If you want to optimize muscle growth after weight training, don’t take branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) supplements in isolation, say researchers from the University of Stirling.
The study revealed that while BCAA supplements do stimulate the muscle building response in people after they lift weights, other muscle-building supplements are far more effective. Supplements that contain all necessary amino acids stimulate a greater muscle growth response.
The scientists also investigated how effective the supplements were at stimulating the machinery inside the muscle itself that leads to muscle growth.
They found that while BCAA drinks stimulate the body's muscle building systems, they lack some essential amino acids that are necessary to support a maximal muscle growth response. The muscle's response was more than double when a 20-gram whey protein supplement containing the equivalent amount of BCAA that included the other amino acids, was taken after working out in the gym.
What are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)?
Protein-rich foods supply your body with 20 amino acids, all of which are needed for good health. Eleven of these can be manufactured by your body and are called non-essential amino acids. The remaining nine however, are essential amino acids and must be supplied by your diet because your body cannot synthesize them on its own.
BCAAs are a special class of essential amino acids that stimulate the muscle growth response. Unlike other essential amino acids, BCAAs are metabolized in the muscle, not the liver. BCAA supplements are considered to be an important part of the nutrition plan for many bodybuilders, weightlifters and others seeking muscle growth.
A sufficient amount of all essential amino acids is necessary for maximum muscle building, following exercise. The researchers say that athletes interested in building muscle with training should not rely on BCAA supplements alone.
The BCAA supplement enhanced the muscle growth response slightly compared to a placebo, however the muscle's response was more than double when a whey protein supplement containing the equivalent amount of BCAA that included the other amino acids, was taken.
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