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"I Have Heard Branched Chain Amino Acids Can Increase Fat loss, Does That Really Happen?"
A: With regards to fat loss, they just might. While there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of BCAA consumption while dieting contributing to increased fat loss, there is some actual research to back up the claims.
First, let’s define what BCAAs actually are. BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are three essential amino acids with a special branched structure (hence the name) – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs can make up one-third of skeletal muscle, of which leucine appears to be the main player in most of the benefits seen from BCAA consumption.
When on a very low calorie diet it has been shown that supplemental BCAA consumption can help limit lean body mass loss as well as increasing visceral fat loss. Visceral fat is the deadly fat that accumulates around your central organs, it is metabolically active and it can wreak havoc on your health. It is one fat that you definitely want to get rid of.
It has also been shown that when consuming BCAAs around your training results in significantly less muscle breakdown. Adding just 12 grams of BCAAs per day was all that was needed to achieve this effect. This can be incredibly important while dieting, as maintaining lean mass is vital to maximizing fat loss, as well as to achieve the body composition you began dieting for in the first place!
Recently it has also been shown that leucine is one of the key igniters of protein synthesis. It seems that leucine itself can stimulate insulin production, increase protein synthesis, and modulate blood sugar. This may partly explain why BCAA supplementation while dieting is so effective at maintaining muscle mass, as they stimulate the muscle building components even while in a caloric deficit.
One of the most common recommendations of BCAA supplementation is to consume it before early morning training sessions. If you are someone who simply can’t train after eating, or prefers to train on an empty stomach, BCAA supplementation could be incredibly important for you.
Many people exercise first thing in the morning, and no one wants the potential gastric distress that can come from training on a full stomach. It has also been postulated that due to low glycogen levels upon waking, fat oxidation will be increased when training on an empty stomach, but no one wants the potential increase in muscle breakdown that can accompany fasted training.
BCAAs are a perfect compromise as they do not inhibit the oxidation of carbohydrates and fats, yet they will work to maintain your lean mass as well provide some blood sugar via gluconeogenesis if necessary.
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