Chemistry defines an Amino acid as a carbon containing compound with an Amino (NH2) and carboxylic (COOH) group. There exist 21 such amino acids of which only three have a branched structure and the rest, linear structures.
The three branched amino acids include: Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine.
In general amino acids form the building blocks of proteins that are necessary for growth and development in the body. The three branched amino acids though hydrophobic in nature, do not behave identically. They are however an important constituent of contractile proteins that form muscles.
Here are the basic functions of these three branched amino acids.
Valine: This is an aliphatic, non polar, essential amino acid commonly found in proteins. As of now, there have been no advantages that have been linked to valine as per the studies by researchers and this branched chain amino acid is thus rendered vestigial alongside the other two.
Leucine: This is an aliphatic, non polar amino acid often referred to as the â€˜main amino acid’. It is the major muscle building amino acid and helps in muscle protein synthesis.
Isoleucine: This is the third aliphatic, non polar amino acid that is a member of the Branched amino acid group. Its major role is in promotion of glucose consumption by muscles to enhance energy.
Usually, amino acids that are taken in are carried to the liver. Here, they are broken down and sent to the muscles for repair or simply used in the production of energy necessary to carry out the body’s normal functions. The Branched chain amino acids on the other hand, offer the added advantage of bypassing this intermediate liver stage and going directly to the muscle enabling in their quick recovery and repair.
Furthermore, these branched amino acids help maintain the glucose levels in the body for a little longer making them the perfect recipe for a strenuous workout!
It is indeed for this sole reason that branched chain amino acids are so widely used by athletes and weight lifters as part of their nutritional supplements.
Apart from the above mentioned advantages, 10 benefits of branched chain amino acids (BCAA,â€˜s)are given below.
- They help reduce fatigue.
- Branched chain amino acids help regulate protein synthesis.
- They increase muscle retention and help reduce fat loss.
- During workouts, BCAA’s help produce a lot of energy.
- BCAA’s are used to treat brain disorders.
- They may be administered when the body is under stress, to prevent widespread infection.
- BCAA’s have also been known to prevent transmission of imprecise messages in brain cells of people with liver disease, anorexia, mania etc.
- They are also administered to young children to improve nutritional value.
- BCAA’s are taken post exercise routines and for endurance training.
- It is also prescribed to patients who have undergone burn traumas to aid quick recovery.