BCAAs account for roughly 40% of your dietary essential amino acid requirement. They have been found to reduce muscle soreness from intense muscle-damaging exercise and improve training motivation, especially when fatigued. BCAA’s can signal protein synthesis, improve insulin signaling, recovery, and prevent muscle tissue breakdown.
BCAA’s are unique it that they are anabolic and anti-catabolic, and can increase both cortisol and insulin. This makes them great for training, but outside of training they are conditionally beneficial. The easiest way to think of it is that BCAA’s taken in a low calorie meal , and pre training, are anti-catabolic. While BCAA’s taken in the presence of high protein and carb meals are anabolic.
Normally when you train your body increases protein degrading compounds to break down BCAA’s for fuel, but when you take them through diet before training you actually inhibit this catabolic response on a transcription level, turning off the manufacturing of the catabolic compounds. The same applies for periods between meals or when using a lower carbohydrate diet. It is suggested that muscle is designed to burn BCAAs for energy during exercise, making BCAA intake and muscle reserves essential for performance.
BCAA’s are both muscle sparing and performance enhancing because they feed the citric acid cycle. As you train your body oxidizes BCAA’s either from dietary intake or your own muscle tissues. Branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase complex (BCKDH) breaks down the BCAAs into Acyl-CoA which can be converted into Acetyl-CoA or Succinuly-CoA, each of which can enter your ATP producing citric acid cycle. Your citric acid cycle is the energy source of choice during high intensity training like weight training or HIIT. It provides fast energy to help you recover between sets. It runs of they break down of amino acids or glucose.
Because BCAA’s are highly glycogenic, they can be converted to glucose increasing the glycemic load and insulin load of meal. This can be of value in a post training meals, but the first meal of the day is probably not a good place to take high doses of BCAAs if your goal is fat loss. The exceptions would be if this is also your pre-training meal, or you are having a low carb/calorie breakfast need to supplement some BCAA’s for the anti-catabolic effects. When dieting down, using supplemental BCAA’s as a low calorie snack between meals with some greens is a great way to combat catabolism and keep calories low and fat burning going. But over 10 grams will likely shut of fat burning in this case.
Studies show young adults who consume more BCAA’s have more lean body mass and People who consume a threshold dose of essential amino acids that contain BCAAs with every meal have less visceral belly fat and more muscle mass.
Adequate BCAA intake can improve glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity. BCAAs can actually stimulate insulin dependent transport of amino acids into the cells.