BCAAs are kind of like a fashion statement in the fitness industry. Body builders rave about them; athletes swear by them; but what exactly are they? Does someone not competing need to consume BCAAs? Although they may seem complicated, BCAAs aren’t as mysterious as you may think. Let’s start from the beginning …
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, the necessary macronutrient for muscle maintenance, growth and restoration. Over twenty amino acids are currently known to science, and have been categorized as either “essential” or “non-essential.” Non-essential amino acids are naturally created by the body without additional food consumption or nutrients. Alternatively, essential amino acids must be obtained through a strategic diet and supplementation. With the appropriate fusion of non-essential and essential amino acids, your body will utilize protein in the best way.
The term BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) refer to a specific group within the larger essential amino acid family. They include: leucine, isoleucine and valine. This trio performs several important functions, which help drive extreme popularity in the fitness industry. I’ve listed a few of my favorite benefits below!
Who doesn’t want muscle gains? (I hope no one is raising their hand right now) Muscle is our biggest fat burner and a key indicator of our body’s strength. Muscle growth occurs through protein synthesis, which is the muscle building process. The more protein that our body constructs, the more muscle mass we’ll see. So where do BCAAs come into play? Well, BCAAs kindle protein synthesis. Leucine, specifically, has proven to be the most effective BCAA for protein synthesis in numerous clinical studies. Thankfully, mixed BCAA supplements are typically 40%-50% Leucine.
If you’re anything like me, your fitness goals probably sound something like this, “I want to lose weight, but not lose my muscle!” Any takers? Unfortunate for us, dieting causes muscle breakdown, which may result in muscle loss over time. BCAAs help protect your muscles by slowing down the protein breakdown process. The end result? Those hard earned muscles will be more preserved through the consumption of BCAAs, while you diet!
Muscle soreness is always a good indication that you killed your workout. But prolonged soreness, that makes it difficult to get back in the gym, is a massive buzzkill. BCAAs have been proven to reduce soreness and aid in muscle recovery, allowing you to train harder and more frequently. I admit, I was skeptical at first, however, after months of consuming BCAAs on my heaviest lifting days … I’m a believer!
Lastly, when BCAAs are consumed, they are transported directly to the bloodstream. The effects kick in quickly; it’s almost like On-Demand television. Valine and Isoleucine are two specific BCAAs that the body will convert into glucose and use for energy during a workout. I don’t know about you, but I won’t argue with an extra boost of energy to finish that last rep or mile!
When to Take BCAAs?
BCAAs can be taken anytime; your body needs them! However, to maximize the muscle related benefits we talked about, take BCAAs before and after your workouts. BCAAs can be consumed in capsule form if you are ‘on the go,’ or a powder that can be mixed into workout shakes. Personally, I take them immediately after every workout and have never looked back!
Vitamin and dietary supplements are not ‘one size fits all,’ and many individuals prefer a completely natural approach to meeting their health needs. If that’s you, that’s OK! You don’t necessarily need fitness related supplements like BCAAs, pre-workout, or protein powder, to see results. However, supplements do provide benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. Do your own research and chat with a nutritionist to determine if BCAAs are right for you. If you have more questions about BCAAs and why I take them, comment below!