Anyone who works out regularly can tell you that pushing through a tough routine takes more than physical strength. Keeping yourself motivated set after set, lap after lap requires a certain kind of focus and concentration; without that edge, it’s all too easy to find yourself losing out to your body’s desire for rest. That’s why so many people – from athletes to casual gym-goers – take supplements that claim to boost cognitive functions, whether in the form of vitamins, caffeine, or other compounds. As one of the newest, most advanced types of supplements on the market, BCAAs have been steadily gaining a respectable following in the sports world, but do BCAAs help with cognitive functions? To find out, keep reading as the team at aminoVITAL®, makers of amino acid supplements for fitness buffs, tackles this topic head-on.
How BCAAs Help Cognitive Functions During Exercise
The three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are leucine, isoleucine, and valine – all compounds that are known to provide a wealth of benefits during exercise, particularly for the muscles. However, an examination of how amino acid supplement work reveals that they play some important roles in cognitive functions, especially for those in the middle of a workout. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of BCAA supplements comes in the form of their ability to prevent fatigue by affecting what chemicals can enter the brain1.
If you eat a diet rich in protein or take a pre-workout BCAA supplement before your routine, you’ll already have some BCAAs in your system when you start your workout. As you exert yourself and tax your body, your muscles start to soak up the BCAAs in your bloodstream. You see, the three BCAAs are integral to the process of muscle protein synthesis – the method by which your body repairs and reinforces the muscle fibers damaged by exercise – along with a number of other processes that protect and fuel the muscles, so they’re typically needed as your routine progresses. However, this reduction in the concentration of BCAAs in your blood has a negative consequence, too – one relating to cognitive functions during exercise.
Normally (as in, when you’re at rest), the BCAAs in your bloodstream compete with other amino acids, such as tryptophan, for entry into the brain across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This competition serves to limit the movement of tryptophan into the brain, and since tryptophan is used to create the neurotransmitter serotonin, BCAAs limit the production of this substance as well. In effect, this allows BCAAs to guard your cognitive functions by regulating your levels of serotonin, a compound thought to affect a person’s mood and energy levels, and which can contribute to fatigue during workouts – a condition known as central nervous system fatigue, or simply central fatigue2.
As your muscles pull BCAAs out of circulation, they free up space at the BBB for tryptophan to enter the brain, and as tryptophan levels rise, so too does the amount of serotonin. To prevent this increase – and the associated uptick in fatigue – during your next workout, consider taking a mid-workout BCAA supplement, as the amino acids they contain can restore the balance in your blood and help with cognitive functions by warding off feelings of tiredness as you exercise.
Additional Benefits of BCAAs for Cognitive Functions
Although the BCAA supplements offered by aminoVITAL® are intended solely for use as a fitness supplement, there is some interesting research going on involving BCAAs and cognitive functions that is worth mentioning here. For starters, BCAAs play a second role in the body’s neurological processes in addition to their fatigue-fighting one: these amino acids are necessary to create two compounds, glutamate and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA)3.
The first of these is an example of what’s called an excitatory neurotransmitter, which means it’s necessary to send signals between brain cells; the second, GABA, is also a neurotransmitter, one that’s thought to produce a calming effect. In fact, many people take a form of GABA supplement to reduce stress or fight anxiety, though there is little research or evidence to back up these claims, other than the anecdotal kind.
Another interesting point to note about these amino acids is that there is a growing body of scientific evidence to suggest that BCAA supplementation could be an effective treatment for those with certain forms of epilepsy. A 2019 review4 that looked at a number of different studies found that, in most experiments, BCAAs had “potent anti-seizure effects.” However, the review also noted the existence of conflicting evidence that calls into doubt the usefulness of BCAAs as a long-term epilepsy treatment, so the debate is still very much ongoing.
Try aminoVITAL® BCAA Supplements to Boost Cognitive Functions and Support Performance During Exercise
While the jury is still out on the ability of BCAAs to soothe anxiety or influence epilepsy, there is significantly more evidence to support the idea that BCAAs can help with cognitive functions during exercise by limiting tryptophan uptake and serotonin production. If you’ve ever experienced the gradual slowing of your body as your routine goes on, think about how helpful it could be to stop this detrimental process before it starts, allowing you to stay energized and push your body for longer periods of time. To learn more about how BCAAs help with cognitive functions, muscle production, energy levels, and a variety of other important factors when working out, visit aminoVITAL® online or call us today at (888) 264-6673.