The branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are three essential amino acids that cannot be made within the body and must be obtained through diet: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are primarily processed inside the mitochondria of muscle cells, making them extremely effective at stimulating muscle building. Although protein in general is needed to stimulate muscle growth, BCAAs and especially leucine are particularly vital to muscle growth and repair. In fact, studies have shown that protein blends without leucine did not actually stimulate muscle development. When taken before and after exercise, BCAAs can prevent protein breakdown and enhance recovery time by reducing muscle soreness.
BCAAs can also help prevent muscle loss in people in weakened conditions. They support muscle maintenance, and have the unique ability to promote muscle growth in non-exercising muscles when other muscles are worked. As a result, BCAAs are indicated for frail and elderly people just as much as strength athletes and exercise enthusiasts to promote strength and independence. BCAAs may also help control blood sugar and insulin, and have been suggested to help balance mood.
Any bodybuilder or competitive athlete will know the importance of supplementing with BCAAs to enhance their muscular health and performance, and so should you.