As the term “BCAAs” has gained popularity in the fitness community, many gym-goers have sought to understand these essential amino acids and figure out whether the compounds have a place in their routine. In all, there are only three BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – each of which offers its own unique benefits to those focused on fitness. Since each person’s reason for exercising is different, it stands to reason that the amino acid or acids used by one person may not be the same as those chosen by another, so you might be wondering: “Which BCAA is right for me?” To learn more about these important compounds and whether you should choose one over the others, keep reading as the experts at aminoVITAL® – makers of BCAA supplements – offer their insight on the matter.
Choosing the Right BCAA for You
Upon hearing that there are three individual BCAAs and that each provides its own advantages, you may want to pick and choose from among these compounds to customize your fitness supplementation. First, though, determining the right BCAA for you will require learning what each of these compounds does, so we’ll cover that information below.
The most famous of the BCAAs, leucine, would make a great addition to any supplement regimen. This is the amino acid that tells your body it’s time to make more muscle proteins, so it’s a critical part of both recovering from intense exercise and building up your strength over time. As a bonus, some of the substances your body creates when processing leucine – which are called metabolites – provide some benefits, too; for instance, the one called beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) has been shown to protect muscle tissue from harm1. Arguably, these advantages make leucine the most important of the BCAAs, and it’s certainly the one on which there has been the most research, but it still lacks some of the benefits of the other two, so taking it alone may not be right for you.
Although their names are strikingly similar, isoleucine and leucine are actually very different compounds. Whereas leucine’s benefits center around building new muscle tissue, isoleucine works to help you make the most of those you already have during each workout. This amino acid can help improve your endurance by directing additional fuel – glucose – to your muscles as you exercise, and there’s some evidence2 to suggest that it may prevent some muscle damage, just like HMB. Isoleucine is even believed to help speed up your recovery after a workout, so it’s worth considering whether this is the right BCAA for you.
To be frank, there’s not much of a case for using valine on its own, although it does offer some of the same benefits as the other two BCAAs. For example, each BCAA can be used as emergency fuel during exercise, which means that the body doesn’t have to break down muscle tissue when its usual energy source – glycogen – runs out. Not only does this mean more energy during exercise, but it helps preserve your existing muscle mass – two definite benefits for any athlete.
Why All Three BCAAs May Be Right for You
While each of the first two BCAAs, leucine and isoleucine, offer strong cases for their use as fitness supplements – essentially leaving valine in the dust – the truth is that these compounds work best when they’re together, as the effects of one will often serve to enhance the benefits of the others. In fact, most studies3 into the effectiveness of BCAAs have focused on these amino acids as a set, rather than individual supplements, and some benefits can only be obtained when taking all three of them together.
A great example of this synergy can be found in the ability of BCAAs to fight fatigue. At the barrier between your bloodstream and your brain, certain amino acids are allowed through, but there are only so many pathways, so access for any one compound is limited. The BCAAs, in particular, compete with the aromatic amino acids – tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine – to get through, which serves to regulate the amounts of these compounds in the brain. When you exercise, however, your muscles claim your BCAAs for themselves, so amino acids like tryptophan can enter the brain in greater numbers. There, tryptophan is used to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to contribute to fatigue4 during exercise, so by taking a mid-workout BCAA supplement that includes all three branched-chain amino acids, you can restore competition at the blood-brain barrier and stop excess tryptophan – and, by extension, serotonin – from building up and causing fatigue.
That said, accepting that the three BCAAs work best together doesn’t address the fundamental question of whether BCAAs are right for you. For most athletes – those focused on building lean muscle, losing fat, gaining energy, and promoting recovery – the answer is probably yes; the only exceptions are for those who want to load up on calories to bulk up or whose bodies can’t tolerate BCAAs in general due to a rare disease. At the end of the day, however, figuring out if BCAAs are right for you will depend on your personal goals and circumstances, so the best policy may be simply to learn about these supplements and draw a conclusion for yourself.
Consider Whether Powerful, Fast-Acting BCAA Supplements Are Right for You
Considering all the fitness supplements out there, it can be tough to pick the right one, but the potent, fast-acting BCAA supplements from aminoVITAL® offer some benefits worth exploring. Our supplements are lean, with only 15 calories in the case of our Action mid-workout mix, and they provide optimized nutrition; our Rapid Recovery post-workout supplement, for instance, includes a dose of carbs to help your body restore its supply of glycogen after exercise. Learn more about how BCAAs may be right for you by visiting aminoVITAL® online or calling (888) 264-6673 today.