Protein provides your body with amino acids that are vital to building muscle tissue. Among the 22 known biologically active aminos, 14 are considered nonessential—alanine, glycine, serine, cysteine, tyrosine, aspartic acid, proline, histidine, citruline, arginine, ornithine, glutamic acid, glutamine and glycine. Nonessential doesn’t mean they aren’t required, just that the body can produce them.
Eight are considered essential—meaning they can’t be made by the body and must be obtained via the diet: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Each amino has unique attributes. Grouped together, however, they’re an anabolic force to be reckoned with; for example, leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are the branched-chain amino acids. New research shows that BCAAs regulate alterations within the central nervous system that can adversely affect your physical performance and growth potential.
Revered for their ability to speed recovery and repair of muscle tissue, BCAAs act as anabolic whistle-blowers. They signal the body to extract circulating aminos from the bloodstream at a faster rate, thus feeding cycles of growth and repair. They can also aid fatigue.
Physical fatigue can be felt and quantified by muscle weakness and soreness—a.k.a. peripheral fatigue. The other aspect of fatigue that usually isn’t given any consideration in the recovery process is central nervous system fatigue. CNS refers to the brain and the spinal cord, which make up the main processing center for the entire nervous system and control all of the workings of the body, including muscle contraction.
Current research indicates that during periods of physical exertion, production and metabolism of the brain chemical 5-hydroxytryptamine increases, which negatively affects central nervous system processes, resulting in physiological changes such as diminished glycogen stores and an increase in free tryptophan and serotonin in the brain. That causes poor mental and physical recovery after a workout. New data show that BCAAs increase protein synthesis and reduce muscle tissue breakdown when supplemented postworkout. they also upregulate central-nervous-system processes.
Research conducted by J. Mark Davis at the University of South Carolina clearly shows that BCAAs can improve CNS recovery. Additionally, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden reported that taking BCAAs prior to exercise reduced concentrations of tryptophan in the blood, so subjects perceived less exertion and mental fatigue.
BCAAs enhance gluconeogenesis, the actual production of new glucose. Intense workouts cause the body to release stored glycogen from the liver and muscles to make new adenosine triphosphate for fuel. Anaerobic exercises like resistance training will rapidly deplete stores of ATP. BCAAs are intimately involved with using nonglucose substances to stimulate gluconeogenesis, which is critical to improving exercise-induced mental and physical muscle fatigue.
Suggested BCAAs dose: Seven to 12 grams divided into equal doses before and after workouts.