BCAA Energy is a BCAA-centric amino acid supplement with the addition of Caffeine, albeit a lot less than more stimulant-focused pre-workouts.
Leucine is an amio acid belonging to the group known as Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), along with Isoleucine and Valine. The most common ratio found in BCAA supplements, the same ratio found in BCAA Energy, is 2:1:1 with the higher weight being Leucine. While there is no reliable scientific evidence to indicate one true “optimal ratio”, Leucine tends to be the most abundant because it is the most potent with regards to stimulation of muscle protein synthesis.
This was first demonstrated in a 1999 study from the “Journal of Nutrition”, but has been replicated several times since then. A 2009 study, published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism”, found that Leucine’s stimulation of muscle protein synthesis was augmented by physical exercise, indicating that pre/intra workout Leucine supplementation may have a greater impact than at other times. These results were consistent with those of an earlier (2001) study from the “American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism” in which essential amino acid (include Leucine) ingestion prior to exercise had a greater influence protein synthesis than post-exercise ingestion in healthy human subjects.
Leucine has also been shown, in multiple studies, to preserve muscle mass in individuals with certain diseases characterized by muscular wasting, further establishing Leucine as a potent anti-catabolic agent.
Leucine’s primary mechanism of action is via activation of Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) which is a signaling molecule that signals the body to synthesize protein. To put it simply, Leucine activates mTOR which in turn stimulates protein synthesis. BCAA Energy contains 2500mg of Instantized Leucine.
While Leucine is the most important with regards to muscle protein synthesis, Isoleucine appears to have unique benefits regarding glucose uptake by muscle cells (while lowering blood glucose). In several rat studies, Isoleucine has effectively lowered blood glucose and increased glucose uptake into muscle cells. While the effect of Isoleucine (in isolation) on muscle glucose uptake has not been studied in humans, BCAAs in general due appear to induce glucose uptake, and based on the rat studies this may be due to Isoleucine more so than the others. BCAA Energy contains 1250mg of Isoleucine.
Valine appears to possess the least unique benefit, but there are claims circulating that Valine may reduce mental exercise-induced fatigue by reducing the amount of Tryptophan available for Serotonin synthesis. A 2001 study concluded that Valine lowered the amount of exercise-induced 5-HT (Serotonin) in mouse hippocampuses. During exercise Tryptophan is transported to the brain where it is converted into Serotonin. It is hypothesized that Serotonin is responsible for mental fatigue. It has also been established that BCAA directly compete with tryptophan for the same pathway to the brain, and therefore may reduce the amount of Tryptophan available for Serotonin production. This would explain certain subjective anti-fatigue effects of BCAA supplementation noted in a few studies. However, the claim that Valine is solely responsible for this effect is unsubstantiated by human studies. Given the current literature, it appears more likely that BCAAs in general help to attenuate fatigue. The BCAA Energy formula contains 1250mg of Valine.
BCAAS IN GENERAL:
A 2004 study conducted by the American Society for Nutritional Sciences found that BCAA requirement was significantly increased by exercise and that supplementation had “beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis”. A second study, published in the “American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism”, found that while BCAA intake did not seem to affect amino acid concentration during exercise, it did have a protein-sparing effect during recovery. If you consume a diet rich in complete proteins, then you already receive enough dietary BCAAs to fulfill all normal physiological functions. However, this in no way means you cannot derive added benefit from supplementing with BCAAs.
A 2009 study published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” tested the effects of BCAA supplementation in comparison to whey protein supplementation or simple carbohydrates (from a sports drink) in athletes. All subjects consumed the same diet and participated in the same physical training regimen. At the end of the 8 week study, the BCAA group significantly outperformed both the whey group and carbohydrate group in terms of lean body mass as well as strength. Results like these make us question whether skeptics of BCAAs have even bothered to read the literature. There is more than enough evidence to conclude that BCAA supplementation can have a significant anabolic effect in both protein deficient AND non-protein deficient humans.
A major criticism of BCAA supplements is that Leucine alone can achieve a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis. While Leucine does appear to be the most critical in regards to muscle protein synthesis, a 2009 study published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” concluded that BCAAs (2:1:1) have a more pronounced effect on protein synthesis than the same amount of Leucine alone. So, theoretically speaking, if you had to choose, you would choose Leucine, but all three is undeniably a better way to go. BCAA Energy contains 5 grams of BCAAs per serving (2:1:1 ratio), not an overwhelmingly effective dose but still moderately effective for stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
Beta-Alanine is a precursor to the amino acid Carnosine, which functions as a lactic acid buffer capable of reducing fatigue in the working muscle. Though it takes time to accumulate in muscle tissue, Beta-Alanine supplementation, for at least two weeks, is highly effective at increasing muscular Carnosine concentration.
One study in particular that measured the Carnosine levels of sprinters found that individuals with higher muscular Carnosine levels exhibited higher power output in the latter half of a 30m sprint (because they had less lactic acid build-up). Multiple studies have confirmed that Beta Alanine supplementation increases muscular Carnosine in a dose dependent manner. In particular, a 2012 study published in “Amino Acids” found that subjects who consumed 1.6 or 3.2 grams of Beta Alanine daily experienced significant increases in muscle carnosine in as little as two weeks, with the higher dose achieving a higher concentration of Carnosine. The doses used in this study, 1.6 and 3.2g, are the most common doses seen in supplements.
BCAA Energy contains just 800mg of Beta-Alanine, a pretty low dose considering the minimally effective dose is generally considered to be 1.6g. However, given that the formula is intended to be stackable with other EVLution Nutrition products (namely ENGN), this low dose could be viewed as acceptable.
L-Alanine is an amino acid, the primary functions of which (aside from building proteins) pertain to glucose metabolism and the transport of nitrogen to the liver. In a 2010 double-blind placebo controlled study published in the “FASEB Journal”, it was shown that L-Alanine supplementation slightly reduced delayed onset muscle soreness. There is some controversy as to whether including L-Alanine with other amino acids may result in absorption issues due to competition, but this controversy is based primarily on assumptions, not practical evidence. BCAA Energy contains 500mg of L-Alanine, not a particularly effective dose but one that may contribute somewhat to muscle recovery.
Despite its inclusion in energy drinks, Taurine is not a stimulant and does not increase perceived energy or focus. Rather, it is an amino acid with antioxidant properties with implications for exercise recovery as well as slight performance enhancement.
In a 2011 study from “Cell Biochemistry and Function” Taurine was shown to significantly reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress in skeletal muscle. These findings were consistent with those of an earlier (2004) study, published in “Amino Acids” which showed that Taurine may decrease exercise induced DNA damage, as well as “enhance the capacity of exercise due to its cellular protective properties”.
A recent 2013 study, also from “Amino Acids” noted a 1.7% improvement in 3k-time trial of runners after supplementing with Taurine, and these findings were further corroborated in a later 2013 study from “Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism “ in which Taurine supplementation was able to increase strength as well as decrease oxidative muscle damage.
Taurine is quite effective for reducing muscle damage and increasing workout capacity, with common doses ranging from 1-2g. With 500mg per serving, we wouldn’t consider Taurine a key ingredient in the BCAA Energy formula, but it may contribute (along with L-Alanine) to the reduction of muscle damage.
CAFFEINE FROM GREEN COFFEE BEAN:
Caffeine is well-established as an ergogenic aid as well as cognitive enhancer. Consuming Caffeine before/during a workout can enhance muscle contractibility as well as increase focus/intensity, leading to longer, more fulfilling workouts. The amount of Caffeine in the BCAA Energy blend is very slight, with only 110mg of Caffeine and Green Tea Extract combined. This makes it stackable with pre-workouts that also contain caffeine or allows for multiple serving consumption.
GREEN TEA EXTRACT (EGCG):
Green Tea Extract is generally standardized for EGCG, a Catechin which functions as a Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor. COMT is an enzyme which degrades Catecholamine neurotransmitters such as Noradrenaline, so by blocking this enzyme, EGCG allows for higher levels of Noradrenaline. This mechanism of action is quite synergistic with Caffeine, so the Green Tea Extract in BCAA Energy may subtly enhance the focus/energy effects of the Caffeine.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
BCAA Energy contains the standard 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs, but is different from standard BCAA products in that it also includes Taurine, Alanine, Caffeine and EGCG (a little bit). The level of Caffeine is relatively modest, making BCAA Energy stackable with most Caffeine-containing pre-workouts, as well as providing a subtle energy boost for those who prefer to limit Caffeine intake. With 5g BCAAs per serving, the formula is moderately effective, though we generally recommend 7-10g of BCAAs at a time (depending on diet). At about 65 cents per serving, BCAA Energy is more or less appropriately priced.
[expand title=”REFERENCES” tag=”h5″]
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