impacting protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown in muscles right away. So what are the reasons for supplementing with BCAA:

1. Fasted cardio for rapid fat loss. Protect your muscles and get a small burst of energy, while doing cardio on an empty stomach! BCAA do not pass through the liver, thereby providing the body with an instant energy burst!

2. Muscle repair during muscular gains/weight lifting and long cardio sessions.

3. Protect muscle tissue when on a restrictive diet (think competition or fat loss diet; if you skip meals often; or are a vegetarian/vegan).

4. Healthy cheat (we love Muscle-Martini Peach Mango to make BCAA popsicles!) So there you have it – don’t neglect your BCAAs! We want to keep our fat crying and our muscles growing!

To get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox make sure to register for our email list!