The official BCAA definition includes any type of amino acid that has a chain that branches off to one side, also called “Branched-Chain Amino Acids”. This includes three out of eight essential amino acids in adults: leucine, isoleucine and valine. An amino acid considered as “essential” means that our bodies are unable to produce it on their own and that it needs to be obtained in sufficient quantities through the diet.
Branched-chain amino acids are three amino acids that are not degraded in the liver but in the muscles and this is why they could have a role in the energy produced during exercise.
Studies show that BCAAs have several effects. They can reduce the breakdown of protein during exercise, reduce muscle damage to sidestep soreness and speed up muscle recovery. They are crucial for the formation of new muscle and for the retention of existing muscle tissue. But it is important to note that for an optimization of muscle tissue synthesis, it is essential to have all the essential amino acids. As a result, branched-chain amino acids might limit perceptions of fatigue during prolonged physical efforts.
A deficiency in any one of these amino acids can lead to severe metabolic imbalances that can negatively impact the ability to build new muscle.
Athletes have higher needs in protein than sedentary people and both quality and quantity of protein is important. Athletes’ intake of essential amino acids, including BCAA (valine, isoleucine and leucine), need to be adequate along with sufficient energy intake and exercise, to support muscle growth, maintenance and repair.
Our BCAA levels can be naturally increased through our diet. The richest foods rich in this type of amino acid are meat (e.g. veal, lamb, pork, beef, game meat), poultry, seafood (e.g. whelk, cuttlefish), fish (e.g. trout, tuna, salmon), egg, dairy products (e.g. cheese, milk, Greek yogurt), legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, soybeans, lupins), soy products (e.g. tofu, tempeh, natto), potato, quinoa, buckwheat, seeds (e.g. hemp, pumpkin, sunflower) and nuts (e.g. almonds, pistachio).
In conclusion, our BCAA levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your BCAA levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.