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Do BCAAs help you lose weight?

BCAA are a popular sports supplement. The term covers the three branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs are an important component of the muscles and serve as a source of energy for the muscle cells. They are among the essential amino acids. This means that the body cannot produce them itself, but must absorb them through protein-rich foods or food supplements.

However, BCAAs are not only of interest to athletes; those who want to lose weight can also benefit from the amino acids.

Table of contents
  • How to lose weight successfully
  • Protein: how much do I need
  • ? How can BCAAs help you lose weight?
  • BCAAs help to maintain muscle mass
  • Conclusion

How to lose weight successfully

To lose weight, you need to consume more calories than you take in. One way to achieve this is to reduce your calorie intake through your diet. Try to cut a calorie deficit of around 300-500 calories from your total daily calorie requirement. Make sure that your calorie deficit is not too high and plan a longer time to lose weight. You should not lose more than half a kilo to one kilo per week. Too high a calorie deficit will cause your metabolism to slow down and the yo-yo effect will set in after a certain period of time.

Secondly, you should increase your physical activity so that you burn more calories. Sports sessions and regular exercise are therefore also part of successful weight loss. To lose weight, you should not only pay attention to how much you eat, but also what you eat. A protein-rich and plant-based diet can help you lose weight.

Protein: how much do I need?

Our bodies are constantly building up and breaking down proteins, for which we need protein or its building blocks - amino acids. We therefore need a certain amount of protein every day. The German Nutrition Society, for example, recommends a protein intake of 0.8 g/kg body weight. However, amino acids not only play an important role in protein synthesis, but also have numerous functions in our metabolism. It is therefore no longer appropriate to determine the daily protein requirement solely on the basis of the nitrogen balance. The numerous other functions that essential amino acids have in our organism are not taken into account. The question therefore arises as to whether an intake of 0.8 g/kg body weight is actually sufficient.

The nitrogen balance provides information on whether more proteins are built up (= anabolic metabolism) or broken down (= catabolic metabolism, e.g. in times of hunger) in our body. It results from the difference between the amount of nitrogen absorbed and excreted.

How can BCAAs help you lose weight?

BCAAs serve, for example, as a precursor for the amino acids glutamine and alanine or as an energy supplier for the muscles. However, they can only perform these tasks if they are present in sufficient quantities. They are primarily used to build up the body's own protein. For example, 1-4 g of leucine per day is required for protein synthesis. Only when this requirement is met can the other functions be fulfilled. This so-called metabolic use of leucine is estimated at 7-12 g per day.

Preventing cravings & protection against muscle breakdown

BCAA serve as a precursor to glutamine, from which the body can in turn obtain glucose. BCAAs therefore help to maintain blood sugar levels and prevent cravings. They serve the body as an emergency reserve, so to speak, when there is too little glucose in the blood and the carbohydrate (glycogen) reserves are running low. This is why BCAAs are often taken by athletes who train on an empty stomach. By taking them, they avoid using valuable muscle protein to generate energy when carbohydrate stores are depleted.

Stimulation of protein synthesis

Furthermore, leucine in particular can stimulate muscle protein synthesis during catabolic metabolism (e.g. during a diet or after strenuous training). A high blood concentration of leucine activates insulin secretion and other factors (e.g. eIF4 and p70S6K) that stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Weight loss is always about losing as much fat mass as possible and reducing the loss of energy-consuming protein mass. Leucine can probably have a supportive effect here.

BCAAs help to maintain muscle mass

A study by D. K. Laymann compares two weight loss groups that differ only in terms of their carbohydrate and protein intake. The intake of fiber, fat and calories is the same. While the protein intake of one group is 0.8 g/kg body weight, the second group consumes 1.5 g protein/kg body weight (equivalent to around 10 g leucine per day). The two weight loss groups were observed for 10 weeks (study 1), and two additional groups for 16 weeks (study 2). While the test subjects in study 1 did not exercise, in study 2 they had to complete a prescribed training program on 5 days - otherwise there was no difference. Both the participants in Study 1 and Study 2 lost more weight with the higher-protein diet - however, the difference was only significant after 16 weeks (i.e. in Study 2). A significant difference in body composition was also seen here. Compared to the carbohydrate group, the group with more protein lost more body fat and less lean (=muscle) mass.

A study by Dudgeon et al. shows that BCAA supplementation in young, trained men prevents muscle building in a calorie deficit.

Conclusion:

The important role that BCAAs play for the metabolism has not yet been taken into account in the recommendations for protein intake. A sufficiently high intake of BCAAs can be particularly helpful during a diet or intensive physical activity to prevent a loss of muscle mass.

The Nutri-Plus BCAA powder

Our BCAAminos are developed by nutritionists in Germany. Our BCAA powder is available in four delicious flavors and a neutral variant. Production is subject to the strictest quality standards and the products are regularly tested by an independent laboratory. Like all our products, the powders are free from animal ingredients.

Sources
Layman D.K. The role of leucine in weight loss diets and glucose homeostasis. J Nutr 2003;133:261-267. Dudgeon W.D. et al. In a single-blind, matched group design: branched-chain amino acid supplementation and resistance training maintains lean body mass during a caloric restricted diet. J Int Soc Sports Nutr; 2016 (5);13:1. Phillips SM, Chevalier S, Leidy HJ. Protein "requirements" beyond the rda: implications for optimizing health. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(5):565-72