Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

The use of supplements is well established in the fitness industry. Almost everyone training towards being healthier and fitter is consuming some form of supplement. The topic can be just as overwhelming as the supplement aisle in a supermarket! I’m going to break it down for you over a few digestible articles covering the best performance supplements.

Branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are on today’s menu. BCAAs have been widely used and discussed by athletes, coaches, and sports and fitness professionals for many years. They are frequently used in healthcare too. What are they and should you be using them?

What are BCAAs?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 22 amino acids that are necessary for life, nine of which are essential amino acids. These cannot be manufactured by the body and must be obtained from wholefood sources.

Three of the essential amino acids are known as BCAAs. These are leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs are oxidised in muscle tissue, and exercise increases BCAA oxidation. Naturally, the more you exercise, the greater your BCAA needs.

What Does BCAA Supplementation Do?

  • Research has found that BCAA supplementation reduces markers of muscle damage and tissue breakdown. This suggests that BCAAs reduce the amount of exercise induced muscle damage.
  • BCAA supplementation has been shown to prevent muscle breakdown by sparing other essential amino acids found in muscle tissue. This means recovery time is enhanced by reducing the amount of muscle damage caused during exercise. This results in the ability to more frequently train at good intensities, which means better results.
  • One of the BCAAs, leucine, initiates protein synthesis. Exercise reduces protein synthesis, but leucine has been shown to improve protein synthesis post exercise. This enables the user to either maintain or increase muscle mass, even when trying to cut body weight. Increased muscle mass results in strength gains.

Who Should Take BCAAs?

If you are eating a good amount of protein from whole food sources, and are training for general health and fitness you probably don’t need to take BCAAs. If however you are looking to lose body fat while preserving muscle mass, are training more for performance, or would like to increase lean muscle mass, then you should definitely consider adding a BCAA supplement to your diet.

Is There a Recommended Brand?

Quality, in my opinion, is everything when it comes to what you are consuming. I therefore look for brands that provide a pure, unfiltered product. Optimum Nutrition’s BCAA 5000 powder and Muscle Wellness’ Beef Aminos are great products.

There isn’t much of a difference between powders and capsules. A good quality BCAA capsule has the same amount of BCAAs per dose as a powder. It really comes down to personal preference.

When Should You Take It?

I suggest consuming BCAAs immediately after your workout. If you have a strength-based session then a BCAA drink is good to sip on during the workout.

BCAA supplementation is safe and legal too!

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