For people with low dietary protein intake, BCAA supplementation can promote muscle synthesis and increase muscle growth over time. To meet the increased demand for energy during exercise, the body breaks down muscle tissue to use BCAAs. By taking in extra BCAAs during exercise, you can meet the increased demand without losing muscle mass.
There are 9 essential amino acids and 3 branched-chain amino acids. The BCAAs are isoleucine, valine and leucine. These three amino acids are special as they are not degraded by the enzymes in the liver, and have greater freedom to enter the body’s tissues.
When your glycogen stores run low, your body relies on the three types of BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) for fuel. It is completely ketogenic and especially powerful for energy production. It can provide skeletal muscle with a high amount of ATP. ATP is a molecule that moves energy to cells for muscle contraction.
Leucine is a crucial component of whey protein, which many believe gives this form of protein its power to support muscle growth. Leucine plays a key role in a variety of body functions including hormone control, stabilising blood glucose levels, preventing muscle protein breakdown and facilitating muscle protein synthesis.
Although BCAAs are found within foods, if you are vegan, vegetarian or just don’t like eating meat products, BCAA supplements are a low-calorie alternative, many of which being manufactured with vegetarian-friendly whey protein or often soy protein isolate.
Many consumers look for a 2:1:1 or 3:1:1 blend of the three essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine.
It is difficult to provide an exact dosage that is suitable for everyone; research suggests 0.03-0.05g/kg body weight per hour or 2-4g per hour during exercise and post workout. BCAAs can be taken up to 3 times a day depending on the serving size and concentration. Tablets, capsules and powders are available to buy throughout the sports nutrition market.
The most common way BCAAs are consumed is in a powder form. BCAA powders began as straight unflavoured powders that could be combined with protein shakes, post-workout drinks or other supplements. The unflavoured powders tasted horrible and would ruin the flavour of the best tasting protein powder, so today BCAA powders are manufactured and come in a huge array of delicious flavours.
Another popular way to consume BCAA supplements is in a capsule or tablet form. Generally, these products are not as common as BCAA powders because in order to get the required dosage of BCAAs you have to take a number of the tablets and the digestion time is generally slower than powders. In addition, BCAA pills tend to be larger than most other pill supplements.
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