What is it?
In the world of amino acids, the structural “building blocks” of proteins, there are several classes and types of aminos. For example, we have the essential amino acids, the non-essential amino acids, the conditionally essential amino acids, and the branch chain amino acids (BCAA).
The essential amino acids are deemed as such because the body cannot manufacture them and they must be supplied by the diet. The non-essential amino acids can be made from the essential amino acids, and thus don’t have to be supplied by the diet for survival, though many non-essential amino acids play essential roles in health and metabolism in their own right.
What is it supposed to do?
The conditionally essential amino acids, so named because during certain periods, such as infancy or certain metabolic states, can be considered essential for that period of time. The branch chain amino acids (so named because they branch off another chain of atoms rather than form a straight line as other amino acids do) are leucine, valine and iso-leucine.
The BCAA’s are the amino acids that are primarily used (oxidized) during exercise and make up to one third of the amino acids in muscle tissue. It has been known for a long time that BCAA’s play a critical role in the turn over of lean body tissues (muscle) and is muscle sparing (i.e. anti-catabolic) in a variety of muscles wasting states. Of the three BCAA, L-leucine appears to be the most important to preserve hard earned muscle mass; intense exercise and certain disease states have been shown to eat up a great deal of L-leucine.
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