Although protein-based fitness supplements have dominated the market for many years, amino acids have made a fairly recent foray into the field of supplementation and have been steadily gaining a following. This is largely thanks to the many advantages amino acid supplements offer over other, more traditional supplements, such as those that contain whole proteins. Even the ever-popular whey protein doesn’t stand a chance against this new contender; amino acids are faster, leaner, and more efficient than their conventional counterparts, so they’ve understandably been gaining traction as a more advanced alternative. However, because they’re so new, there are still some (quite reasonable) questions surrounding how amino acids – and a specific subset of amino acids called BCAAs – affect the body. One question that’s frequently asked has to do with blood sugar and insulin: Do BCAAs spike insulin? To find out, keep reading as the people at aminoVITAL® provide the answer.
What Are BCAAs?
To understand BCAAs, it helps to know some basics about amino acids in general. For those who don’t remember their high school biology class, amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein. This means that they make up not only the whole proteins found in foods and supplements, but also the various types of proteins our bodies make to survive: enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other crucial compounds that help us stay healthy.
Though there are a great many amino acids in existence, 20 particular amino acids serve as the basis for all others that we use and produce. Within this set of 20, nine are referred to as the “essential” amino acids because our bodies can’t produce them on their own and have to get them from foods or other outside sources, such as supplements. A closer look at these key amino acids reveals that three in particular feature a unique shape; these are the branched-chain amino acids, more often referred to as BCAAs.
These compounds – called leucine, isoleucine, and valine – provide most of the fitness-related benefits of not only amino acid supplements but also the more common protein-based supplements we’ve all come to know.
- Leucine is the amino acid responsible for telling our bodies to produce more muscle tissue, leading to bigger biceps and stronger quads after exercise.
- Isoleucine is the compound that keeps energy flowing into our muscles, providing increased endurance; it also helps speed up the recovery process after each workout.
- Valine works to protect our muscles from being excessively damaged during exercise, and it serves a number of other support roles in the body as well.
Now that you’ve met the three BCAAs, let’s address the question at hand. Do BCAAs cause a spike in insulin levels? Let’s find out.
How Blood Sugar and Insulin Work
Again, let’s start with the basics. Spikes in blood sugar have long been associated with diabetes, but they are actually a phenomenon that affects almost all human beings. When we consume carbohydrates – especially simple carbs like sugar – our system breaks it down and converts it into glucose, the body’s main form of energy. Regardless of what you may have heard, blood sugar is vital for all of us, since it powers our cells and keeps us moving. However, this glucose can’t be used on its own; to get into the cells and provide energy, glucose needs the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas.
When our blood sugar rises in response to carbohydrate consumption, our pancreas releases insulin to help put that sugar to use as fuel; in other words, when our blood sugar spikes, so too does the amount of insulin in our bloodstream. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as insulin is a vital part of what keeps us alive, but spikes in blood sugar have been linked to a variety of harmful health conditions, including heart disease, and they can be deadly to those with diabetes.
How BCAAs Affect Insulin and Blood Sugar
One of the biggest advantages of BCAAs and amino acid supplements in general is that they’re generally much leaner than traditional protein supplements. When you drink a protein shake or mix some protein powder into a glass of milk or water, you are often consuming a significant amount of calories and carbs (in the form of sugar) along with that protein; that sugar can very quickly be converted into glucose in the body, leading to a spike in blood sugar and insulin.
By comparison, amino acid-based products like those from aminoVITAL® have very few calories or carbs – in fact, many of our products, such as our Fast Charge pre-workout mix, have only a single gram of carbs and no sugar at all – which makes them essentially a wash where blood sugar is concerned. Only our Rapid Recovery post-workout drink has carbs (12 grams overall, and only 2 grams of sugar), and that’s because consuming some simple carbs immediately after a workout can help replenish your body’s supply of glycogen – a type of glucose stored in the muscles and used as fuel for exercise.
In short, the answer to your question is this: BCAAs have little effect on blood sugar or insulin, especially when compared to conventional protein supplements. BCAA supplements from aminoVITAL® skip the excess calories and sugar and provide only those ingredients essential to your performance and recovery: amino acids, vitamins, and (only when truly necessary) a few grams of carbohydrates that serve a scientifically sound purpose.
Healthy, Effective Amino Acid Supplements Available Today from aminoVITAL®
If you lead an active lifestyle and like the idea of a fitness supplement stripped of all but the most necessary nutrients, try a supplement from aminoVITAL® today. Each of our amino acid-based products offers efficient, effective support to help you push harder and recover faster, without causing unwanted spikes in insulin or blood sugar. Learn more about aminoVITAL® supplements by visiting us online or calling (888) 264-6673 today.