Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Branched-chain amino acids are essential
nutrients. They are proteins found in food. Your muscles "burn" these amino acids for energy.
The specific amino acids that make up the branched-chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The term branched-chain simply refers to their chemical structure.
Why do people take branched-chain amino acids?
Athletes may take oral
supplements of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to try to help with recovery from workouts and enhance athletic performance.
Studies suggest that BCAAs may prevent muscle breakdown during
exercise. But they are not likely to help with athletic performance.
People also take BCAAs as medicine to try to treat problems such as:
Chronic loss of appetite
In some cases,
health care providers may deliver them intravenously (by IV).
Although more research is needed, BCAAs have been studied and may:
Improve appetite in people who are malnourished or have
cancer Improve symptoms related to hepatic encephalopathy or
It is too early to prove whether BCAAs are helpful for
diabetes or an inherited form of autism, two other reported uses.
Dosages of BCAAs vary, depending upon the reason for use. Quality and active ingredients in
supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it hard to establish a standard dose.
Can you get branched-chain amino acids naturally from foods?
You can get branched-chain amino acids from these foods:
Whey, milk, and soy proteins
Beef, chicken, fish, and eggs
Baked beans and lima beans
Almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews
What are the risks of taking branched-chain amino acids?
Side effects. When taken up to six months, oral supplements of BCAAs have not often been linked with harmful side effects. However, side effects may include:
Risks. BCAAs may interfere with blood glucose levels during and after surgery. You may also be at increased risk if you have chronic alcoholism or branched-chain ketoaciduria.
Also, avoid using BCAAs if you are
pregnant or breastfeeding.
Interactions. Talk with your doctor first if you are taking:
Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications or foods. He or she can let you know if the supplement might increase your risk.
The FDA does not regulate
dietary supplements. However, it has approved an injectable branched-chain amino acid.