With growing popularity in the gym — enough to rival that of whey protein, we’ll wager — BCAAs have earned themselves a spot on any serious gym goer’s supplement shelf.
But what actually are BCCAs? What are the benefits? Are there any side-effects and, most importantly, does the average gym-goer truly need them?
Well, if this study, published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, is anything to go by then the answer is a resounding yes. The study found that BCAA supplementation reduced DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) following exercise, so if you want to be able to use your arms after doing pull-ups or you want to avoid being confined to a chair for days after doing legs then consider BCAAs.
Not convinced? Well, below are all the benefits of BCAAs. Prepare to be convinced.
What are BCAA Supplements? What Does BCAA Do?
Branched-chain amino acids are the building blocks of protein. In order for your body to rebuild and grow new muscle, you need these amino acids. There are 20 in total, 11 of which can be manufactured by the body. However, the body can’t make the other nine, they have to come from our diet or supplements.
The nine essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Of these nine, however, there’s an important trio when it comes to maintaining all-important muscle mass: isoleucine, valine, and leucine.
The latter, leucine, is the most important amino acid. Within your body, leucine diminishes during exercise, meaning that it must be replaced through your diet to help stimulate further protein synthesis and allow the body to build more muscle.
4 Benefits of BCAA Supplements
Below, we talk you through four of the most pertinent BCAA benefits that are applicable to anyone and everyone, whether you lift five times a week, swear by short and sharp HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) sessions or just want to recover from exercise easier.
BCAAs Build Muscle
A well-rounded diet will contain all the essential amino acids needed to build muscle. A high-protein diet from things like meat, eggs and dairy is absolutely vital to provide the full spectrum of essential amino acids for the body. Real food should always be the priority and getting your diet right should be fundamental before looking to supplementation. One cup of cottage cheese, for example, a scoop of whey protein or 85g of chicken breast will serve up two to three grams of leucine. In fact, any animal-based protein will contain leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Below you’ll find a list of a few of our favorites.
BCAAs Can Limit Fatigue
Research suggests BCCAs can fight the rate at which you tire from exercise. Of course, there are several factors in any workout that can contribute to this — intensity, duration, and fitness levels, to name three — but BCAAs help restore levels of tryptophan in your brain, a chemical that converts to serotonin and causes fatigue during exercise. In the study, participants supplemented with BCAAs showed signs of improved mental focus during exercise.
BCAAS Could Help You Burn More Fat
When it comes to fat-burning, BCAAs and leucine intake could help with weight loss. Supplementation of the BCAA leucine, especially in combination with glutamine, has been shown to help overweight subjects on a hypocaloric diet. Helping to reduce excess fat, and helping to normalize visceral fat, which is a marker of metabolic problems.
BCAAS Can Reduce Your DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
Research published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition found that consuming the correct amount of BCAAs can help iron out delayed onset muscle soreness. The study suggests that BCAA supplementation can help decrease muscle soreness after a particularly strenuous workout, with the study comparing a placebo group against a supplemented group, with the latter showing “a reduction muscle soreness”.
What BCAA Supplement Should I Take?
With SO many options out there it can be overwhelming. At OEVFITNESS we highly recommend products from PrestigeLabs.ca and DrivenNutrition.ca Both companies have awesome supplement line ups, use top-quality ingredients and are true to label. Products can be ordered online and will be delivered right to your door in 2-5 business days depending on the shipping option selected. Our 2 favorites are:
Perfect BCAA Ratio of 2:1:1 – Essential BCAAs Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine promote your muscles’ uptake of fuel, boost muscle synthesis, suppress muscle breakdown, increase power and reduce fatigue—allowing you to go harder, longer.
Support Muscle Building* – Protect the muscles you’ve already built because the BCAAs help keep you out of the catabolic state during your WOD.
Speeds Recovery* – When you supplement with Amino, the pure, clean blend of ready-to-use aminos are absorbed quickly and directly, giving you a virtually “instant-on” switch for muscle building.
Get it HERE!
INTRA by Prestige Labs was explicitly designed to elevate post-workout pain while helping you:
• Recover faster
• Increase muscle tone
• Eliminate fatigue
• Reduce irritability
Fortify your body using INTRA’S powerful formulation:
ANABOLIC AMINO ACID BLEND: Provides the building blocks (you need to build muscle) available when you stimulate muscle protein synthesis during exercise
POTASSIUM CHLORIDE: Improves muscle contraction & helps with muscle cramps
SODIUM CHLORIDE: Acts as an electrolyte, supports hyper-hydration & helps muscle contraction
CREATINE: Creates readily available energy for muscle contraction
BETAINE: Regulates inflammatory markers, decreases stress hormones, optimizes hydration & increases resistance to muscle stress
Get it HERE!
5 Foods High in BCAAs
Chicken: Per 170g; 36g protein, 6.6g BCAAs, 2.9g leucine, 1.8g isoleucine, 1.9g valine
Eggs: Per egg; 6.3g protein, 1.3g BCAAs, 0.54g leucine, 0.3g isoleucine, 0.4g valine
Cottage cheese: Per half- cup: 12 protein, 4.7g BCAAs, 1.7g leucine, 1g isoleucine, 1g valine
Tinned tuna: Per 170g; 33g protein, 5.6g BCAAs, 2.5g leucine, 1.5g isoleucine, 1.6g valine
Wild salmon: Per 170g; 34g protein, 5.9g BCAAs, 2.7g leucine, 1.5g isoleucine, 1.7g valine
BCAA Supplement Side Effects
Generally, there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to side effects of BCAA supplementation. When taken as instructed and at the correct times, BCAAs won’t make you gain weight either (a common concern and a regular question in the OEV inbox), as a regular 10g serving of BCAAs contains approximately 40kcal. Vegans and vegetarians are encouraged to check the ingredients of BCAA supplements before introducing them to a nutrition plan.
Similarly, BCAA supplements generally safe for most people to take provided it’s to manufacturer guidelines. It’s thought that 0.03-0.05g of BCAA per kg of body weight per hour is appropriate. During exercise, it increases to 2-4g per hour.
BCAA Supplements: The Final Thoughts
If you’ve made it this far, you now know more than most people about BCAAs an probably have a grasp on how you can implement them into your training and nutrition strategy. To help wrap things up, this is everything you need to know.
There Are Plenty of Benefits, But BCAA Supplements May Not Be For You
Easier fat-loss, more energy and increased muscle gain are all benefits BCAA supplementation can make, but a well-rounded diet should be able to cover most of your muscle-building needs, without you having to turn to BCAA powder or BCAA tablets.
Lots of Food Has High BCAA Content
…and some are probably in your kitchen already. That’s if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, because many high-protein foods — think chicken, eggs and wild salmon — packing plenty of BCAA alongside the protein count. Add these to your basket and stock up on strength.
When Should I Take BCAA Supplements?
It’s best to take BCAA supplements before a workout, up to 15 minutes pre-workout or taken during your workout to prevent further fatigue.
BCAA Side Effects
Broadly speaking, there’s very little to be worried about when it comes to BCAA supplementation. Follow the instructions and be sure to take them at the right time. They won’t make you overweight, either — a regular 10g serving of BCAAs contains approximately 40kcal. Vegans and vegetarians are encouraged to check the label before consumption.