The benefits of taking branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) during endurance sports
The branched-chain amino acids are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Its beneficial role in endurance or long duration sports such as triathlon, trails and ultra trails, running, cycling, etc. begins to be known and understood.
According to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), BCAAs are directly related to:
- The growth or maintenance of muscle mass
- Slow down the decrease of muscle power in high-altitude sports
- Accelerate muscle recovery after exercise
- Reduction of the stress or fatigue that the athlete perceives during the exercise
- Maintains the immune system in good condition
Currently the scientific community establishes as benefits of the BCAAs:
1.-Increased physical capacity in long-lasting sports
The increase of the oxidation that the branched-chain amino acids intake (or BCAA) contributes to decrease the production of lactate during the practice of endurance sports. This implies that the athlete’s body undergoes less stress and a lesser decrease in the ability to make a sustained physical effort, so it can maintain a steady rhythm for longer.
2.-Produce energy (by oxidation)
We are accustomed to think of carbohydrates and fats as the main energy sources. However, more and more studies show that skeletal muscle oxidizes between 1% and 5% of total energy from amino acids, mainly BCAAs.
This indicates that a way to maintain the capacity of effort, along with the rest of benefits of the BCAA, is the branched-chain amino acid supplementation during the sport practice.
3.-Reduce muscle damage caused by continued exercise
Eccentric contraction of the muscle for hours causes microcracks in the muscular fibers, reason why in sports of long duration can develop muscle pain, ramps, cramps and, ultimately, proteolysis (destruction of proteins). All together unrelentingly determines the performance of the athlete throughout the sport activity.
Research in endurance athletes indicates that BCAA supplementation may reduce muscle damage and suppress proteolysis.
4.-BCAAs decrease central fatigue
Physical fatigue that originates in the central nervous system is called central fatigue. In the case of endurance athletes, high levels of serotonin and tryptophan have been shown to cause central fatigue, which results in generalized fatigue and decreasing physical performance.
BCAA supplementation increases the release of neurotransmitters, counteracting the negative effects of serotonin and tryptophan, allowing the athlete to maintain the physical performance for longer.
5.- Branched-chain amino acids help muscle recovery
BCAAs have anabolic effects on skeletal muscle during the period of muscle recovery following the practice of long duration sports. It is commonly accepted that Leucine is the branched-chain amino acid responsible for increasing protein synthesis after exercise, which would favor repair of muscle fibers and prevent protein destruction (catabolism).
It has been proven that BCAA supplementation has a very positive impact on muscle recovery and avoiding protein destruction (or catabolism).