If you’re involved in any way in the fitness community, you’ve probably heard this acronym and seen people sipping these from their brightly-colored shaker cups in and around the gym… You may also have wondered what on earth they are, and what all the fuss is about - I hope to shed some light on that today :)
So BCAAs stands for Branched-Chain Amino Acids - and includes leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These essential (meaning your body can’t make them, so you must get them from your diet and outside sources) amino acids do a handful of important jobs inside the body, and are particularly helpful for avid exercisers and those striving to improve their fitness.
Without getting too much into the science, I’ll just give you a little shortened version of what makes BCAAs a good choice in the way of supplements:
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and therefore of your body’s muscle. They not only aid in protein synthesis, but can reduce fatigue, give you extra staying power and spare your muscle mass by preserving your glycogen stores during exercise - giving your body a preferable energy source (glycogen) to ward off muscle catabolism (breakdown of muscle protein for energy) as you push through your workouts.
Another great effect of consuming BCAAs is that they can aid in recovery. Especially with intense workouts and strength training in particular, getting enough BCAAs can help with muscle repair and have even been said to reduce soreness - I don’t know about you, but I really like that part!
Basically, making a point of including ample BCAAs in your diet can be beneficial for everyone - whether you’re a hardcore gym-goer or not.
Branched-chain amino acids naturally occur in a handful of foods like some meats, fish, eggs, and even some plant sources like quinoa and almonds. If you’re looking to get your daily dose of BCAAs through diet alone, without supplementation, look for foods that contain all three so that you’re getting a complete dose - chicken breast is a great choice!
If you’re already using whey protein regularly, chances are you’re getting a good amount of BCAAs through that practice as well - that’s a nice little bonus that’s usually listed somewhere on the packaging :)
What about BCAA supplements? You can find lots of BCAAs on the market these days in powder or pill form, with different ratios available - I would suggest 2:1:1 (leucine to isoleucine to valine), because though there are formulas out there now that offer greater amounts of leucine (for the hopeful purpose of greater facilitation of protein synthesis), as far as I know having at least one gram of both isoleucine and valine is key, and when the leucine number soars in that ratio, the other two amounts fall below the necessary effective amounts within a normal dose.
If you decide to use supplements or just beef up your intake through diet, timing is important - before and after workouts are the most important times to load up. You can also sip these throughout the day, as they can assist with mental clarity, focus, and energy a bit, but for their most notable purpose of facilitating effective workouts and recovery, pre-, intra-, and post-workout doses are most important.
I personally like to find powdered BCAAs in a flavor that I enjoy, because it helps me drink more water and get the helpful effects at the same time. I always feel better about having some BCAAs for a tasty drink rather than a diet soda or other beverage I might choose as a treat, and I rely on this health-conscious, low-calorie beverage even more if I’m trying to reduce my caloric intake or manipulate my body composition.
Should you use BCAAs? Sure! I’d encourage you to give the supplement a try - I can’t really see a downside to their use, and they have the potential to improve your fitness performance and results. They’re safe, helpful, and pretty cost-effective, so I like them quite a bit!
Like any other supplement, I would suggest not to expect any miracles from using them, and know that just incorporating them into your diet will not be a substitute for hard work in the gym. No supplement on the market can replace a good diet and exercise regimen - remember that! It’s a bummer, but it’s true.
The important message here is that if using BCAAs makes you feel more energized, less sore, and you can recover faster, you can push yourself harder in the gym more often and see more progress faster. You might even see some more pronounced muscle gains!
Sounds pretty good to me!
Do you take BCAAs? What do you think about them?
Please feel free to comment, upvote, or resteem if you found this helpful! :)