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Can Aminos Heal Your Head? | Muscle & Body Magazine

New research suggests that branched-chained amino acids may accelerate recovery in concussion victims.

If you are reading this magazine, chances are you already know about the benefits of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), but new studies suggest there may be more to these performance-enhancing compounds than their well-known role as crucial nutrients for exercise recovery.

BCAAs have long been regarded as an essential addition to any athletic regimen. Consisting of three amino acids — leucine, isoleucine and valine — BCAAs have side chains that bind carbon atoms to multiple carbon atoms. In return, these amino acids enhance athletic performance and decrease muscle loss. Not only do these building blocks account for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins, but they also “work together to promote the building, healing, and repair of muscle tissue,” according to supplementnews.org.

Now, new research has discovered a little-known benefit of BCAAs that may become part of treatment for athletes who have suffered concussions. In an animal study done at the University of Pennsylvania, scientists discovered that “administering three different amino acids restored the neurochemical balance and cognitive ability affected by a concussion type injury,” reports the website sportsconcussions.org. The three amino acids in particular that improved cognitive function the best were the BCAAs.

How BCAAS Help The Brain

BCAAs affect two neurotransmitters important for the appropriate balance of brain activity: glutamate and gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA). Glutamate excites neurons, which stimulate them to fire, while GABA inhibits the firing. Without a perfect balance of these two amino acids, the brain does not function properly.

Concussions are an ongoing concern in athletic competition, especially in contact and combat sports. In an ongoing study at the Cleveland Clinic, 109 boxers were interviewed as part of a “Professional Fighters Brain Health Study.” These boxers were recorded as taking repeated blows to their cranium during their professional careers, resulting in the athletes to feel “dazed or stunned” after sustaining the injury. What these athletes did not know was they were most likely suffering from symptoms of a concussion.

According to Dr. Charles Bernick of the Cleveland Clinic, “There are detectable changes in the brain even before symptoms appear,” as he references in an article that appeared recently in The New York Times. MRI scans found that fighters with more than six years in the ring saw a reduction in the size of the hippocampus and thalamus, which make up the memory and alertness centers of the brain. It was also found that fighters with more than 12 years in the ring began to decline in cognitive function due to blunt-force head trauma.

Concussions are the result of a metabolic imbalance created by the impact of the brain against the skull, and are often hard to detect in MRIs and CT scans, giving them the name “the invisible injury.” Potassium, calcium and glucose all must return to their place and proportions in the brain in order for healing to initiate. This is where amino acids may speed up the recovery process.

Head trauma can occur in any contact sport, whether it is a hard collision in football or a rough head-butt in soccer. Therefore, it is important to remember that if you are on the receiving end of blunt force trauma, you should seek proper medical attention. A physician will be able to accurately identify the problem and how to respond.

As someone who has made boxing history numerous times with such fighters as Michael Spinks, Roy Jones, Jr., and Bernard Hopkins, I can tell you, boxing is the only sport that I am aware of where the participant can score points for the quality and quantity of shots to the head. This is why this research on BCAAs could be a very important development in treatment on the nutritional level.

Maybe in the near future, once human trials are complete with the use of BCAAs in recovery from a concussion, boxers at all levels of competition, not to mention athletes in other contact sports, may benefit from the use of BCAAs.

How To Get Your BCAAS

The BCAAs are “essential” amino acids, meaning that the body does not synthesize them; they need to be attained from foods or supplements. Here’s how.

Supplements: BCAAs are available in powder or capsule form as stand-alones or added to other spots-nutrition products.

Foods: You can find BCAAs in whole foods.

• Valine is found in most dairy products, grains and mushrooms.

• Isoleucine is found in chicken, chickpeas, eggs, fish, lentils, rye and most seeds.

• Leucine is found in brown rice, beans and whole wheat.

Research also suggests that vitamin B1 (thiamin) can improve memory by boosting the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, found in complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread and fruits such as oranges.

via Can Aminos Heal Your Head? | Muscle & Body Magazine.