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  • Grand Poobah

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The branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) is an amino acid with a side-chain consisting of covalently linked carbon atoms that form a branch-like structure thus eliciting their name. There are the three BCAAs found in the body: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Supplementation with BCAAs has been very popular primarily because of the apparent ability of BCAAs to increase muscle growth. The problem is that all three BCAAs do not equally promote muscle growth. In fact, it’s not even close as leucine is, by far, the most potent stimulator of muscle growth while isoleucine and valine come in a very distant second and third place, respectively,

That said, isoleucine and valine do provide some performance enhancing effects. However, the simultaneous consumption of all 3 BCAAs should be avoided as many of the performance enhancing effects caused from the independent ingestion of a particular BCAA can be diminished by the simultaneous ingestion of all 3 BCAAs. Furthermore, the counterproductive influence caused by taking all 3 BCAAs at the same time likely increases the amount of BCAA required to produce the desired performance enhancing effect and greater BCAA intake further depletes the positive influence from BCAA consumption as too much BCAA intake promotes insulin resistance 

stunting muscle growth and thus performance.
Leucine is the most potent muscle-building BCAA
Out of all 3 BCAAs, leucine elicits the strongest anabolic response by potently activating the nutrient sensing enzyme mTOR which directly enhances muscle protein synthesis while preventing muscle protein breakdown resulting in muscle growth. Several scientific studies highlight potent mTOR activation by the amino acid leucine. 

Leucine consumption has also been shown to decrease muscle protein breakdown once again by activating mTOR which has the capacity to turn off the energy-sensing enzyme AMPK. Inactivation of AMPK prevents its normal function of initiating the breakdown of protein into amino acids for energy in order to restore energy levels within the cell when cellular energy is low. Altogether, the ability of leucine to robustly increase muscle protein production while decreasing protein degradation increases muscle protein levels resulting in considerable muscle hypertrophy.
The antagonistic function of isoleucine and leucine on muscle cell energy indicates independent consumption

. The loss of body fat augments the response to insulin signaling thus overcoming, to some degree, the negative influence that leucine can have on insulin signaling via over stimulation.

In summary, the optimal use of BCAAs for performance enhancement involves more than just simply consuming BCAAs before and after working out to boost muscle growth. The correct use requires the proper timing of leucine, isoleucine, and valine intake to prevent their antagonistic effects on each other thus maximizing the performance enhancing effects of BCAA consumption. Moreover, the removal of any counteracting effects from proper timing of BCAA intake further enhances the muscle-building effect by lowering the effective dosage required for each BCAA which reduces the negative impact that extraneous BCAA consumption can have on insulin-driven muscle growth.


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