To have a sound body and mind, just eating greens and doing a 30-minute cardio work out once every few days is not enough. There are many nutrients that the body does not get just because people are not aware of what the proper dietary requirements of the human body are. But even when they are aware, they make use of wrong paraphernalia and equipment to fulfil these requirements. That is why, when supplements first started to earn their name in the world, they were given a bad rap. Most of them were even considered illegal. Hence, this revolutionary invention was not welcomed by the world because of the numerous side effects it brought to users.
But in these recent years, dietary supplements have started to make a comeback and have proven to be safe and healthy enough for athletes and runners to use them to get better and excel in their respective fields. One of the many supplements that are now considered safe (and legal) for runners are branched-chain amino acids.
WHAT ARE BCAA SUPPLEMENTS?
Branched chain amino acid supplements, or BCAAs, as we commonly know them nowadays, are considered a revolution in the world of dietary supplements. Being used by thousands and millions all over the world to cure and help with various conditions, these are one of the very few legal supplements that have earned themselves a good name.
BCAA supplements are an essential component in a workout strategy. The words “branched chain” refer to the chemical structure and design of the amino acid compounds. In the adult human body, 20 variants of amino acids are present to make up hundreds and thousands of proteins. Nine of these are supposed to be extremely crucial for the human body, and since they cannot be created by the body itself, they need to be consumed and create through dietary severity.
Branched chain amino acids comprise of three chief amino acids, which provide protein to the body. These are:
These are essential for the body because they’re not created on their own, but acquired through food and dietary and workout supplements. We could say they are the “building blocks of protein,” just like all other amino acids. But these in particular help us preserve muscle glycogen, which helps energize your muscles and lessen protein breakdowns during workouts. In simpler terms, BCCA supplementation helps you get the most out of your daily workout routines.
WHAT DO BCAA SUPPLEMENTS DO?
The most common form that is used for consumption of BCAA is BCAA powder. They are also available in capsules and pills.
You can mix BCAA powder with protein, post workout or other supplements. At first, these powders used to taste horrible and ruined the taste of everything they were taken with, but now that they are manufactured by big companies, they come in a lot of inviting flavors.
BCAA supplements help in fueling your skeletal muscles when you are training. Most of the time when we are exercising, we feel as if we can no longer go on because our muscles feel sore. Branched chain amino acids give you the energy you require to push your limits, while also protecting, sustaining and safeguarding your muscles; hence they can be considered the complete package as they make you capable of using more energy.
These supplements also help after your workout by enhancing your muscle protein recovery. Because of the leucine, muscle protein synthesis is taken care of too. It is a known fact that high quality BCAA supplements have a higher ratio of leucine, compared to isoleucine and valine, which is sometimes considered a 2:1:1 ratio.
BCAA supplements have a faster effect on the body because instead of being consumed by your liver first, they are used up directly by your muscles. Hence these supplements are a more portable and a more convenient option than others are.
HOW DO BCAAs HELP RUNNERS?
We all know that BCAA powder plays a huge role in curing eating disorders like anorexia, by improving the sufferer’s poor appetite and nutrition intake. It is also well known for curing psychological disorders like mania. Once the powder is dissolved in a drink, it helps in reducing symptoms of the condition. Another thing branched chain amino acids help with immensely is weight loss, by increasing the metabolism. These amino acids make up for 36% in muscle proteins, and are essential when it comes to building muscle, repairing of damaged muscle tissue and regaining muscle strength and energy, if taken half an hour before a workout.
But nowadays, these supplements are the most beneficial for runners, especially endurance runners. For runners, pre-workout coffee is always suggested, to make them feel more awake. After that, the first supplement that is recommended is BCAA. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, the branched chain amino acid supplements become a great source of a runner’s energy. Obviously, a runner with little to no stamina and energy cannot be called a runner, since he lacks the basic requirement. It’s like making a cow compete with ten horses in a race, it’s impossible for it to win. When it comes to runners, BCAA capsules also help with their muscle tissue recovery. It happens so often that when running intense races, the ligaments in their muscles get torn sometimes. Sometimes they even fracture their bones. In those severe cases, these supplements play a huge role in the recovering process. They reduce the soreness and heal the tears in the muscle tissues, especially those which are exercise-induced. They increase muscle function. And are also proven beneficial for proving muscle-protein synthesis. Primarily leucine, the key amino acid involved in skeletal muscle tissue synthesis, helps with reducing recovery time, increasing synthetic rate and reducing post-exercise muscle soreness and lethargy. Taking large amounts of BCAA supplementation before and after a bout of intense exercise reduces workout-induced soreness and tears.
Another thing that dietary supplements help with is fatigue. When training for high intensity and long-distance runs, or going through powerful race seasons and workout sessions, our levels of branch-chain amino acids have a tendency to get low, which mostly leads to symptoms of central fatigue. Taking BCAA supplements guarantee a rapid recovery by increasing our levels for the future, allowing us to train better. They also help by lowering a runner’s exertion, which makes them push past their limits without much trouble and ends up making them feel good during runs of long distances.
During a long endurance run, the runner manages to burn up to 100 calories per mile. This means that sooner or later, they reach a point where they used up all their energy, burnt up all their calories and exhausted their muscles. They feel as if they can no longer go on. Taking BCAA supplements before their run helps them endure exhaustion longer and helps them be a better runner by providing them with energy and glucose. Taking them after their run helps them regain all the energy they lost. They can even be supplemented mid run if they want. In simpler terms, BCAA supplements alter a runner’s mental perception of exhaustion.
Some studies talk about the theory that BCAA supplements can diminish the effects of mental fatigue which sometimes manages to creep up on runners. Glycogen and amino acids are consumed during an endurance run, high levels of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, are carried to the brain, where they are converted to serotonin and constitute feelings of languor. These supplements restrict the uptake of tryptophan to the brain, which prevent production of serotonin – which suppress the incoming lethargy that makes the runners want to take a nap right in the middle of mile 24. In easier terms, BCAA supplements help you to maintain as much muscle as possible while doing as much as possible.
Another few other things that runners have to thank BCAA supplements for, is their help in muscle growth and prevention of muscle wastage. Muscle wasting is a sign of malnutrition and could be a chronic disease. Taking an adequate number of supplements keeps his muscles from rotting or wasting away, even though it is a natural part of aging. Because what good is a runner if his muscles aren’t healthy?
According to a review, to explain it succinctly, branch chain amino acids:
- support lean mass growth
- reduce muscle breakdown
- increase protein synthesis
- supplements for runner’s endurance
- supplements for runner’s recovery.
Overall, it may be said that branch chain amino acid supplements are a game changer, predominantly for runners since they can improve their running performance in several ways. Though, some people may have the misconception that just taking supplements will fulfil all of their exercise, workout and dietary requirements, which is a very harmful error. Taking supplements is just an option that enhances your other efforts to have a healthy body and mind. To get the most out of branched chain supplements, they should always be consumed alongside a healthy and balanced diet of an extremely active body.