In recent years, there has been a heated debate among fitness professionals, strength coaches and athletes about the function and efficacy of the branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation and most of them are inquisitive about the best time to take BCAA.
Moreover, bodybuilders and the fitness community have been eager to know the effects of continuous consumption of this supplement to their health and wellbeing. Meanwhile, athletes who are knowledgeable about the advantages of the supplement in terms of increased lean muscle mass, muscle repair, muscle recovery, and improved strength also needs to know when to take BCAA.
Therefore, we developed this post to demystify the subject for casual sports lovers, fitness professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them make the right decision about the supplement. So, roll up your sleeves, relax, have a sip of coffee and read through.
What are BCAA’S?
The human body functions through biological processes, and there are twenty-two standard amino acids responsible for enzyme activity and molecule synthesis. Nine out of the whole amino acids in our body are known as ‘essential amino acids while the remaining ones are ‘non-essential.’
The human body cannot produce the essential amino acids. So, interested individuals must consume them from food sources. The BCAA’s are considered to be the most important amongst the nine essential amino acids, and they are:
As a matter of fact, the body can obtain the BCAA’s through the consumption of protein-rich foods like eggs and streak. However, there has been ongoing research about its beneficial effects in relation to exercise and sports, and in one of the reports by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), it was proven that BCAA could be oxidized in skeletal muscle during exercise. The research exposed how the essential amino acids depreciate faster during strenuous exercise to enhance catabolism (breakdown of protein). Therefore, in addition to eating protein-rich foods, experts encourage direct consumption of BCAA’s as supplements in powdery or tablet form for fitness professionals who undergo stressful exercise.
Advantages of BCAA supplementation
Muscle Growth Stimulation = Increased Muscle & Muscle Gain
The consumption of BCAA stimulates the build-up of muscle tissues because it does not pass through the liver or digestion process before getting access to the tissues promoting protein synthesis which leads to muscle growth. It is time-consuming for the body to assimilate the amino acids from the consumption of protein-rich foods because they will pass through rigorous processes – from the intestine to the liver. In case the body needs more energy, the amino acids will be redirected to provide energy. Therefore, it is better to take BCAA which works faster in addition to preventing muscle tissue from being broken down which is a catalyst to the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis.
It helps in weight loss
Branched-chain amino acid metabolism was found to help humans in losing body weight from research conducted by the NCBI. It was found to regulate glucose, adiposity, leptin and general body weight. In another experiment conducted in 1997 which involved competitive wrestlers, the participants who followed a low-calorie diet in combination with BCAA experienced a decrease in body fat when compared to the wrestlers placed on a placebo. So, while dieting, BCAA can help athlete and individuals to shed some weight and grow their muscle.
BCAA is a great source of energy
Valine (one of the essential amino acids) has been identified to be vital in increasing energy for workouts and other strenuous activities. BCAA’s are broken down during exercise to boost the overall energy of the body. When athletes use BCAA’s, they can train longer and reduce fatigue to build their muscle and achieve dependable results.
Users experience faster result
The branched-chain amino acids taken in powdered or tablet form goes directly into the bloodstream without passing through the normal digestion process. Because they are rapidly absorbed, their effects can be felt by the individual when their aim is for muscle growth or fat loss. They are preferred by athletes and fitness professionals because they act faster, and they are more effective. When compared with whey protein and other rich protein shakes, which may take several hours to be digested or broken down; bodybuilders and athletes prefer BCAA.
The best time to take BCAA
In the fitness community and most of the health and wellness online groups, people randomly ask ‘when should I take BCAA.’ Since this supplement goes straight into the bloodstream, researchers have not given a definite answer to make fitness enthusiasts understand the best time to take BCAA to reduce muscle damage.
Nevertheless, some experienced trainers and nutritionists, recommend that athletes who want fast results should be flexible in taking BCAA. They can take the supplement ten to twenty minutes before working out, during their workout or in between meals.
However, most fitness professionals make it a regular part of their pre-workout routine because they claim it helps them not to feel intense soreness, helps with hydration and promotes quick muscle recovery. We also recommend that fitness professionals and athletes should add the supplement as part of their pre-workout routine. More so, we advise most clients who often ask when to take BCAA to use it before or during their workouts.
Recommended BCAA Dosage
Whether your timing for taking this supplement is pre-workout, intra-workout or post workout, setting a limit will help you achieve desired results. The average single dose should be from 2 – 5 grams, but this depends on your gym life, purpose and other considerable factors. As a female with an average workout regime, taking 3 – 6 grams per day is recommended. If you’re a female athlete, probably undergoing strenuous training, you could consume not more than 12 grams per day.
Men athletes or fitness professionals training for a competition can take up to 15 – 20 grams per day. But those that do not have a busy gym life could keep to 10 grams per day.
Safety and legality of BCAA
From all indication, taking BCAA supplements is safe because it has not been linked with harmful side effects. Though, research pertaining the overall safety of the supplement is ongoing, different studies recommend that athletes and fitness professionals should take 15 – 20 grams per day. However excessive use may cause certain metabolic disorders and can cause insulin resistance. So, users are encouraged to check the on-pack safety instructions and strictly adhere to the dosage and determine when to take BCAA.
The legality of taking BCAA is not questionable because our body cannot produce them so it is expected that athletes should get it through supplements and diet. For sure it is legal in the United States; also the World Anti-Doping Agency and the NCAA considers it as a legal supplement. However, every athletic organization operates differently, and athletes are encouraged to consult those that are responsible in their professional organizations.
The BCAA powder is simply the best option for individuals and fitness professionals considering to improve strength, to build-up damaged muscle, achieve weight loss and for athletes training for a crucial competition. Research about this supplement is still ongoing, but then, we recommend that individuals should consult experienced and certified healthcare professionals to ascertain if it will be good for them and to know when to take BCAA's.
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Van Horn C, Reid T, Hutson SM, Cooney RN, and Lynch CJ. NCBI. Obesity-related elevations in plasma leucine are associated with alterations in enzymes involved in branched-chain amino acid metabolism. 2007. Epub 2007 Oct 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17925455
Mourier A1, Bigard AX, de Kerviler E, Roger B, Legrand H, and Guezennec CY. NCBI. Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite wrestlers. 1997. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9059905