The BCAA’s (Branched chain amino acids) are those essential amino acids (Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine) whose molecular structure contains several side chains attached to its basic configuration. They are called essential amino acids because we need to consume them through our diet, since the body is incapable of synthesizing them itself.
These amino acids are then caught by the muscle, in fact, our muscles feel much enjoyment from branched chain amino acids they sometimes absorb them in excess. This forces them to assist the muscles in synthesizing other amino acids necessary for the anabolic process. So they work in a similar way to anabolic steroids, but in a safe way. Once BCAA’s leave the liver and muscle, the carbon skeleton of these amino acids is used as fuel, while nitrogen residues form the amino acid alanine. Alanine is then transported to the liver where it is converted to glucose (gluconeogenesis). Consequently, this glucose is returned to the skeletal muscles to be used as fuel (glucose-alanine cycle).
Therefore, ingestion of BCAA’s may mean a net decrease in the amount of protein in the muscles that has to break down, which presents an application for strength and stamina athletes. Additionally, in a state of carbohydrate exhaustion, the intake of BCAA’s can save the use of muscle glycogen.
Another form of ergogenic activity of these amino acids (especially leucine) is stimulation of insulin production. this means the cells will take more blood glucose for use as an energy source. Insulin works together with the BCAA’s to drive all the other amino acids (except tryptophan) up to the muscles, which will be used later as a structural component of muscle tissue.
In short, branched amino acids have a key position in the ergogenic aid. They stimulate two of the most sought after effects in sports performance: energy production for muscle work and the natural anabolic process within the muscle cells.
BCAA’s should be taken 15-30 minutes before each workout, in doses of 1-4 grams of each amino acid. It is advisable to take adequate amounts of vitamin B6, which acts as a cofactor in the conversion reactions of amino acids. Also, the 3 amino acids, leucine, valine and isoleucine, must be available at the same time to ensure maximum body absorption and at different times to the intake of tryptophan and tyrosine since BCAA’s block their absorption.