There are a total of 20 amino acids, 11 are non-essential meaning the body naturally produces them and 9 are essential meaning the body must obtain them through diet. Of those 9 essential amino acids, 3 are referred to as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and they are considered the most important amino acids for building muscle and speeding up recovery.
The three essential amino acids that comprise BCAAS are: Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.
Altogether BCAAs represent 35-40% of all essential amino acids in the body and 14-18% of amino acids found in the muscles.
In free form, they are more rapidly absorbed which means the process of anabolism (building muscle) can begin more quickly. BCAAs also have a direct effect on reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which means down time between training sessions can be reduced.
After strenuous exercise, protein is used to repair muscle damage. This process is called muscle protein synthesis (MPS). BCAAs increase MPS, meaning more protein can enter the muscles, this helps stimulate muscle growth, aid in recovery and improve overall endurance.
While exercising muscles use stored BCAAs, when blood BCAA levels decline fatigue starts to set in. for this reason BCAAs are most used as an intra workout with a standard dose being around 10g.
Although there is mixed evidence on whether BCAAs can be effective in aiding weight loss, the benefits of faster recovery and increase endurance may help those on lower calories workout more efficiently and may indirectly aid in weight loss.