Branched-chain amino acids, also known as BCAAs, are a group of essential amino acids that have been popularized due to its potential health benefits and athletic performance enriching abilities.
The three amino acids that make up the BCAA group are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. While you can get BCAAs naturally from food, there are a number of BCAA supplements available as well.
This article will cover everything you need to know about BCAAs including the best time to take BCAAs for enhancing your exercise performance.
1. WHAT ARE BCAAS?
Branched-chain amino acids get their name from its molecular structure. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the only three amino acids to have chains that branch off to one side, hence the name branched-chain amino acids. These three amino acids are considered essential amino acids because your body is unable to produce them, yet they are required for your body to function.
Consuming BCAAs through food or through supplements are the only ways to get the required amount of BCAAs needed for proper body function.
2. WHY ARE BCAAs SO IMPORTANT?
- Building blocks for protein and muscle
- Promotes muscle-protein synthesis
- Account for 35-40% of your body's protein.
- Account for 14% of the protein in your muscles.
- Supplements energy production + muscle energy metabolism
- Supports muscle recovery
According to an article published in the Journal of Nutrition, BCAAs account for nearly 35-40% of the protein in your body, and 14% of protein in your muscles. That’s a very large portion of your body’s total amino acids.
One of the most interesting qualities about BCAAs is that they are mainly broken down in the muscle, rather than the liver. A study performed in 2006 found that this unique quality might play a beneficial role in energy production during exercise, which may also be useful for muscle recovery.
While all three BCAAs are the building blocks for protein and muscles, research has found that leucine, may play a specific role in promoting muscle-protein synthesis. Several studies including a recently published article in 2015 suggest that leucine may have the greatest impact on muscle growth and fat reduction compared to isoleucine and valine.
As a group, BCAAs play a vital role in protein synthesis as well as energy production. This has shown to lead to various potential benefits in muscle energy metabolism, and enhanced athletic performance.
3. BENEFITS OF BCAA SUPPLEMENTATION
BCAAs can be found naturally in various types of foods. However, studies have found that BCAA supplementation pre and post workout has significant benefit.
BCAAs decrease recovery time
As an exercise enthusiast, you know that the length of your recovery and the type of ingredients you provide your body can make or break your performance. BCAA supplementation has been studied for years and the research has shown that BCAA supplementation may decrease your recovery time and help you build muscle.
A recent 2018 article found that BCAA supplementation might be beneficial for decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as well as exercise-induced muscle damage.
Additionally, another study found that BCAA supplementation decreased exercise-induced muscle damage, and promoted muscle-protein synthesis.
BCAAs reduce fatigue and aid in weight loss
If the possibility of decreasing your recovery time was not appealing enough, research has also found that BCAAs reduce exercise fatigue and aid in weight loss.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness performed a double blind crossover design. The result found was that BCAA supplementation promoted a 17% greater resistance to fatigue compared to the placebo.
In addition, BCAA supplementation was also found to increase fat oxidation during exercise. So not only does BCAAs help prevent you from muscle fatigue, it also increases the amount of fat you burn during your workout.
4. HOW TO TAKE BCAA SUPPLEMENTS...
If you are thinking about supplementing with BCAAs, there are a few things you should know before you start.
The exact BCAA dosage is dependent on your specific health and athletic goals. While more research needs to define the optimal dosage for athletes, recent research has found that consuming a daily dose of 10-15 grams of BCAA supplements provides optimal results.
Aim for the following daily dose of BCAA supplements:
- Women: A minimum of 10 grams of BCAA per day
- Men: A minimum of 15 grams of BCAA per day.
It is important to note that maintaining your BCAA supplementation over a long period of time (over 10 days) needs to continue in order to see any significant muscle protective benefits. This means taking your BCAA supplement even on days that you are not working out.
Want another tip? Splitting your totally daily BCAA dose into two or more doses (before and after exercise) may provide the most benefits.
Last tip, BCAAs are important for building muscle protein, however they are not the only amino acids that involved. There are six other amino acids that are included in the protein making process. With that being said, including other sources of protein, not just a BCAA supplement is necessary to see optimal results.
When to take them...
The best time to take BCAA supplements is before and/or after a workout to get optimal results.
Many athletes also take BCAA supplements in the morning and before going to bed as well.
Though the exact timing of when to take BCAA supplements for optimal results needs to be further researched; majority of the current studies, have found that taking BCAA supplements prior to a workout provides the best results.
Taking BCAA supplements is generally safe for most people. Several studies have shown that consuming BCAA dosages between 15-35 grams per day is generally safe.
It is not recommended for individuals who have ALS to take any form of BCAA supplements.
5. BEST FOOD SOURCES OF BCAAs
Just in case you are wondering what foods have the highest amounts of BCAAs, here is a list:
- Chicken breast
- Canned tuna
- Turkey breast
- Greek yogurt
- Whey protein powder
BCAA supplements are a great way to enhance your athletic performance. Research continues to show the benefits that BCAA supplementation can potentially have on muscle protein synthesis, weight loss, reduction in muscle soreness, and decreased muscle damage.
Our Natural Green Apple BCAAs help shorten your recovery time, prevent the loss of muscle mass, and boost protein synthesis by delivery amino acids in the widely-researched 2:1:1 ratio (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine).
In addition, we’ve added the powerful amino L-Glutamine, Tart Cherry Extract and Pomegranate to improve recovery and reduce muscle soreness after training.
ATH’s BCAA powder is the perfect intra-workout drink with our added electrolytes from Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Rich in trace minerals, these natural electrolytes help improve cell communication and hydration.