BCAAs are essential amino acids that bodybuilders and athletes use to increase energy output, decrease fatigue, and improve fat loss. However, excessive BCAA usage can have adverse side effects, like increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes and other conditions. Read on for further details on the possible ramifications of BCAA and their right dose.
What Are BCAAs?
BCAAs are the largest assortment of amino acids within the human body, accounting for as many as 35% of muscle proteins. These amino acids (particularly leucine) stimulate protein production in the muscles, maybe helping with muscle building and recuperate.
They also seem to promote sugar storage in the muscles. In animal studies, BCAAs (especially isoleucine) encouraged blood glucose uptake to the muscles while blocking muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) breakdown.
Usually, BCAAs are excreted fast. BCAA intermediates may be toxic at high concentrations, so functional BCAA breakdown is vital. Because BCAAs are broken down in the muscle instead of in the liver, they are thought to help create energy through exercise.
BCAA formulas have been available since 1996, mainly for treating liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hypoalbuminemia.
These days, BCAAs are mainly used by bodybuilders for exercise purposes, to raise energy, and enhance protein synthesis (particularly leucine).
- Essential amino acids
- Approved for nitrogen reduction
- May help recuperate from exercise and increase body lean mass
- May help with liver cirrhosis and its complications
Unclear effects on exercise performance
Excessive supplementation may activate type 2 diabetes and ALS
May cause elevated ammonia levels
May interfere with the uptake of other essential amino acids
Not recommended in people with insulin resistance, McArdle’s disease, along with maple syrup urine disease
An injectable 4 percent BCAA formula (BranchAmin) is accepted by the FDA as a nitrogen source in people with acute nitrogen reduction due to bad protein absorption or septic shock.
Possibly Effective for:
1) Exercise Recovery
BCAA supplements taken before and after exercise decreased exercise-induced muscle soreness and damage in 8 clinical trials on 134 individuals. This may speed up exercise recovery while preventing harm.
But they had been of little or no efficacy in trials on 21 older volunteers doing a 2-day trail in the mountains and 30 well-trained men recovering from intense weight training.
Supplementing with BCAAs appears to conserve muscle proteins by preventing their breakdown and stimulating their production.
A meta-analysis of 8 clinical trials concluded that BCAA supplementation was better than rest alone for healing after exercise due to its ability to reduce muscle soreness and function decline.
Physical Performance Decline
In 2 clinical trials on 21 athletes, BCAA supplementation decreased central fatigue after an intense workout.
In 2 clinical trials on 27 well-trained people, BCAAs prevented the decrease in power output after exercise.
Cognitive Performance Decline
The reduced central fatigue brought on by BCAA supplementation preserved the capability to couple spatial and movement understanding (perceptual-motor skills) after exercise at a clinical trial on 9 tennis gamers.
In a trial of 12 volunteers, BCAA supplementation prevented the decline in short-term memory caused by exercise.
In a second trial on 10 soccer players, BCAA supplements reduced the decline in reaction time by 10 percent.
Taken together, the evidence suggests that BCAAs can help with exercise recovery, particularly by reducing muscle soreness and maintaining its own function. You may discuss with your doctor if you can add them to your training routine.
2) Growing Lean Volume
At a clinical trial on 36 body-builders, BCAA supplements improved lean mass better compared to other supplements such as carbohydrates and whey protein.
In a second trial on 40 men, both low (6.25 g) and high (25 gram ) BCAA doses were similarly capable of boosting muscle building after exercise when supplemented with elevated levels (5 g) of leucine.
In 17 resistance-trained guys on a low-carb diet, BCAA supplementation maintained weight reduction while maintaining muscle mass. In the same way, elite wrestlers to a low-calorie diet lost more weight when supplemented with BCAAs in a clinical trial on 25 individuals.
High dietary use of BCAAs was correlated with a decreased incidence of obesity in two observational studies on over 5,500 people.
Supplementing with BCAAs and vitamin B6 failed to promote weight reduction but decreased waist-to-hip ratio and maintained legs lean in a clinical trial on 42 overweight women.
BCAAs can also help prevent muscle loss in people at risk. In a study on 73 functionally-limited elderly people, higher BCAA levels were associated with improved lean mass (both improved muscle division and decreased fat). Supplementation improved muscle mass and strength in 2 trials on 73 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and 68 people with sarcopenia.
Though limited, the evidence indicates that BCAA supplementation may help both build muscle and eliminate fat. But doing more exercise and improving your diet could be much safer and more effective ways to acquire these advantages. You might discuss with your doctor if BCAAs may assist as a complementary strategy.
3) Liver Damage and Complications
In 3 clinical trials on nearly 700 people with liver cirrhosis, supplementation using BCAA granules increased survival and quality of life. The treatment was effective when given through the night, probably because it helped spare proteins.
The survival rate with no detrimental event was around 63.6percent with BCAA supplementation in a different trial on 21 individuals with cirrhosis.
At a trial of 20 individuals with chronic hepatitis, 100 with cirrhosis, and 16 controls, BCAA supplementation greatly increased albumin from the bloodstream, which leads to declines in both liver ailments. BCAAs were more successful in those with low blood albumin levels in a different trial on 65 people with cirrhosis.
In two trials on 92 individuals with cirrhosis, a high-fiber, high-protein diet supplemented with BCAAs Improved nutritional status and muscle mass without raising glucose and ammonia levels. BCAAs had similar effects in two other trials on 62 individuals with this illness.
BCAAs in combination with ACE inhibitors delayed the progression of tissue scar at a clinical trial on 89 people with cirrhosis.
In 3 trials over 100 people in which cirrhosis developed to pancreatic liver cancer, BCAAs helped conserve liver function after chemotherapy delivery directly into the tumor (chemoembolization), leading to increased survival and quality of life.
In 2 clinical trials over 150 people undergoing the surgical removal of liver cancer, supplementation with BCAAs enhanced protein metabolism, increased the chance of survival, and decreased its own progression to cirrhosis.
In individuals with liver damage, the reduced liver function causes many toxic substances to build up in the brain and cause harm (hepatic encephalopathy). For instance, the disturbed amino acid metabolism increases the uptake of fatty amino acids over BCAA to the mind.
Two meta-analyses discovered that BCAA supplementation improved brain damage in people with liver cirrhosis, but had no effect on survival, quality of lifestyle, and nutrient status. Clinical analysis of 27 individuals identified isoleucine as the amino acid effectively improving this ailment.
To sum up, the evidence suggests that BCAA supplementation may assist with the general health status in people with liver cirrhosis and its complications. You might discuss with your physician if it might help as an add on to your therapy plan. Since liver cirrhosis is a severe, life-threatening illness, never use BCAAs instead of what your physician recommends or prescribes.
Insufficient Evidence for:
1) Exercise Performance
Exercise leads to amino acid usage. BCAAs become quickly depleted following exercise, showcasing the possible beneficial effects of BCAA supplementation.
At a clinical trial on over 200 marathon runners, BCAA supplementation improved mental performance in all runners and running times just in the slowest ones.
In another study of 10 endurance runners, the runners given BCAA supplements conducted better times for two days at a row in both 5,000- and 10,000-m races.
Taking a supplement with valine and 2 non-branched amino acids (arginine and serine) over the 14 days before the intense cycling exercise enhanced endurance performance at a trial on 39 men.
BCAA supplementation maintained energy capacity by boosting fat breakdown once the glycogen stores had been depleted at a clinical trial on 7 healthy volunteers.
BCAA supplements additionally raised lactate threshold (LT) in a study of 8 volunteers. LT measures endurance ability as any exercise beneath the LT means lactate doesn’t build up in the muscles. Oxygen consumption (VO2) is a measure of LT and the analysis demonstrated that overall VO2 measures increased by 13% and max VO2 increased by 4.2%.
In a trial of 7 cyclists, BCAA supplementation decreased the exertion that was diagnosed with the athletes by up to 7 percent. However, even when their effort was lower, their exercise functionality didn’t alter.
However, not all studies found increased endurance performance and decreased fatigue after supplementing with BCAAs. This was true in trials on 28 marathon runners, 10 cyclists, 24 skiers, 20 overseas sailors and What’s more, excess BCAA supplementation might even trigger fatigue by increasing ammonia generation.
BCAAs may help with exercise consisting of intermittent sprints, as found in two clinical trials on 22 well-trained handball players and 10 soccer players doing a treadmill workout of varying strength. However, they were ineffective in another trial on 8 people performing intermittent jogging.
In another trial on 13 canoeists, dietary leucine supplementation increased both upper body power and endurance performance.
In a small trial of 12 volunteers, BCAA supplements increased electricity output.
In another study of 36 men, BCAA supplementation improved their muscle power better than other supplements such as whey protein and carbohydrates.
This effect could be caused by gains in cortisol, as seen in a study of 10 volunteers. Cortisol controls the fight-or-flight reply, which can flood muscles with sugar. This provides brief but fantastic amounts of electricity.
But a study of 12 athletes found no increases in handgrip strength after BCAA supplementation.
Additionally, excessive BCAA supplementation may reduce exercise performance. A rat study showed that a 3.57percent BCAA-supplemented diet increased swimming time until exhaustion by 37 percent. However, a greater (4.76percent ) BCAA-supplemented diet decreased swimming times by 43% compared to the controls.
Because most studies were small and the results have been combined, it is difficult to determine for certain if BCAAs help with exercise performance. Larger, more robust clinical trials are required to shed some light on this potential benefit.
Effects on Heart Rate
While some BCAA users supplementing with BCAAs for the first time are worried that they may boost their heartbeat, science has not found any evidence of the adverse impact.
In 3 trials on 30 individuals taking BCAA supplements along with also a study in rats, supplements didn’t raise their heart rate and even lower it in some instances.
The higher heart rate seen by some consumers may be due to other elements in supplements such as caffeine.
2) Heart Failure
BCAA breakdown deficiencies are associated with an increased incidence of heart disease.
At a clinical trial on 18 people with heart failure and low blood albumin levels, BCAAs improved blood levels of the protein and decreased cardiovascular size. But, another trial on 66 people with this illness found that physical training enhanced the symptoms irrespective of BCAA supplementation.
In rat studies, BCAA supplementation improved outcomes after induced heart failure and cardiac cachexia (severe weight loss). It also caused:
- Decreased heart rate
- Increased heart function
- Increased survival time
- Decreased weight loss
- Increased adrenal function
A few human studies (with conflicting results) and some animal research cannot be considered adequate evidence to support the use of BCAAs in people with heart failure. Further clinical investigation is necessary.
3) Sleep Disturbances
In a clinical trial on 5 healthy men, infusion with BCAAs at nighttime enhanced respiratory control, maybe helping reduce sleep apnea.
In a study of 7 patients with kidney failure, taking BCAA supplements at night increased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and diminished end-tidal CO2 levels, which are significant for dreaming and respiratory function during sleep.
Two little clinical trials are clearly insufficient to attest to the efficacy of BCAAs to improve sleep disturbances. Larger, stronger clinical trials are required to confirm these preliminary results.
Possibly Ineffective for:
In a weight-loss analysis of 500 participants, insulin resistance was associated with greater BCAA levels. In another study on over 2,400 individuals, type 2 diabetes was associated with high blood BCAA levels. In the same way, pee leucine levels were considerably greater in 55 types 2 diabetes sufferers.
A meta-analysis concluded an impaired BCAA might cause type 2 diabetes.
At a clinical trial of 27 individuals affected by either insulin resistance or hepatitis C, BCAA supplements improved muscle insulin resistance at 10 of their patients.
But most studies found that BCAA supplementation may trigger type two diabetes.
In a 15-year study on 155 middle-aged women, increasing BCAA intake by around 20% increased the risks of type 2 diabetes by 7%.
In a different study on 140 individuals, a bad diet with an excess of fats together with BCAA supplementation contributed to the development of insulin resistance.
A current meta-analysis of 8 research associated high dietary BCAA intake with type 2 diabetes.
Limitations of BCAA Supplementation
BCAA mechanics and amino acid ratios for treating muscle damage and soreness remain unknown.
Also, BCAA supplementation may interfere with the absorption of other amino acids because the blood-brain barrier employs similar mechanisms for them. Extra BCAA supplementation may result in decreased absorption of tryptophan, tyrosine, and glutamine.
Protein-rich foods such as chicken, turkey, beef, pork, milk, and cheese also have high BCAA contents.
BCAAs can be supplemented as:
The powder or lemonade kinds taste worse but are the most popular. Capsules and tablets tend to be somewhat less concentrated (meaning it’s necessary to take a lot of them) and also the effects take longer to kick in since they’re digested slower.
Because BCAA supplements are not approved by the FDA for any condition, there’s no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial dosages according to trial and error. Talk with your health care provider if BCAAs could be useful as a complementary approach to your circumstance and which dose you should take.
In one study, 0.087g/kg at a 2 : 1: 1 leucine : isoleucine: valine ratio improved physical performance and diminishes muscular soreness.
Leucine, one of the BCAAs, is safe for use up to a dose of 35 g/day in mature men.
It’s recommended to take BCAA supplements prior to and after exercise to reduce muscle damage.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that excess dosing can have the opposite effect and worsen performance. In one rat study, excessive BCAA supplements increased tiredness.
Even though there is clinical information on toxic doses on rat research, human information is not accessible.
Synergies with Other Supplements
In a trial of 10 endurance runners, combining BCAA supplements together with arginine and citrulline supplements enhanced the working period. While BCAA supplementation can increase ammonia levels, arginine and citrulline both decrease them, maybe with a protective effect.
Side Effects & Precautions
This listing doesn’t cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects.
Call your physician for medical advice about side effects. In the united states, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. Back in Canada, you might report side effects to Health Canada in 1-866-234-2345.
BCAA supplementation may increase ammonia levels in the blood (hyperammonemia), which increases fatigue and can lead to a variety of different brain disorders such as Reye syndrome and deficiencies of urea cycle enzymes.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
ALS is one of the most common psychiatric ailments, especially in athletes. This can be caused by increased BCAA levels, which leads to the poisonous overexcitation of specific brain cells.
Decreased Absorption of additional Amino Acids
Aromatic amino acids (phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan) compete with BCAAs for becoming absorbed into the mind.
BCAA supplements may reduce dopamine in the brain because they can stop its stimulation by phenylalanine and tyrosine.
Supplement/Herb/Nutrient-drug interactions could be harmful and, in rare circumstances, even life-threatening. Always consult your physician before supplementing and let them know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.
The combo of BCAAs with morphine improved the effectiveness and duration of this pain relief from isolated brain slices.
As a result of its effects on blood and muscle glucose levels and its capability to trigger insulin resistance, diabetics and prediabetics ought to be careful with BCAA supplements.
Patients with McArdle’s disease take up and divide BCAAs at substantially higher prices. BCAA supplements may cause their heart rates to spike and their workout performance to reduce.
Maple syrup urine disease is due to deficiencies in the enzyme responsible for BCAA breakdown (branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase). Because people with this condition have unusually high BCAA levels, supplementation can worsen their symptoms.
In a study of 150 individuals, BCAA levels were considerably greater compared to obesity. BCAA supplementation may lead to the activation of particular pathways like mTOR, S6K1, and IRS1, finally causing insulin resistance.
Krüppel-like Factor 15 (KLF15) is an integral regulator of the heart’s BCAA catabolic pathway. Defective KLF15 increases branched-chain α-keto acid (BCKA) amounts, which are known to promote heart defects and failure.
The opinions expressed in this section are only those of BCAA users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their testimonials do not represent the opinions of us. We don’t endorse any particular product, service, or therapy.
Don’t believe user adventures as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your health care provider or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you’ve read on Selfhacked. We understand that reading person, real-life encounters can be a very helpful resource, but it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
The huge majority of users took in BCAA supplements to improve their exercise and muscle-building performance. Many of these were satisfied and reported that their workouts had enhanced greatly. 1 user even claimed that BCAAs helped also throughout the “cutting” phase.
The nutritional supplement brand seemed to have no effect on its efficacy since some users had tried different brands with comparable outcomes.
But not all users were fulfilled. Some reported little or no consequences.