Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine are 3 of the 9 essential amino acids. They are called BCAA (branched-chain amino acids). There are nine essential amino acids our body’s cannot make. Consequently, these amino acids must be obtained from our diet. BCAA benefits include improved athletic performance, decreased rate of lean body mass breakdown, and increased protein synthesis.

What are BCAA?

Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine the branched-chain amino acids. Their name comes from their branched molecular structure. BCAA’s are primarily metabolized in lean body mass tissue, whereas most amino acids are broken down in the liver. Consequently they can help improve exercise performance and reduce the rate of lean body mass break down.

BCAA Benefits

BCAA benefits include promoting lean body mass protein synthesis and also increase lean body mass in individuals who consume a low protein diet. In one study, leucine and valine caused significant suppression of body weight loss in mice with cachexia (body-wasting). Both of these BCAA caused a significant increase in muscle tissue, through an increase in protein synthesis and a decrease in degradation.

BCAA supplementation may also be effective in preventing fatigue in athletes and physically active people by halting a decline in serum BCAA levels which can occur during physical exertion. A decline in serum BCAA levels often causes the influx of tryptophan into the brain. Consequently an increased serotonin production may result in fatigue.

The amino acid leucine plays a critical role in the synthesis of muscle protein. Isoleucine plays a vital role by inducing cells to store more glycogen. Valine functions synergistically with the other two BCAA, to encourage normal growth, repair bodily tissues, regulate blood sugar levels, and supply the body with energy. Valine stimulates the nervous system and required for healthy mental function.

A Deeper Look at Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine

Isoleucine increases endurance, helps to repair lean tissue, and encourages blood clotting at the site of injury. This BCAA benefits athletes because its primary role in the body is to increase energy and help recovery from strenuous physical activity. An isoleucine deficiency can produce symptoms like those of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and can include: Headaches, Dizziness, Fatigue, Depression, Confusion, Irritability

Leucine works with the BCAA isoleucine and valine to help repair lean mass, regulate blood sugar, and maintain the body’s energy levels. L-leucine has also shown to temporarily increase the production of growth hormone. Leucine converts to glucose faster than isoleucine or valine, therefore, preventing loss of lean body mass. Increased available glucose inhibits the body having to break down lean body mass for energy during intense exertion. Leucine is often given after surgery to aid the healing processes of bones, skin, and lean body mass tissue.

What are the Precautions When Taking This Medicine?

According to the most recent research studies, daily intake of BCAA substantially in excess of the BCAA contained in dietary sources appears to be safe in humans. Excessive oral consumption can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

Who Shouldn’t Take This Medicine?

People who suffer from Maple Sugar Urine Disease (a rare but potentially fatal metabolic disorder) should not use BCAA. These people lack an essential enzyme to break down BCAA. Consuming BCAA may cause lung failure and increased death rates in people with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). If you have ALS, you should not use branched-chain amino acids.