Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are necessary nutrients which we obtain by consuming proteins. They are available in foods rich in proteins such as meat, dairy products and legumes. The very term branched-chain refers to the structure of these amino acids.
The Role of BCAAs
Branched-chained amino acids are rather important since they provide with proper preservation of muscle tissue and they are also significant for maintenance of glycogen storage. Glycogen stored in muscles represents an immediate reserve source of available glucose for muscle cells. One more role of BCAAs is prevention of muscle protein breakdown, which is, for example, associated with exercise.
Due to the previously mentioned characteristics of BCAAs supplementation have been investigated for certain conditions. Even though intake of approximately 10-20 grams of such amino acids per day may not result in meaningful changes in composition of muscles and improve one's performance when it comes to exercising, BCAA supplements may be efficient in prevention of muscle loss, a consequence of certain conditions. For example, intake of BCAAs may be good against muscle loss associated with high altitudes and endurance performance in non-hostile environments such as excessive heat.
Athletes are the group of people particularly interested in branched-chain amino acids. Namely, by intake of these supplements, they improve the overall exercise performance and efficiently reduce protein and muscle breakdown. As a result, their muscles remain preserved and their strength stays at the highest level.
And one more positive characteristic associated with intake of BCAAs supplements is prevention of fatigue and increase in one's ability to concentrate.
Medical Uses of BCAAs
These amino acids are used in people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Furthermore, they may be quite helpful for people who have different brain conditions or liver disorders such as tardive dyskinesia, McArdle's disease, spinocerebellar degeneration, chronic hepatic encephalopathy (terminal stage of liver cirrhosis), latent hepatic encephalopathy etc.
BCAAs are also very good for individuals with poor appetite and anorexia caused by illnesses like cancer and chronic renal failure. Bed ridden patients are doomed to have atrophy of the muscles. Even in such people BCAAs may show their beneficial effects.
And finally, BCAAs can be also of great help for individuals suffering from phenylketonuria, a genetic disorder in which a patient is not capable of breaking down an amino acid called phenylalanine. BCAAs competes with phenylalanine and in the long run reduces the toxic effects phenylalanine has on different organs in the body.
People who are interested in taking branched-chain amino acids are first due to consult their health care provider and get all the information regarding this supplement and its dosage.