Do BCAA break intermittent fasting? Let’s find out.
Fasting has numerous health benefits, including weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity. To strictly follow a fasting diet, you must refrain from eating for a set period of time. Some people combine intermittent fasting with whey protein supplementation or consume energy drinks to maximize the benefits of both techniques.
A particularly popular supplement among athletes and gymgoers is BCAA. But how does taking BCAA supplements while fasting help with increasing weight management results? This article will look at how it can be used to help you lose weight, as well as what BCAA and intermittent fasting are.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a diet plan that alternates between periods of fasting with no food or significant calorie reduction and periods of unrestricted eating. It is promoted for changing body composition by losing fat mass and weight, as well as improving disease-related health markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Fasting typically entails abstaining from food and beverages for a period ranging from 12 hours to one month. It may necessitate complete abstinence or permit a limited amount of food and beverages.
However, keep in mind that prolonged very low-calorie diets can result in physiological changes that cause the body to adapt to the calorie restriction, preventing further weight loss. Intermittent fasting attempts to address this adaptation by preventing it through cycling between a low calorie level for a brief time followed by normal eating1.
Benefits Of Fasting
Intermittent fasting has a number of benefits in particular aspects, including2:
- Weight loss
- Improved markers of health
- A reduced risk of chronic health conditions
- Improved brain health
- Weight Loss
- Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight by lowering your insulin levels. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which cells use for energy. Insulin is a hormone that regulates cell glucose uptake. Your body will initially use the stored sources of glucose and then later in your fast it will break down body fat to use as the next source of energy. As an effect with intermittent fasting, repeating this process on a regular basis may result in weight loss.
- Intermittent fasting can also result in fewer calories consumed overall, which may help with weight loss.
- Lower Risk for Diabetes
- Intermittent fasting has been shown in a few small human studies to induce weight loss and reduce insulin requirements in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Insulin resistance, the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, has long been known to improve with calorie restriction3.
- Insulin sensitivity increases and insulin levels fall after fasting. As a result, fasting and postprandial glucose levels improve. Furthermore, because insulin promotes adipose tissue growth, there is less likelihood of weight gain and, in some cases, weight loss.
- Improve Heart Health
- Dietary patterns that have been shown to improve cardiac health include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and the Mediterranean diet. Although no large, randomized control trials have been conducted to investigate the relationship between intermittent fasting and cardiovascular outcomes, current human studies indicate that this diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving weight control, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes4.
- Intermittent fasting may have multiple effects, including reduced oxidative stress, improved circadian rhythms, and ketogenesis.
- Improve Brain Function
- Intermittent fasting may also benefit the brain indirectly by improving insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity, or the process by which glucose cells absorb glucose, is reduced in diabetic patients, but it also naturally declines with age.
- Several diets have been found to support brain health, with the Mediterranean diet receiving the most attention. The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet is a combination of Mediterranean and DASH diets, with a focus on foods linked to a reduction in cognitive decline. Caloric restriction diets have also been shown to improve cognitive decline resistance5.
What Is BCAA?
The building blocks of every cell, tissue, and organ in your body come from protein. Your body uses amino acids to make these proteins. Amino acids and proteins play a crucial role in your metabolism.
The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are nutritionally important because you cannot synthesize them endogenously, and must be obtained through diet. They differ from other essential amino acids in that the enzymes required for catabolism are not present in the liver6.
There are 20 amino acids overall, with eleven of these falling under the non-essential amino acid. Leucine, valine, and isoleucine are examples of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and are essential amino acids (EAAs).
Instead of the liver, BCAAs are broken down in the muscle and also play a key role in the production of energy during exercise. They are also vital in many other aspects of health.
Importance Of Amino Acids
When glycogen levels are low, essential amino acids help combat mental and physical fatigue. They also serve as the building blocks for muscle protein and aid in the prevention of skeletal muscle breakdown (catabolism) during and after exercise. They even aid in the reduction of muscle soreness, allowing you to recover faster.
Essential amino acids have been shown to suppress appetite and hunger cravings during a fast, in addition to protecting against protein breakdown and muscle loss.
However, not all amino acid supplements are made the same way7.
Benefits Of BCAA
BCAA, or branched-chain amino acids, supplements are popular among bodybuilders and athletes for enhancing muscle growth and performance. BCAAs are amino acids that are required for life.
Listed below are some potential health benefits of BCAAs:
- Helps Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis
- Muscle protein is constantly in a state of turnover, which means that new protein is constantly produced while older proteins are degraded. The anabolic state has no precise definition, but it is generally defined as a situation in which the rate of muscle protein synthesis exceeds the rate of muscle protein breakdown. This results in muscle mass gain.
- Consumption of BCAAs alone (i.e., without the other EAAs) can only increase post-absorptive muscle protein synthesis by increasing the efficiency of recycling EAAs from protein breakdown back into protein synthesis, rather than being released into plasma or oxidized. So, dietary BCAA supplements do not promote muscle anabolism on their own8.
- Reduces Muscle Damage
- During prolonged exercise, the increased rate of utilization of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) by the muscle is reduced to its plasma concentration, resulting in glycogen. The serum activities of intramuscular enzymes associated with muscle damage would be reduced by BCAA supplementation.
- It is assumed that consuming BCAAs can lower the concentration of serotonin, a central fatigue substance, during endurance exercise, thereby lowering the concentrations of muscle damage substances like CK and LDH and improving exercise performance; the higher the ammonia concentration, the higher the LDH concentration8.
- Helps with Losing Weight
- The combination of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and vitamin B6 has been shown to improve fat metabolism and muscle synthesis. Supplementing with BCAA and vitamin B6 would result in more weight loss, improved body composition, and blood markers associated with cardiovascular disease, as well as preserved lean legs and a reduced waist-to-hip ratio9.
Other many benefits of BCAA are listed below:
- Reducing soreness after exercise
- Preventing fatigue
- Accelerating recovery after exercise, injury, or illness
- Boosting mental clarity
- Improving physical performance
- Strengthening immunity
- Lowering inflammation
- Decreasing hunger
Consuming essential amino acids has proven to be extremely beneficial to people on a ketogenic diet. The keto diet, which is high in fat, low in carbs, and moderate in protein, shifts your metabolism away from burning glucose for fuel and into ketosis, a metabolic state in which you burn ketone bodies and fat for fuel.
For added energy, the essential amino acids lysine and leucine can be converted into ketones. Because amino acids are metabolized in muscle rather than the liver, they do not raise insulin levels, which helps you achieve your fasting goals10.
Sources Of BCAA
BCAAs are essential amino acids, which means they cannot be produced by the body. However, BCAAs are found in a wide variety of foods, and you can get enough by eating a protein-rich diet.
BCAAs can be found in:
- fish, poultry, and meat
- milk and cheese (examples of dairy products)
- seeds and nuts
- tofu and tempeh (examples of soy products)
- legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils
Additionally, many health and fitness stores sell BCAA supplements, and they can be purchased online.
Do BCAA Break Intermittent Fasting?
BCAAs do, in theory, break a fast. However, not in such a way that any of the potential health benefits of fasting are diminished. You have broken your fast whenever you consume calories. When you consume calories, primarily glucose (carbohydrate), insulin responds by assisting us in transporting those calories to the body’s cells for energy use7, 10.
If you are fasting for spiritual reasons, you should avoid BCAAs as well as any other calorie-containing food or beverage that triggers an insulin response. However, if you are fasting for health or weight loss, supplementing with BCAAs causes a negligible insulin response, certainly not enough to disrupt your fasting goals11.
You can’t fast forever, and breaking the fast is just as important as the fast itself. Increase your protein intake to break your fast in a healthy way. And a great way to do so is to supplement with an essential amino acid protein powder.
Finally, fasting is not for everyone. If you are pregnant, elderly, or have a chronic disease, please consult your doctor before beginning any type of fasting regimen. Supplementing with essential amino acids has been shown to be safe and without side effects, even in children.
1 Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss. (n.d.). Harvard T. H. Chan. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/intermittent-fasting/
4 Dong, T. A., Sandesara, P. B., Dhindsa, D. S., Mehta, A., Arneson, L. C., Dollar, A. L., Taub, P. R., & Sperling, L. S. (2020). Intermittent Fasting: A Heart Healthy Dietary Pattern?. The American journal of medicine, 133(8), 901–907. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2020.03.030
6 Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutrition, Trauma, and the Brain; Erdman J, Oria M, Pillsbury L, editors. Nutrition and Traumatic Brain Injury: Improving Acute and Subacute Health Outcomes in Military Personnel. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. 8, Branched-Chain Amino Acids. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209312/
8 Kim, D. H., Kim, S. H., Jeong, W. S., & Lee, H. Y. (2013). Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry, 17(4), 169–180. https://doi.org/10.5717/jenb.2013.17.4.169
9 Novin, Z. S., Ghavamzadeh, S., & Mehdizadeh, A. (2018). The Weight Loss Effects of Branched Chain Amino Acids and Vitamin B6: A Randomized Controlled Trial on Obese and Overweight Women. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin- und Ernahrungsforschung. Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition, 88(1-2), 80–89. https://doi.org/10.1024/0300-9831/a000511