BCAA, or glutamine? Which one should you rather buy?
The eternal question that pops up day after day in our Shop.Builder mail. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), or glutamine? Which one is more important? Which one is more gainful? Which one should you rather buy?
Glutamine, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) all play an essential part in muscle growth, and in preventing muscle decomposition too. Usually that’s all, right? But before we make our final conclusions, let’s see the effects and roles of BCAA amino acids and of glutamine.
L-glutamine – that can be regarded as “the mother of all aminos” – is one of the most popular amino acids for a reason. Glutamine can be synthesized from several amino acids (glutamic acid, valine, or isoleucine), but when the body is ill or is exposed to stress (as during workout), muscles need more glutamine than the amount it can produce on its own, so supplements might be needed. Studies have shown that continuous consumption of glutamine can prevent muscle damage, meaning that it is an effective anti-catabolic.
Another benefit is that glutamine is one of the few amino acids that promotes the body’s own HGH synthesis. Taking 2 grams of glutamine orally can increase the growth hormone levels fourfold. Muscle tissue contains this amino acid in highest concentration: amino acids flowing freely within skeletal muscle are 60% glutamine, so this one amino acid out of 18 makes up 60% of muscle tissue!
Glutamine helps maintaining the water levels within the cell membrane, so it increases cell volume (cell volumization). If glutamine levels drop in the muscles, so do the cell volumes – this means a decrease in muscle size. Therefore a glutamine deficit is a muscle deteriorating state in two ways. That is why taking glutamine supplements is essential.
It enhances the immune system, since lymphocytes and macrophage immune cells use glucose and glutamine too as energy sources. It also plays a role in glutathione synthesis, and that is one of the most effective anti-oxidants in our body.
There is only one problem to it (that might not be a real problem, only from a certain aspect): glutamine is a key component in a healthy intestinal flora. That is not a problem. But enterocytes (that are columnar epithelial cells in the small intestine) use glutamine as primary energy source to cover their needs. This means that most of the glutamine taken orally is used up in the digestive system, and that supports its functions, but muscles receive much less than intended. That’s why administering L-glutamine the traditional way is less effective, if you wish deliver the appropriate amount to your muscles. You should always choose a product that has better access to your muscles than basic L-glutamine.
BCAA amino acids
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are L-leucine, L-valine, and L-isoleucine, and these are the most important supplements for a bodybuilder to promote muscle growth and to prevent muscle loss.
Amino acids within muscles are 35% BCAAs, so it is clear that they are indispensable for building muscles. Even a few minutes of physical exercise (workout) can cause a BCAA (especially L-leucine) deficit in the functional amino acid pool of the body. If this deficit is not dealt with soon enough, it would hinder muscle development. Of the three BCAA amino acids it is leucine that is accountable for the the benefits of BCAAs. Why?
Well, scientists estimate that more than 90% of BCAA consumed and used for energy generation is leucine. So it is likely that this amino acid is the limiting factor, when athletes do not take extra amounts of it to compensate the leucine used up in their body. So taking valine and isoleucine as BCAAs is in vain, if you don’t take enough leucine with them. That’s why you should choose a product with a BCAA ratio of 2:1:1 (or more) in favor of leucine, but it is basically true that the more leucine in a product, the better.
Leucine is much more effective at promoting protein synthesis than any other amino acids too, so it has a substantial part in recovery from injuries. Its anti-catabolic effects help preventing muscle loss that is related to aging.
So we can see that glutamine and BCAAs are all important and useful supplements for those aiming to build muscles, and to prevent muscle loss during dieting. It is best to have both at hand. But what if we don’t have the budget for both supplements, so that we need to choose?
Decision: buy BCAA!
We have already mentioned that a large part of glutamine is used up within the digestive system. So if your primary reason you take amino acids is muscle development, choose BCAAs, especially leucine! It is more cost effective, and it is also more useful for muscle gain than glutamine. You have to take glutamine in larger quantities to deliver enough to the muscles, or you should take it in special formulas – both ways are much more costly than taking BCAAs.
Please note that the best thing is to take both. Glutamine has effects that are definitely beneficial, and we should never underestimate the profits of immune support and digestive support it provides to athletes.
But if you must choose between the two, you should know that BCAAs are better for your muscles!
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