BCAAs make up a large chunk of the body’s total amino acid pool.
Together, they represent around 35–40% of all essential amino acids present in your body and 14–18% of those found in your muscles.
Contrary to most other amino acids, BCAAs are mostly broken down in the muscle, rather than in the liver. Because of this, they are thought to play a role in energy production during exercise.
BCAAs play several other roles in your body too.
First, your body can use them as building blocks for protein and muscle.
They may also be involved in regulating your blood sugar levels by preserving liver and muscle sugar stores and stimulating your cells to take in sugar from your bloodstream.
What’s more, BCAAs may help reduce the fatigue you feel during exercise by reducing the production of serotonin in your brain.
Out of the three, leucine is thought have the biggest impact on your body’s capacity to build muscle proteins.
Meanwhile, isoleucine and valine seem more effective at producing energy and regulating your blood sugar levels.
Here are five proven benefits of BCAAs.
1. Increase Muscle Growth
One of the most popular uses of BCAAs is to increase muscle growth.
Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.
Therefore, while BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, they can’t do so maximally without the other essential amino acids, such as those found in whey protein
2. Decrease Muscle Soreness
Some research suggests BCAAs can help decrease muscle soreness after a workout.
BCAAs have been shown to decrease muscle damage, which may help reduce the length and severity of DOMS.
3. Reduce Exercise Fatigue
Just as BCAAs may help decrease muscle soreness from exercise, they may also help reduce exercise-induced fatigue.
Your muscles use BCAAs during exercise, causing levels in your blood to decrease. When blood levels of BCAAs decline, levels of the essential amino acid tryptophan in your brain increase.
4. Prevent Muscle Wasting
BCAAs can help prevent muscle wasting or breakdown.
Muscle proteins are constantly broken down and rebuilt (synthesized). The balance between muscle protein breakdown and synthesis determines the amount of protein in muscle.
Muscle wasting or breakdown occurs when protein breakdown exceeds muscle protein synthesis.
Therefore, it’s important that the BCAAs and other essential amino acids are replaced during times of muscle wasting to halt it or to slow its progression.
5. Benefit People with Liver Disease
BCAAs may improve health in people with cirrhosis, a chronic disease in which the liver does not function properly.