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February 26, 2020

What are BCAAs?

Seen the ingredient on supplement packets but not sure what they actually are? BCAAs is short for branched-chain amino acids and they provide a number of benefits that can make the world of difference to your performance. You may be smashing your sessions on the mats, but the truth is that you probably haven't reached your full potential if you don't already incorporate BCAAs into your diet! There are 20 different amino acids that form thousands of different proteins in the body and nine of these are referred to as ‘essential’. These essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and therefore need to be obtained through outside sources. Three of these are BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine. The name describes their nonlinear chemical structure commonly found in protein-rich foods such as meat, dairy and eggs. Although they can’t be produced internally, BCAAs account for over one-third of protein in muscle tissue! They are rapidly absorbed and provide a strong source of fuel as they are primarily metabolised in the muscle and not broken down by the liver. 

You now know what they are, so what do they do? Some performance-enhancing benefits of BCAAs include:

Boosting muscle growth

Perhaps the most popular reason for consuming BCAAs is the impact on muscle growth. Leucine activates a pathway that prompts muscle protein synthesis, the process of muscles rebuilding after being broken down by exercise. A study of the effects on people consuming drinks containing BCAAs compared to placebo drinks revealed that those who consumed a drink containing 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their resistance band workout experienced a 22% increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to the placebo group.


Minimising exercise-induced fatigue

BCAAs help reduce both peripheral and central fatigue caused by exercise. Peripheral fatigue (when the muscles are tired) is minimised as BCAAs provide an additional source of energy for the body to draw upon during a workout so you can work harder for longer. After you’ve depleted your glycogen levels, you can then draw upon BCAAs for an extra boost of power. Central fatigue (mental exhaustion) can also be prevented as BCAAs block the amino acid tryptophan from entering the brain. Tryptophan converts into serotonin, a chemical nerve responsible for inciting feelings of relaxation and tiredness.


Decreasing muscle soreness

Muscle soreness caused by exercise is referred to as DOMS: delayed onset muscle soreness. DOMS can develop anywhere between 12 and 24 hours post-workout and can last for up to 72 hours. Whilst this is a normal occurrence, it can be a nuisance if you’re ready to get back in the gym and want to build on the hard work from your previous training session. BCAAs help counteract soreness by decreasing protein breakdown during exercise and lowering levels of creatine kinase, an enzyme that leaks out of muscle damage.


Preventing muscle wasting

Muscle wasting occurs when the process of breaking down muscle proteins exceeds muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs account for 35% of essential amino acids on muscles and are used by the body during exercise. Not only is it crucial to replenish your BCAA stores, but having a sufficient amount of BCAAs means your body is less likely to eat away at its own amino acid stores. This protects your muscles and ensures that they keep building and getting stronger.


When should you consume BCAAs?

Although the benefits are clear, timing is a crucial factor in maximising positive results. Taking BCAAs pre and post-workout is crucial. Consuming BCAAs before exercising provides a valuable boost of energy to prolong your training session, improve performance, and reduce DOMS. After a workout, consuming BCAAs is beneficial to increase your muscle gains and improve recovery, preventing your body from burning muscles instead of building them.

Sold on the benefits and ready maximise your performance? Octane is packed with BCAAs that are sourced from plants through a natural fermentation process to produce a clean, high-quality product that will immediately fuel your muscles with a surge of power when you need it most.