The liver is the main place in your body where Amino Acids are broken down. Proteins that we eat are broken down into amino acids, which are then transported to the liver where they are  further broken down for use throughout the body. Of the amino acid found in food there are three of particular interest  called Branched Chain Amino Acids. These three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine.  A branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) is an amino acid that has an aliphatic side-chain with a branch (i.e. a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms). This differentiation is important because of their use in the body and where these amino acids are primarily broken down.  Branch Chain Amino acids are primarily broken down at the muscle instead of the liver. These amino acids are especially important to athletes and active individuals because they are stored at very high concentrations within muscle tissue and because they are needed for the maintenance of muscle tissue.  

BCAAs also appear to preserve muscle glycogen stores and may even help to prevent muscle protein breakdown during exercise. Studies have shown that BCAA supplementation can increase nitrogen retention, which may minimize the loss of lean muscle tissue during dieting and intense training. Studies also show that BCAA supplementation may increase the amount of nitrogen stored within the muscle after training; in turn this may reduce recovery time and aid in the repair and growth of muscle tissue.This leads us to the notion of drinking BCAAs while exercising to provide the muscle with additional energy needed to maintain and build muscle mass. BCAAs are an extremely important supplement to individuals who are exercising in a low caloric state…i.e. dieting.  Athletes and bodybuilders have understood the importance of BCAAs for quite some time.  However, the more interesting use of BCAAs supplementation is found in the treatment of a variety of diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), brain conditions due to liver disease (chronic hepatic encephalopathy, latent hepatic encephalopathy) and poor appetite in elderly kidney failure patients and cancer patients.  As I have eluded to in my previous posts, nutrition is a crucial element of health and recovery in both sick and healthy individuals. Prioritizing nutrition above training, treatment and medications appears to yield tremendous results.

Zheng L, et al. Nutrients (2016). Supplementation of branched-chain amino acids to a reduced-protein diet improves growth performance in piglets: involvement of increased feed intake and direct muscle growth-promoting effect. Retrieved from:
Zheng L, et al. Nutrients (2016). Effects of Supplementation of Branched-Chain Amino Acids to Reduced-Protein Diet on Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Degradation in the Fed and Fasted States in a Piglet Model. Retrieved from: