When it comes to building muscles, engaging in intense and regular physical workouts aren’t enough. You’ll have to combine exercise with a healthy diet composed primarily of proteins as these contain amino acids, which help build muscles. In this regard, what is the specific amino acid for muscle growth? Plus, how exactly do amino acids help in building muscles?
Overview: Amino Acids
As mentioned, proteins are made up of amino acids, which are referred to as their building blocks. There are more than 500 varieties of amino acids, but in terms of protein synthesis, which refers to the process of new muscle tissue formation, there are only nine considered to be essential.
Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body; thus, you must get them from supplements or food. The nine essential amino acids include histidine, methionine, tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine, lysine, valine, isoleucine, and leucine.
The last three amino acids mentioned, namely, valine, isoleucine, and leucine are vital for those who wish to form muscle mass. These three are referred to as branched-chain amino acids that are critical in the new muscle tissue formation.
What are the Branched-Chain Amino Acids?
With regards to these amino acids being “branched-chain,” it refers to its chemical structures often observed in the chemical structures of protein-rich food like dairy products, meat, and eggs.
From the three branched-chain amino acids, leucine is the driving force of muscle-building. You can unlock its full potential if you consume around 2 to 3 grams in one sitting at least three times daily according to research.
Benefits of BCAAs
Branched-chain amino acids primarily aid in building muscles, but their other benefits are as follows.
1. Boost Muscle Growth
In this regard, the branched-chain amino acid that helps in increasing muscle growth is leucine. This is because it activates a pathway that, in turn, triggers muscle protein synthesis. A study showed that individuals who consumed at least 5.6 grams of branched-chain amino acids right after a workout showed a 22 percent rise in muscle protein synthesis.
2. Reduces Soreness of Muscles
After an intense workout, the muscles are bound to feel sore. In some cases, the muscles feel sore after a day or two since the exercise, especially if the moves are new. Such muscle soreness is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. This condition develops approximately 12 to 24 hours after a workout and is likely to last for 72 hours.
While the exact reason for DOMS has yet to be identified, studies claim it is due to the slight tears in the muscles. In this regard, branched-chain amino acids can help minimize muscle damage that, in turn, reduces the severity and length of DOMS
Moreover, individuals who take branched-chain amino acid supplements before a workout are most likely to experience a reduction in muscle fatigue and DOMS. It can also hasten one’s recovery time.
3. Decrease Fatigue Due to Exercise
Aside from helping minimize muscle soreness from an intense workout, branched-chain amino acids also help in reducing fatigue caused by exercise. One’s stamina after, during, and before a workout depends on the exercise duration and intensity, fitness level, and an individual’s nutrition.
During a workout, the muscles utilize branched-chain amino acids, which cause a reduction of their levels in the blood. Once these decline, tryptophan, another amino acid, increases in the brain which is then converted to serotonin. This brain chemical contributes to the feelings of fatigue right after or during a workout.
Studies suggest that supplementing with branched-chain amino acids can improve one’s mental focus while exercising. This can help reduce the fatigue-inducing effect of decreasing levels of branched-chain amino acids.
4. Inhibit Wasting of Muscles
Another benefit of branched-chain amino acids is that it can inhibit the breakdown or wasting of the muscles. Even though the muscle proteins go through a constant phase of break down and rebuild, there could likely be an imbalance between the synthesis and breakdown of protein muscles.
If protein breakdown exceeds the synthesis of muscle protein, then a breakdown of muscle wasting occurs. Muscle wastage is indicative of malnutrition and is often associated with cancer, chronic infection, and periods of fasting.
Since branched-chain amino acids account for approximately 40 percent of the total amino acids needed by the body, these must be replaced, especially in times of muscle wastage. By inhibiting the breakdown of muscle protein, it directly improves the quality of living and health outcomes, particularly for individuals suffering from wasting diseases such as cancer and the elderly.
5. Aids Individuals with Liver Disease
Individuals suffering from cirrhosis, which is a chronic liver disease where the organ no longer functions optimally, can experience an improvement in health with the help of branched-chain amino acids.
According to research, supplementing with branched-chain amino acids can help minimize the signs and symptoms of the disease. Additional studies also claim that branched-chain amino acid supplements protect individuals with liver cirrhosis from liver cancer.
Do BCAAs Help Build Muscle?
In terms of building muscles, how effective are branched-chain amino acids? For one, bodybuilders and athletes have long utilized such supplements to help improve exercise recovery, improve glucose disposal, increase protein synthesis, increase gluconeogenesis, increase energy, increase muscle endurance, and increase muscular hypertrophy.
Research also suggests that leucine, isoleucine, and valine help improve an individual’s hand and eye coordination. Moreover, a study conducted in 2009 claims that supplementing with branched-chain amino acids help decrease the percentage of body fat and improve lean mass.
The study took eight weeks where the individuals were subject to resistance training. While one group received 14 grams of branched-chain amino acid supplements, the other groups consumed 28 grams of carbohydrates and 28 grams of whey protein.
After the study, researchers concluded that the individuals who consumed supplemental branched-chain amino acids had a greater increase in lean mass as well as a significant decrease in body fat. So, to sum it up, branched-chain amino acids indeed help in building muscles.
However, before taking any supplements, it is advised that you first consult with your primary caregiver. This is to guarantee that the supplements you take do not interact with any prescription drugs you are currently on.