How to Leverage the Health Benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acids


The rise of high-protein diets and consumers’ perceptions that they need more protein is backed by science, with many studies indicating that a high-protein diet that contains branched chain amino acids can play a major role in weight loss and metabolic health.

It’s easier than ever for food and beverage manufacturers to leverage the power of branched chain amino acids in their formulations to appeal to those embracing the clean label movement, fitness enthusiasts and others who are concerned with promoting health.

What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids?

Let’s start with a short biology lesson. Researchers are discovering that the human body is made up of thousands and potentially billions of different types of proteins, but there are only 21 different amino acids that form the building blocks. You may find many outdated resources that only list 20 amino acids, however, researchers recently discovered Selenocysteine (Sec), the 21st amino acid in the genetic code.

Of those 21 amino acids, there are nine that the human body cannot make, which are identified as essential amino acids. These essential amino acids are just that — we can’t live without them — and they can only be obtained through the foods we eat.

Breaking it down even further, three of the nine essential amino acids — leucine, isoleucine and valine — are considered branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and account for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins. They fill several metabolic and physiological roles and, because of their importance, people must eat a diet rich in branched chain amino acids for healthy muscle function.

Health Benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acids

Increases Muscle Growth

Leucine has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In other words, it helps make muscles. Those who suffer from many chronic illnesses, cancer, infections or malnutrition — or are simply growing older — often experience muscle wasting, and BCAAs and other essential amino acids can help reduce or slow its progression.

Decreases Muscle Soreness and Fatigue

Experiencing muscle soreness and fatigue after a new workout is expected. In part, this is due to levels of BCAAs decreasing in muscles during exertion. But research suggests that muscle damage can be reduced and recovery time can be sped up by supplementing with BCAAs prior to exercising.

Reduces Symptoms of Liver Disease

BCAA had a beneficial effect on symptoms and signs of hepatic encephalopathy, which results when your liver is unable to adequately remove toxins from the blood. The condition results in declining brain function and can cause personality changes, confusion, anxiety, seizures, shakiness and even coma in severe cases. Taking BCAA supplements may also help protect against liver cancer for those with liver cirrhosis.

Foods High in Branched Chain Amino Acids

The health benefits of branched chain amino acids align with heightened consumer preferences for protein-rich diets. High levels of BCAAs are found in high-protein foods such as beef, chicken and other meat products. Perhaps one of the most efficient ways to boost BCAAs, however, is through the consumption of whey protein, which contains all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle.

One study indicated that people who drank 5.6 grams of BCAAs after a workout increased their muscle protein synthesis by 22% compared to those who had a placebo drink.

While whey protein isolate (WPI) has been a long-time, go-to nutritional supplement for fitness enthusiasts, this ingredient is now commonplace in everyday consumer products as well. Some examples include protein bars, clear RTD beverages, frozen desserts and ice cream, soups and practically any application where an enhanced protein level is desired.

Not only can consuming whey protein promote wellness in the ways mentioned above, it has been proven to offer many other health benefits, including anti-aging, weight loss, reduced risks of diabetes and other diseases linked to being overweight, including heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.

Which Whey?

For food formulators and those who produce nutritional supplements, it’s important to distinguish between commodity WPIs and those specially formulated for use in food applications and RTD beverages. Not all WPIs exhibit the flavor, consistency and functionality necessary to appeal to manufacturers and consumers alike.

This is especially true in clear, high-protein beverages, which need to remain shelf-stable without turbidity or sediment forming over time. Compared with other leading WPIs in the industry, Grande Ultra exceeds commodity products in the areas of protein fortification combined with its ability to maintain great flavor and clarity in beverage applications. The whitepaper below explores sports nutrition in whey protein further, so be sure to reference the resource for additional insights.

Then, learn the difference for yourself by requesting a consultation and sample. Contact one of our food scientists today.

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