Fitness supplements have reached a point in recent years where they are readily available at stores around the country, including supermarkets, drug stores, and a wide variety of other establishments. This ubiquitousness has bred a newfound familiarity with these products among the fitness-oriented, especially those based on whole proteins from whey, soy, or other sources. More recently, amino acid-based supplements have been gaining popularity for their effectiveness and lean nutritional profile, but there are still many questions out there regarding the exact effects these supplements have on the body. One topic that is seldom discussed is how amino acids, and especially BCAAs, affect insulin and blood sugar, both while eating normally and during periods of fasting. If you engage in intermittent fasting or some other type of calorie-restricted diet, you may wonder: Do BCAAs spike insulin during a fast? To find out, keep reading as the people at amino acid workout supplement company aminoVITAL® explain.
What are BCAAs?
Within our bodies exist many types of amino acids; some are produced through various natural processes, but some must be obtained from outside sources. All told, there are 20 amino acids that serve as the basis for many of our body’s hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and tissues, but 11 of those we can make for ourselves – leaving nine, the “essential” amino acids, to come from foods and supplements. Of those nine compounds, three are well-regarded as effective amino acids for improving athletic performance: These are the “branched-chain amino acids,” more commonly referred to as the BCAAs, and they’re known as leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
The most well-known of the three BCAAs, leucine serves one primary role, and it’s a big one: Leucine is responsible for telling our bodies to synthesize new skeletal muscle. In other words, it’s leucine that gives us bigger biceps and stronger quads, and without it we’d see few, if any, gains after a workout.
Though its role may be more complicated, isoleucine is just as important as its similar-sounding big brother. Whereas leucine works to improve strength, isoleucine improves endurance by ensuring a steady flow of energy (in the form of glucose) to the muscles; it can also help speed up your post-workout recovery.
It might get the least attention, but valine serves a key role nonetheless. This amino acid helps to protect your muscles from damage caused by physical exertion, and it supports a variety of important functions in the body, such as cognition and the immune system.
How Do BCAAs Affect Insulin and Blood Sugar?
Branched-chain amino acids have a somewhat complicated relationship with insulin and blood glucose. While some research has shown that greater levels of BCAAs may cause insulin resistance – a condition in which insulin is less effective at moving glucose into cells – the majority of evidence1 says that taking these amino acids as a fitness supplement does not negatively impact a person’s ability to use insulin.
But let’s take a moment to cover the basics: Spikes in insulin generally accompany spikes in blood sugar, since insulin is part of the body’s response to the appearance of glucose. Without insulin, the glucose in your blood can’t be used by cells and will instead simply circulate throughout the body, building up over time until it causes problems. However, in healthy individuals, the pancreas will release more insulin into the bloodstream to ensure that the glucose serves its intended purpose: to provide energy to the cells of the body.
Since spikes in blood sugar are generally caused by the consumption of food – especially simple carbohydrates, such as sugar – supplements based on amino acids tend not to cause a spike. That’s because BCAA supplements generally do not contain much aside from the amino acids themselves and a few vitamins and minerals, none of which is turned into glucose. However, being in a fasting state can complicate the situation somewhat.
How BCAAs Affect Insulin During a Fast
The ways in which branched-chain amino acids affect insulin while fasting haven’t been well-studied, and as a result, the effects of BCAA supplementation during that period of time are unclear. What’s known is that fasting tends to reduce insulin levels while improving insulin sensitivity, which helps people better control their hunger and promotes weight loss.
However, even a small amount of carbs can impede this process, and BCAAs in particular may further limit the effectiveness of a fast, though they should be fine to consume during periods where you’re eating normally. Under normal circumstances, these amino acids don’t have much effect on insulin, but a fasting body tends to be much more sensitive to even slight changes in blood glucose levels, so even introducing the tiny amount of carbs in an amino acid supplement may be enough to throw off the process of insulin reduction. The truth is, we just don’t know.
Try Fast, Effective Amino Acid Supplements Made with BCAAs
Although BCAAs may throw off your fast a bit, these effects would seem to be very minor, and they’re pretty much nonexistent if you’re consuming your supplement during periods when you can eat. Amino acid supplements like the pre-workout drink and post-workout supplement from aminoVITAL® contain almost no carbs and very few calories, so they’re the perfect thing for building stronger, leaner muscles and supporting your body before, during, and after a workout. If you’d like to learn more about the newest, most advanced form of fitness supplement on the market, visit aminoVITAL® online or call (888) 264-6673 today.