How to maximise muscle definition with BCAAs
Food, more specifically individual nutrients, not only supply the body with energy but also help build our body, they are the basis for growth and development. Anyone that's attempting to strengthen the body and increase muscle mass needs to make sure to consume enough protein. But we're sure you already knew that. Today, we're talking about BCAAs.
If we don't supply the body with enough nutrients through our diets, it starts to take individual building blocks from its own resources. Most worrying is the loss of muscle mass, especially if that's one of your workout goals. The loss of muscle mass can be synonymous with a loss of strength, a lack of endurance and slower calorie burning, leading to fat gain.
The body struggle with storing protein
The body is unable to store protein reserves as it can with sugar or fat. This means it cannot rely on the reserves, so it's necessary that we consume enough protein through our diet or the body will "attack" our muscles.
If you're wanting to strengthen and increase muscle mass...
Protein is a must! Healthy protein should be at the forefront. It should contain all 9 essential amino acids. Yes, proteins differ from each other - carnivores have an advantage here as there is a lot of varieties in meat. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein and there are 20 different kinds found in our bodies. 9 of these cannot be produced by our own bodies - we need to get them through our diet.
BCAAs - the kings of muscle definition
3 of the 9 essential amino acids are incredibly important for building muscle - BCAAs (branched-chain amino acid).Leucine is the main anabolic actor that kick-starts muscle-protein production, supported by isoleucine and valine. Research shows that the optimal combination of the three amino acids is 2:1:1, in favour of leucine. However, it's also important that we consume them at the right time, because, as we've said before, our body is unable to store them. There is no easier way to build and rebuild muscle than physical activity. Immediately before, during and after exercise is the ideal time to consume BCAAs - exercise makes the muscles "hungry", meaning it will utilise the amino acids immediately.
How can BCAAs help?
BCAAs, which make up 35% of all essential amino acids in our muscles, support muscles in 3 ways:
- they are an immediate source of energy. After ingestion, they pass through the blood immediately into our muscles, where they can be used for energy and increase endurance.
- May increase the levels of circulating growth hormone, related to anabolic mechanisms that support muscle growth.
- They slow down protein breakdown (catabolism) and increase the rate of protein accumulation (anabolism), which allows for faster regeneration and more frequent exercise.
When and how much?
Branched-chain amino acids can help us maximise the effects of our workouts, that is if consumed immediately before or during exercise (for energy and endurance) or after exercise (for regeneration and muscle definition). It's most practical to consume them in the form of drinks or shakes. A minimum of 45 mg of leucine per kilogram of body weight and 22.5 mg of isoleucine and valine are recommended. Don't forget about the other essential amino acids needed to regenerate and build muscle, so consider a supplement after exercise as well.
Fouré, Alexandre & Bendahan, David. (2017). Is Branched-Chain Amino Acids Supplementation an Efficient Nutritional Strategy to Alleviate Skeletal Muscle Damage? A Systematic Review. Nutrients.
Matsumoto K, Koba T, Hamada K, et al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation attenuates muscle soreness, muscle damage and inflammation during an intensive training program. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. December 2009;49(4):424-431.
Blomstrand E. A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. J Nutr. February 2006;136(2):544S-547S.
Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA. Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. J Nutr. 2004;134(6 Suppl):1583S-1587S.
Blomstrand E, Newsholme EA. Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on the exercise-induced change in aromatic amino acid concentration in human muscle. Acta Physiol Scand. 1992;146(3):293-298.
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