Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids composed of valine, leucine and isoleucine and the fusion of these three would make up just about one-third of the skeletal muscle tissue. They play a crucial role in the synthesis of protein and muscle building. Essential amino acids are not naturally produced in the body and are acquired through the diet or supplements.
Amino acids are considered as the building blocks of protein. It is during the process of digestion where proteins are broken down to amino acids and are absorbed into the system. Once absorbed, they can be utilized to make new proteins or used as fuel in order to produce energy.
If the body has adequate supply of these essential amino acids then it can be used to synthesize protein in order to optimize body performance. And among the essential amino acids, leucine is the most critical BCAA since it has anti-catabolic abilities and plays a very important role in protein synthesis. BCAAs are also important to reduce fatigue in endurance and anaerobic sports. Therefore, taking in BCAA supplementation is important to athletes.
Branched chain amino acids also act as carriers of nitrogen that would assist the muscles synthesize other amino acids that are needed in the building new tissues. This is because the BCAAs are metabolized in skeletal muscles and not in the liver, giving the muscles direct access to protein. This is also the reason why they are easily broken down during extreme activities such as exercise and the need to increase their supply during this period.
Aside from that BCAAs has the ability to delay the start of “central exhaustion” (fatigue in the central nervous system). These BCAAs have an access to the blood brain barrier and are used by many neurotransmitters in the proper functioning of the nervous system. These neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA; will affect the sensations for mood, pain, fatigue and drive.
Take for example; tryptophan is a forerunner to serotonin that depresses the central nervous system and cause fatigue. If there is a decrease supply of BCAAs this will increase the levels tryptophan thus exhaustion is felt. So supplementing with BCAAs will decrease the levels of tryptophan thus delaying the feelings of fatigue.
Furthermore, these amino acids would help in the maintenance and repair of the tendons and muscles after exercise or any form of injury to the muscle. This is because these BCAAs are part of collagen production and the preservation of connective tissues. Additionally, they have been also found to increase insulin production thus providing more energy (in the form of sugar) to the muscles.
Studies show that BCAA supplementation is safe in amounts between 5 – 20 grams tablet or 1-7 grams in liquid form each day. More than this could cause decreased absorption of other amino acids and the danger of having gastrointestinal distress.
Amino Acids – The Foundations Of Life
Amino acids – they’re the building blocks of proteins. Proteins in turn are the building blocks of just about everything else! Without these vitally important compounds, we wouldn’t exist. So what are amino acids? Let’s start right at the beginning. Before amino acids. Because even amino acids are ‘made’ from something else! Namely nucleotides.
Nucleotides – The Building Blocks Of Amino Acids
Everything boils down to just five base chemicals, or bases. The base chemicals used in DNA are adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). The fifth one uracil (U) is only found in RNA where it replaces thymine. These base chemicals are used to build nucleotides.
A DNA nucleotide is made up of one of the 4 base chemicals (A / C / G / T) plus a molecule of phosphoric acid and a molecule of sugar. RNA nucleotides are identical except U replaces T. Nucleotides are in turn joined together in sequences of three to form codons. Each codon encodes specifically for one of the amino acids. So the amino acid Methionine for example is encoded as ATG, meaning it contains adenine, thymine and guanine nucleotides in that order.
Twenty Amino Acids Represented By Sixty-One Unique Codons
If you do the math, you’ll discover that these 4 nucleotides can be arranged into 64 unique codons. Even though there are only 20 amino acids! Therefore, some amino acids are represented by more than one codon. Isoleucine for instance can be coded as any one of the following – ATT, ATC or ATA. Each codon only encodes for one amino acid however so you won’t find any other amino acids encoded as ATT, ATC or ATA.
Sixty-one of these codons encode amino acids. The remaining 3 are used as stop codons. Stop codons are used to signal the end of a sequence of codons or protein. A protein is effectively just a long string of codons or amino acids. The body manufactures more than 50,000 different proteins.
Essential And Non-Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids are classified into two groups. Essential amino acids are those our bodies are not able to manufacture so it’s ‘essential’ we obtain them via our diet. The list of essential amino acids are:
- Isoleucine (eggs, soy, spirulina, dairy)
- Leucine (cheese, soy, beef, chicken, pork, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood, beans)
- Lysine (lean beef, cheese, turkey, chicken, pork, soy, fish, shrimp, shellfish, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, lentils)
- Methionine (nuts, beef, lamb, cheese, turkey, pork,fish, shellfish, soy, eggs, dairy, beans)
- Phenylalanine (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk)
- Serine (beef, dairy products, almonds, asparagus, chickpea, cow pea, flax-seed, lentils, sesame seed, walnut, soy beans)
- Threonine (lean beef, soy, pork, chicken, liver, cheese,shellfish, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils)
- Tryptophan (turkey, milk, cheese, oats and oat bran, seaweed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spinach, watercress, soybeans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes)
- Valine (cheese, soybeans, beef, lamb, chicken, pork, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, mushrooms, and whole grains)
Non-essential amino acids are still ‘essential’ in that we require them for the creation of functioning proteins. Our body however is able to manufacture them so long as the raw ingredients are supplied. The non-essential amino acids are:
- Alanine (poultry, a variety of fishes, meat, seaweed, eggs, dairy products)
- Arginine (turkey, pork loin, chicken, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, peanuts, spirulina, dairy)
- Asparagine (dairy, whey, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, lactalbumin, seafood, asparagus, potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy, whole grains)
- Aspartic Acid (dairy, ggs, chicken, pork, beef, fish, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, chestnuts, oats, corn)
- Cysteine (meat and poultry, eggs, dairy, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprout, oats, granola, wheat germ, sprouted lentils)
- Glutamic Acid (matured cheeses, cured meats, fish sauce, soy sauce and soy protein, mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, broccoli, peas, walnuts)
- Glutamine (beef, chicken, fish, dairy products, eggs, beans, beets, cabbage, spinach, carrots, parsley, vegetable juices, wheat, papaya, brussel sprouts, celery, kale)
- Glycine (bone broth, meat, dairy products, poultry, eggs, fish, beans, spinach, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin, banana, kiwi)
- Histidine (Apple, pomogranates, alfalfa, beets, carrots, celery, cucumber, dandelion, endive, garlic, radish, spinach, turnip greens.)
- Proline (meat, nuts, seafood, dairy products, eggs, fish, asparagus, avocados, bamboo shoots, beans, brewer’s yeast, broccoli rabe, brown rice bran, cabbage, caseinate, chives, lactalbumin, legumes, seaweed, seeds, soy, spinach, watercress, whey, whole grains)
- Tyrosine (cheese, soybeans, beef, lamb, pork, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, beans, and whole grains)