Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The words “branched chain” simply refers to their chemical structure. They are amino acids that have one carbon atom bound to more than two other carbon atoms.
A study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism which concluded that branched chain’ amino acids (BCAAs) may increase life span by inducing mitochondrial biogenesis, which is the spontaneous generation of new mitochondria. Mitochondria are known for supplying cellular energy. The study also concluded that BCAAs upregulate (make more of) the expression of a pro-longevity gene.[2,3,4]
The BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are essential amino acids. Each of these three benefit many biological processes in our body. But they are best known for their ability to build our muscle mass.
Isoleucine is needed for the formation of hemoglobin and to regulate blood sugar and energy levels. It plays an important role in muscle strength and endurance and is a source of energy for muscle tissues. Isoleucine also promotes muscle recovery after an intense workout.
Leucine facilitates healing by modulating the release of natural pain-reducers called enkephalins. Leucine is a precursor of cholesterol and also increases the synthesis of muscle tissue.
Valine is essential in muscle growth and development, muscle metabolism, and the maintenance of nitrogen balance in the body. It can be used as an energy source in place of glucose. Valine has also been used as a treatment for brain damage caused by alcohol.
The BCAAs are formed during photosynthesis when sunlight shines on a green plant. Since BCAAs originate from plants, and eating low on the food chain is the least polluted source of nutrition, I look towards plants to get mine. Beans and peas are a good source for all of the BCAAs. And if you’re interested in protein powder, pea protein powder happens to be high in BCAAs. My favorite source of the BCAAs is Warrior Blend, from SUNWARRIOR.
Craig B Sommers ND, CN
1 D’Antona G, Ragni M, Cardile A, et al. Branched chain amino acid supplementation promotes survival and supports cardiac and skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis in middle-aged mice. Cell Metab. 2010 Oct 6;12(4):362-72. 2 Chowanadisai W, Bauerly KA, Tchaparian E, Wong A, Cortopassi GA, Rucker RB. Pyrroloquinoline quinone stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis through cAMP response element-binding protein phosphorylation and increased PGC-1alpha expression. J Biol Chem. 2010 Jan 1;285(1):142-52. 3 Kelly G. A review of the sirtuin system, its clinical implications, and the potential role of dietary activators like resveratrol: part 1. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Sep;15(3):245-63. 4 Kelly GS. A review of the sirtuin system, its clinical implications, and the potential role of dietary activators like resveratrol: part 2. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Dec;15(4):313-28. 5 Karlsson, H. K. R. (2004). "Branched-chain amino acids increase p70S6k phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise". AJP: Endocrinology and Metabolism287: E1–7. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00430.2003. PMID 14998784. 6,7,8 http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Structural_Biochemistry/Proteins/Amino_Acids#Amino_Acid_Subdivisions