There are 3 main reasons as to why you’d look to take a BCAA supplement.
Energy, reducing muscle breakdown during training or Protein synthesis for recovery/muscle growth
If you are looking for some extra energy whilst you train then BCAA’s can be used, but BCAA’s are not utilised in a very efficient way.
The reason for this is that the amino acids get converted in the liver into glucose by a process called gluconeogenesis, which can be useful, but not as effectively as a normal carb drink.
However, if you are looking to spare your muscle tissue during training, and not become too catabolic and start burning your muscle for energy from insufficient glucose stores, then taking a BCAA could prove extremely useful.
Now we come on to Protein synthesis or the “Holy Grail” to putting on lots of good quality muscle.
Lets have a look at the science quickly, which will allow us to ascertain if a individual BCAA supplement is at all beneficial for you to take.
For protein synthesis to take place a switch need to be flicked on within your body that basically say’s “Time to start repairing your muscles”
This vital switch is called mTOR, or Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Complex 1.
mTOR gets switched on with insulin, testosterone and variety of amino acids in particular the amino acid leucine, and allows us to put on more muscle and will increase various hormones such as IGF-1.
If you were overly muscular aka Mr Olympia Phil Heath then I would suspect overactive mTOR amongst other things.
So to answer your question of whether BCAA’s are worth taking, it’s Yes and No answer depending on what you actually want them to do for you.
If you were looking to have a little extra energy to get you through your workouts, or to keep hold of that hard-earned muscle then yes they’d be fairly useful.
However, if you are looking for them to optimise protein synthesis by turning the mTOR pathway on then this is slightly more complex issue, and will largely depending on the specific genes associated with amino acid and in particular leucine absorption/conversion.
So unless you’ve had a DNA Test and established your ability to utilise BCAA’s then I’d recommend using a Whey Isolate straight after training.
As the spectrum of amino acids is far greater, and will improve your chances of mTOR activation.
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