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BCAAs and EAAs – Do you need them?

In many gyms it is common to see members sipping on coloured drinks in their water bottles between sets.

What are they drinking?

Chances are they are sipping on amino acids whilst they train. What are these amino acids and what do they do? Amino acids are compounds which make up proteins and are vital for energy production, growth, and repair of cells in the body.



There are twenty amino acids involved in forming proteins, of which nine are classified as essential amino acids – meaning they need to be consumed in the diet or by supplementation.



The remaining eleven can be made up inside the body, primarily being manufactured from a glucose molecule (Puigserver, P. 2018).

How are these helpful with exercise?




Research has shown that 3 of these amino acids are important factors in building muscle and repairing muscle tissue after exercise (Kim, DH. et al. 2013). These amino acids are known as Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAA’s for short, and are named this due to their branched like molecular structure.



BCAA’s are three of the nine essential amino acids and comprise of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. They are metabolised primarily in muscle tissue, rather than the liver and have been the subject of much research into their role in stimulating muscle growth and aiding in recovery.



Leucine in particular has been shown to be a key trigger for muscle growth, due to triggering genes responsible for the growth and repair of muscle tissue (Puigserver, P. 2018)



For nearly two decades, BCAA’s have been widely popular in the sports supplement and exercise world with people drinking them before, during, and after exercise to help aid them in achieving their training goals, not to mention making their water taste better.





But do they work?

Some studies have shown BCAA’s to be effective in improving recovery by reducing muscle damage brought on during exercise (Kim, DH. et al. 2013), however more recently the research has suggested that consuming all nine essential amino acids is superior in regard to improving workout recovery and body composition (Wolfe, R. 2017)



The theory is that the body uses all nine essential amino acids in processes, including the repair and building of muscle cells and by only consuming the three BCAA’s then the body is required to take those other six amino acids from tissues, including muscle tissue to facilitate these processes. This can lead to a net loss in terms of muscle growth (Wolfe, R. 2017)



Whilst the research is ongoing, the suggestion now is to use an EAA supplement over the BCAA’s alone.





What benefit do EAA’s have?



EAA’s offer the benefits of muscle repair and growth, mood enhancement (due to neurotransmitters in the central nervous system being made up of amino acids) and appetite control – also due to the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which may reduce the desire to crave (Wurtman, R. Wurtman, J. 1995).



These benefits are often of great value to those who exercise regularly and work hard to maintain discipline in their eating, so the incorporation of EAA’s into the daily supplement regime is one which science is proving to be a valuable one.



The other benefit is that they make it easier to consume more fluids, with many brands producing supplements with a variety of delicious flavours.









How do I take them?

The ideal time to use them is bracketing your workout with them, so drinking a serve pre and post training is ideal.



Prior to training provides the body with a fuel source to protect muscle tissue from being broken down for fuel, as amino acids can be converted into glucose to fuel the body’s energy needs (Freeman, W. 2002).



Post workout offers a fast acting supply of the important building blocks of muscle tissue and can also be combined with a quick acting carbohydrate source to further aid recovery and muscle growth.



The recommended dosage is approximately 6g (Borsheim, E. et al. 2002), with larger doses not necessarily equating to a greater result.



This means a small dose does go a long way, meaning less of a load on the body to metabolise and not a large financial investment when purchasing an amino acid supplement.





Have any more questions?

Come in and have a chat to our friendly staff, we are more than happy to help guide you in the right direction and show you which EAA supplement is right for your needs. The variety grows all the time as more brands bring out their own amino acid supplement, following on research data, so let us help you make the most informed choice perfect for you!



Puigserver, P. (2018) Chapter 7 – Signalling Transduction and Metabolomics. Hematology (Seventh Edition). Science Direct.

Kim, D,H. Kim, S,H. Jeong, W,S. Lee, H,Y. (2013) Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercise on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry.



Wolfe, R. (2017) Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans – myth or reality? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Wurtman, R. Wurtman, J. (1995) Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving, obesity and depression. PubMed.gov

Freeman, W. (2002) Section 16.3 Glucose Can Be Synthesized from Noncarbohydrate Precursors. Bookshelf.

Borsheim, E. Tipton, K. Wolf, S. Wolfe, R. (2002) Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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