People sometimes ask me ‘How many BCAAs can I consume a day’, and sadly my answer is a little ambiguous. The reason for this ambiguity is that there is no specific figure set to your daily intake of the BCAAs, this is mainly because these essential amino acids can be readily found in all protein sources, and we prefer to use total protein as the measure. As a rule of thumb though, it is recommended that we aim to get in 2.5g of Leucine or 5g of total BCAAs (Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine) via a good quality BCAA supplement prior to exercise. It is also recommended that you take approx. 5-10g of total BCAA into the gym with you to sip during the session, this is an anabolic trigger, meaning you are set to growth mode when training.
The convenience of a BCAA
If your protein intake is adequate then your total muscle mass will be maintained, however the harder you exercise the greater the energy and protein requirement, and this is where BCAAs come into their own. It isn’t always practical to consume adequate protein through your diet, some of the best sources of protein such as chicken, beef, pork or eggs can be a chore to eat when in the office or out on the road, therefore those ‘gaps’ during mid-morning or mid-afternoon can be readily filled with muscle building BCAAs via a BCAA supplement. Protein and BCAAs are one and the same, you can’t get protein without amino acids, simply put, amino acids are the building blocks of protein and muscle.
How BCAAs work…
The mechanism of action is no different to protein, in other words, BCAAs are proteinogenic, meaning they are used to encourage protein synthesis, and (most importantly) muscle protein synthesis (growth). Protein is consumed in the form of food and drink, either via a chicken breast, steak, egg, chick pea or whatever protein source suits you best, or via a glass of milk and/ or a protein shake…however far too many people overlook a good old BCAA. The BCAA is so effective at promoting muscle growth because it contains high amounts of Leucine. Leucine has been proven to be the most effective amino acid at promoting muscle growth, it is proteinogenic as opposed to glucogenic (Isoleucine and Valine can be used to make glucose, whereas Leucine is not).
The Leucine : mTOR relationship… Key for muscle growth
It is understood that one of the main reasons that Leucine is so effective at promoting muscle protein synthesis is its ability to prompt the release of the kinase enzyme mTOR. mTOR is the mammalian target of rapamycin, which is very effective at stimulating muscle growth. mTOR’s mechanism of action is complex and beyond the scope of this article, however you can read more on it HERE. In a nut shell though, it seems that the better your body is at activating mTOR, the better your GAINS will be…and it just so happens that a BCAA is integral to this process.