Science Agrees: BCAAs Are Awesome

FO_BCAAsport_WatermelonAs experts in the supplement industry, we are intimately familiar with concerns and questions customers and the paying public may have about products.

Do they work? (To wildly varying degrees, yes – buy the good ones.) Are they safe? (Buy from reputable vendors like Nutrishop, and they couldn’t be safer – we don’t hesitate to yank inferior products off our shelves.) What exactly do they do?

We like to turn to science and study when it comes to answering all of those questions. ln recent years, what’s come to light specifically about one certain supplement is extremely encouraging. Not only do BCAAs stand up as an excellent product for fat loss and muscle gain in non-biased, scientific review, but they routinely make regular customers’ shopping lists each time they visit us. A lot of products will come and go – only the best ones stick around when the hype wears off and results are all that’s left. And at the end of the day, BCAAs are always left standing.

What makes Branched Chain Amino Acids such an effective supplement? For starters, BCAAs are incredibly versatile.  Typically, supplements can reasonably claim to address one or two goals – strength, muscle mass, fat loss, or athletic performance. BCAAs can help with all of them. 

A randomized, double-blind study, published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, was performed to “evaluate the efficacy of consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) during an eight-week resistance-training program.”  The conclusion:

Ingestion of a supplement containing BCAAs while following an 8-week resistance training program resulted in a greater decrease in percent body fat, an increase in lean mass, and 10-RM strength gains on the bench press and squat vs. ingestion of a whey supplement or a sports drink. In addition, the ingestion of a whey protein supplement resulted in greater lean mass gains than ingestion of a sports drink.

What does that mean? In short: Regular use of BCAAs as a supplement to your diet and training program make you leaner and stronger. Less fat, more muscle, more strength.

Benefits don’t stop there. In 2006, The Journal of Nutrition published a study that found BCAAs to play a role in reducing exercise fatigue – meaning that if you took BCAAs before and/or during your workouts, you could go more intensely, or longer, to get more out of your exercise. The same study found that “Branched-chain amino acids also positively influence the metabolic response of muscle to exercise.”

Translation: BCAAs slow your metabolism’s feast on your muscle tissue when you’re working out.

Even when you’re not training, though, BCAAs have the same effect. So if you’re taking a break, trying out anabolic fasting diets, going on vacation or suffering an injury that keeps you out of the gym, knocking back BCAAs regularly will help slow the muscle catabolism (your body using muscle for energy) or atrophy that would otherwise occur. That phenomenon was proven out in a study published in Nutrition Research in 2012.

It’s not snake oil, folks.

For years, the most-researched and trusted supplements in this industry were whey protein and creatine. Doubters cropped up all over the place at first, but as the scientific method consistently proved them wrong, these products clearly developed staying power. Well, it’s time to add BCAAs to that list. Study after study is showing that amino acids are not only just an emerging powerhouse supplement, but a must-have for all ranges of athletic ability – from elite athletes to first-day beginners.

Cardio Burns Muscle — Here’s How to Save It

Running is one of the oldest, most-beloved, low-fuss sports there is. All you need is you and your shoes and you’re off. Runners love many aspects of this sport: the scenery if you’re taking to a trail, the serenity if you do a distance run by yourself, and, of course, the physical benefits.

Running — in fact, any kind of long-distance cardio like cycling or even competitive swimming — is a great way to burn body fat, and while cardio may never have the same kind of after-burn effect on calories that weight-lifting does, research has shown that body fat gets eaten alive by cardio while it’s happening.

Unfortunately, so does muscle.

Because muscle tissue takes more energy to preserve and build than does fat, the body will try to break down muscle that is not used or needed in an effort to build up readily available supplies of glycogen. Sure, fat will burn too. But since muscle tissue is so precious to a fat-burning metabolism — remember, the act of simply maintaining it burns calories as you rest — those concerned with losing muscle mass can ill afford catabolism. This obviously presents a problem for athletes who enjoy prolonged periods of aerobic exercise but who don’t want to see their iron gains go to waste, either.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are one of our favorite products, and their best, most practical use could very well be in preventing muscle wasting and aiding fat loss. Your muscles are built of proteins, proteins which your body is itching to break back down into energy if you give it the chance. It will target proteins before it targets body fat! When proteins are broken down back into amino acids (the process is called proteolysis), the muscle loses size, your metabolism gets slower and fat becomes harder to lose.
Where BCAAs come in is during that exact moment. Research has basically come to a consensus that the big three amino acids – Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine – are muscle-savers and fat-burners (via increased metabolism). The International Journal of Sports Medicine performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that tested two control groups performing moderate-intensity endurance exercise: one taking BCAAs, and the other taking the placebo. The study found, of course, that running, cycling and swimming (and other aerobic activity) does indeed increase muscle breakdown. But there’s more:
Endurance exercise at moderate intensity enhances proteolysis in working muscles … [But] a single oral intake of 2 g of BCAA … at onset of exercise effectively suppresses exercise-induced skeletal muscle proteolysis. (Source)
In other words, the amino acids you give your body when you take BCAAs provides a buffer your body can use without affecting the muscle you’ve worked to build. The upshot, then, is that you build or maintain muscle mass while still continuing to burn body fat. And that is a trade-off just about every athlete wants to make.

Supplements for More Than Physique Athletes

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At NUTRISHOP, much of our reputation for helping people achieve higher levels of fitness comes from our physique competitors — bodybuilders, bikini contestants and the like. It’s true that we do love helping these athletes hone their craft and shape their bodies. But we help with much more than simply how an athlete looks!

The body is all about movement and function — what can it do for us, and how can we help it perform better? Even those who don’t necessarily compete or exercise, who just want to feel better and be healthier in their day-to-day lives, make up a big part of our clientele.

To that end, we’ve come up with a list of the best products to use for athletes, specifically in endurance-dependent sports, those who might not be interested in getting on a stage to show off their muscular development but who would rather put their gains to functional use in competition, like races or athletics. We’ll be going through them with this running blog this week, two at a time.

The first two on our list are old standbys — frankly, they’d be great supplements for anybody.

1. PRO7EIN SYNTHESIS/FORZA PRO. Anyone who’s depending on muscle development and maintenance will find a need for protein in their diet; the problem is that it’s awfully tough to fill in with lean sources of protein throughout the day without loading up on calories. That’s where protein powders come in. PRO7 and FORZAPRO are some of the best-tasting, highest protein-to-calorie ratio supplements you can invest in.

How it helps the athlete: Aside from inherently adding more lean muscle mass, an increased protein intake has myriad benefits, including body fat loss. When you’re moving your body around in athletics, every pound has to pull its weight, especially if you’re competing in a weight class! Muscle recovery and optimization are key for any athlete.

2. BCAA SPORT. Further broken down, proteins, at their base level, are essentially made up of branched-chain amino acids. Your body can and will use these for energy, and finds them from food and even within the body — many distance runners, for example, appear to be very skinny and lean because while their metabolisms attack fat stores for energy, they also will turn to muscle and the amino acids in them for fuel. Supplementing with BCAAs provides a buffer of sorts, as well as helping maintain and even build the muscle in the body.

How it helps the athlete: On top of protecting the lean muscle mass the athlete has achieved or is working to improve upon, BCAA SPORT is unique in that it also includes an electrolyte blend that keeps cells hydrated, crucial for any endurance athlete. What makes it stand out from other supplements is that BCAAs are metabolized in the muscle, not the liver, for faster uptake — this makes it perfect before, during or after a grueling workout. Some studies have indicated that BCAAs help fight fatigue as well!

betabol3. BETABOL. Featuring HMB,  a naturally occurring compound produced when our bodies metabolize the amino acid leucine, BETABOL is an excellent choice for endurance athletes who need recovery. HMB’s main role has been found to be the repair, growth and preservation of muscle tissue, as well as the capacity to burn fat. The body spends precious resources with muscle repair — each rep you do results in microscopic muscle-fiber tears; the regrowth of these tears puts a huge energy strain on the body. Leucine is the only essential amino acid with the capacity to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, but it is essentially used primarily to repair muscle damage incurred while lifting. When it is metabolized, HMB is produced as a natural byproduct and aids in recovery.

How it helps the athlete: What if you could “free up” the leucine in your body to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to develop NEW muscle, instead of merely repairing the damaged tissue? That is precisely where an HMB supplement like BETABOL comes in. An increase in HMB is designed to allow essential leucine to build new muscle tissue, in turn burning more fat.

4. KARBOLYN.  A full dose of double patent-pending X-R3 Enhancement is designed to take your lean muscle gains to new heights by creating the proper anabolic environment for explosive power, strength, performance and muscle endurance as well as accelerating post-workout muscle recovery when used in conjunction with proper nutrition and a regular exercise program.

How it helps the athlete: The delivery of complex carbohydrates and Kre-Alkalyn (creatine) means more energy (via glucose and increased ATP), strength and power, on top of accelerated post-workout recovery. For someone needing sustained energy AND to promote muscle gain, like an endurance athlete, KARBOLYN is another solid choice.

5. GLUTAMINE. Glutamine’s properties as a recovery supplement help it target broken-down areas of muscle. This applies to weight lifters and athletes as a tool to reduce soreness by speeding up the process of muscle recovery. It is the presence of glutamine ITSELF in muscle tissue that is responsible for how sore you are after an intense workout. Even bed-ridden patients in hospitals are given excess glutamine to make sure their muscles don’t waste away while they’re off their feet. So, the more glutamine that’s available, theoretically, the less sore you will be.

How it helps the athlete: Any athlete who has been through the rigors of training and competition will tell you the value of feeling fresh and strong; it’s another thing entirely to have your immune system and muscles recovering at full optimization. Glutamine’s reparative properties make it a must-have for anyone who consistently exercises at demanding levels.

6. NATURE’S FUEL. On top of the main purpose of actually getting what you pay for, NATURE’S FUEL stands apart from knock-off or cheap versions of a daily multivitamin with other blends that make it a powerful addition to anybody’s supplementation schedule. For one, it contains amino acids — we know amino acids are building blocks of protein, and we know that you can rarely have too many of them. Their role in NATURE’S FUEL is to provide your body with a little extra recovery ability, joining forces with the many vitamins and minerals that aid in the same process.

How it helps the athlete: With an amino acid blend, greens blend and antioxidant blend, NATURE’S FUEL is a complete multivitamin designed to cater to the competitive athlete. Immune function, energy and digestion all are important facets of physical health.