Recently, BCAAs have been all the rage of the sports nutrition market. The protein mantra still continues as the number one fuel for athletes, but a close second in my opinion is BCAAs.

Whenever I talk to top athletes, bodybuilders, and all those ripped-up guys and gals in the gym, they all seem to be high on the BCAA bandwagon! I ask many of them, what exactly are BCAAs? It’s no big surprise that many respond with a blank stare. BCAAs, of course is an acronym, but what exactly does it stand for, and more importantly what exactly are they?

 BCAAs stands for “Branched-Chain Amino Acids.” Let’s first give a quick description of what amino acids are. Amino acids are considered the building blocks of proteins. There are 20 standard amino acids of which almost all proteins are made. When we eat steak or chicken, for example, they contain protein. The protein is made up of these 20 different amino acids.

When the protein you have eaten is exposed to the digestive enzymes in your stomach, they break down into individual amino acids. Then these amazing molecules go to work, fueling literally billions of functions with our bodies.

The branched-chain reference is merely a description of their molecular construction. There are three amino acids that make up the branched-chain group of amino acids (remember, they are part of the 20 that naturally occur in dietary proteins) and they are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. What makes them so special to athletes is they are found in high proportion within our muscle cells.

BCAAs comprise 35 percent of the amino acids in our muscle tissue. Because of these high concentrations within our muscle cells, scientists have conducted hundreds of studies focusing on the importance of supplementing BCAAs to increase muscle growth, recovery, and stamina of the muscles.

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Science strongly supports a ratio of 2:1:1 (the “2” stands for leucine and the “1’s” stand for isoleucine and valine) because as studies have found, the body will need twice as much leucine as isoleucine and valine. Most experts recommend 4-5 grams of BCAAs as one dosage, so using the 4-gram dose, it’s very simple: 2 grams of leucine, 1 gram of isoleucine and 1 gram of valine. Be sure to look for formulas that follow this dosage logic.

BCAAs have been proven to be an essential part of any serious training regimen. If you want to give your muscles the best fighting chance to grow and recover, then you need to supplement with BCAAs. The benefits include heightened mTOR signaling, increased nitrogen, quicker recovery, blood sugar benefits, and more!

Max Muscle Nutrition makes some great products featuring BCAAs. Our Pro BCAA formula comes in eight different flavors and follows the 2:1:1 ratio for enhanced performance. Stop by at one of our Max Muscle stores (San Mateo & San Francisco) for some great advice from our Certified Fitness Nutrition Coaches who can educate you and help you get the right supplements for your needs and goals.  Samples are available to try out as well! 

Jason Mayol

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