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The Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) are a classification of amino acids that have non-linear, aliphatic side chains; this includes L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine. Together, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine comprise approximately 35-40% of dietary essential amino acids in body protein and 14-18% of skeletal muscle tissue in the human body [2]. Although they are abundant in muscle tissue, BCAAs are essential amino acids and must be obtained from the diet because they are unable to be synthesized by the human body [4].

During exercise there is increased oxidation and uptake of these amino acids leading to a decrease in their plasma concentration and concentration in skeletal muscle tissue [1]. The demands of resistance training causes blood sugar concentration to decrease and once below ideal levels, the body will consequently begin to strip BCAAs at the expense of skeletal muscle tissue for energy [3]. Supplementing with BCAAs prevents the catabolism of skeletal muscle tissue for gluconeogenesis because the ingested BCAAs are more readily available, thus sparing muscle from being broken down during high intensity exercise if blood sugar drops below baseline levels. This is an especially important concept for individuals on Low-Carbohydrate diets as the body is always in need of a readily available source of energy. BCAA supplementation before and after workouts is important in order to prevent the catabolism of muscle tissue, as well as increase anabolism during post-workout recovery to maximize strength and lean mass gains [4].

Branched Chain Amino Acids are absorbed across the GI tract more rapidly than whole protein sources because they are the consumed in liquid form and there is no need for breakdown of peptide bonds or complex protein structures. This fast absorption rate and “sparing effect” of BCAAs make them ideal for pre-workout and post-workout consumption because their catabolism in gluconeogenesis spares muscle protein from being degraded, thus optimizing physiology to promote increased muscle building [4]. Supplementation with BCAA solution also limits occurrences of gastrointestinal (GI) upset during exercise because of its fast absorption rate across the GI tract. One study found that oral ingestion of BCAAs before resistance training increases plasma concentration of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine during and up to 2 hours after the training session [1]. Increased plasma concentrations of the BCAAs due to supplementation also increased 70-kDa S6 Protein Kinase (P70S6k) phosphorylation. Increasing Serine 421 and Threonin e424 phosphorylation of P70S6k increases protein synthesis (and anabolism) in skeletal muscle during recovery [1]. Increased anabolism in skeletal muscle during recovery results in decreased recovery time needed and increased muscular hypertrophy [3][5].

A double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study confirms that BCAA supplementation post workout (particularly Leucine) co-ingestion with a carbohydrate (CHO) source and protein (PRO) stimulates muscle protein synthesis and whole body nitrogen balance compared to CHO and protein consumption alone (P<0.05)[5]. Supplementation with BCAA has been proven as safe in numerous clinical trials including the trials presented in which BCAAs were administered in high doses to subjects who had not supplemented with them before. BCAA supplementation shows high potential as a safe ergogenic that is directly anabolic and can increase muscle growth, decrease catabolism, and improve recovery [1][3][4][5].

DYNAMIS AMINOpulse is formulated with BCAAs to help promote maximum muscle growth by creating a pulse in blood-amino acid levels pre-workout. A spike in amino acid levels and insulin levels in the blood before workouts has been shown to up-regulate mTOR signalling and as a result, stimulate muscle growth [1].

DYNAMIS REFUEL s6k is formulated with BCAAs to help promote maximum muscle growth and recovery by creating a pulse in blood-amino acid levels during the “Post-Workout Recovery Window”. High levels of BCAAs, protein, and carbohydrates post workout have been shown to stimulate whole-body Nitrogen balance and muscle protein synthesis significantly more than Carbohydrates and Protein alone [5]. This is one of many reasons why DYNAMIS REFUEL-s6k™ Timed Release Protein is superior in anabolic activity and recovery to other proteins. 

If you are looking to increase lean muscle mass, prevent muscle breakdown due to aging, maintain muscle mass during a hypocaloric (net calorie deficit) diet, reduce muscle soreness, or prevent muscle tissue from being broken down during high intensity exercise you should consider adding BCAAs to your supplement arsenal. In addition, if you are on a vegan/vegetarian diet you need to be mindful of complementing protein sources to ensure you have a full spectrum of amino acids each meal or consider adding a vegan amino acid supplement such as AMINOpulse to help increase the amount of essential amino acids in your diet. 

Cheers, 

Evan Ward, BScHK, CPT
CEO & Founder, DYNAMIS

Selected References

[1] Karlsson H, Nilsson PA, Nilsson J, Chibalin AV, Zierath J, and Blomstrand E.(2004) Branched-chain amino acids increase p70S6kphosphorylation in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology Metabolism 287:1-7.

[2] Riazi R, Wykes LJ, Ball RO, and Pencharz PB. (2003) The Total Branched-Chain Amino Acid Requirement in Young Healthy Adult Men Determined by Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation by Use of L-[1-13C]Phenylalanine1,2. Journal of Nutrition. 133: 1383–1389.

[3] Shimomura Y., Murakami T., Nakai N., Nagasaki M., Harris R.A. (2004) Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. Journal of Nutrition. 134: 1583-1587.

[4] Borsheim E, Tipton KD, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR. (2002) Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology Metabolism. 283: 648–657.

[5] Koopman R,  Wagenmakers AJ, Manders RJ, Zorenc AH, Senden JM, Gorselink M, Keizer HA, and Van Loon LJ. (2005) Combined ingestion of protein and free leucine with carbohydrate increases post-exercise muscle protein synthesis in vivo in male subjects. American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology Metabolism.288: 645–653.

May 26, 2016 by Evan Ward