Take BCAAs to stay young and lean. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are one of my favorite supplements and new research shows that raising your BCAA levels will delay aging and is essential for longevity. You may be already taking BCAAs because of how they support your training and keep you lean, but I bet your parents and grandparents aren’t. BCAAs will help them live longer, better lives, and they will help you to stay young.
A new study in the journal Aging shows that BCAAs “behave as evolutionary conserved modulators of lifespan” meaning they will help you live longer if you get enough of them. In fact, researchers found that giving BCAAs to mice extended the average lifespan of the animals as a group, which indicates that specific diseases have been prevented. The mice who received BCAAs also improved motor coordination and endurance capacity, which supports exercise science research that BCAAs enhance performance in elite endurance athletes. Plus, BCAA supplementation is a treatment for sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss, making them a good bet for preserving physical function and quality of life as you age.
The BCAAs are made up of four amino acids called leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Interestingly, an emerging bit of research is that although elevating individual BCAAs in the body may increase protein synthesis, it appears that for the best metabolic and insulin health results, a balanced intake is needed, but be aware that the evidence is still unclear.
For example, a number of studies show leucine intake is linked to increased fat metabolism and decreased food intake and body weight in obese individuals. Another study found that mice that were deprived of leucine had an increase in insulin sensitivity, but that was mice, not humans, and it hasn’t been replicated. Researchers think that a mixture of the BCAAs is best for insulin health and metabolism, and in already lean individuals who are very insulin sensitive, a leucine-enriched BCAA mixture may be best to get the greatest protein synthesis benefits.
BCAAs will also make your brain work better, especially as you age. Supplementing with them can enhance cognitive function by supporting the production of the neurotransmitters. BCAAs have been shown to play a role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, which will help you generate energy and drive when you need it and calm you when you don’t. A high protein diet will also improve cognitive function, but researchers note that for older individuals who sometimes have difficultly eating enough high-quality protein, BCAA supplementation is essential.
Valerio, A., D’antona, G., et al. BCAAs, Mitochondrial Biogenesis, and Healthspan: An Evolutionary Perspective. Aging. May 2011. 3(5), 464-470.