You’ve heard of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), but how much do you really know about them? Which goals can they help you work towards? When should you take them? We put together this BCAA Bible to compile all of the information you need to know in one place.
WHAT ARE BCAAs?
There are over 80 amino acids, however our bodies only use 20. Out of those, there are 11 that are non-essential aminos. That doesn’t mean they’re less important, it just means that you don’t need to supplement them because your body makes them on its own.
The remaining nine are essential amino acids, meaning they cannot be produced in the body, so you need to get them via food or supplementation. Three of these nine essential amino acids play an important role in fitness: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These three are called the branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
There are four main benefits of supplementing with BCAAs: muscle building, recovery, performance and weight loss.
The most well-known benefit of BCAAs is their role in building muscle. Muscle tissue is made up of protein, and protein consists of amino acids. Building muscle, therefore, is a matter of combining amino acids. One BCAA in particular, leucine, has a direct role in stimulating this muscle-building process. Leucine acts almost like a key that signals the body to begin stringing together amino acids to create muscle protein.
As the building blocks of muscle, BCAAs are also critical for the maintenance and repair of muscle tissue. They help you maintain the muscle you already have by acting as an energy source. Unlike most aminos that are metabolized in the liver, BCAAs are metabolized in the skeletal muscle, which means your body is able to break them down quickly for fuel. If these amino acids are not present, your body will turn to the protein in your muscle and begin breaking it down. Studies show that BCAAs also decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Supplementing with BCAAs ensures that they’re always available as fuel. During a workout, this extra energy can help increase strength and endurance. One 2005 study found that leucine-enriched protein increased strength gains by 30% over eight weeks. Another study by the Air Force demonstrated that participants taking a BCAA supplement experienced increased strength and lean muscle in comparison to those taking a placebo.
On a diet, you’re likely in a caloric deficit. This means you’re using more energy than you’re supplying with food. If your body does not have the proper nutrition it will begin to breakdown muscle and store fat – the opposite of what you want! Supplementing with amino acids helps you maintain muscle mass, which is your metabolic engine. The more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn.
WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE BCAAs?
BCAAs can and should be taken throughout the day. Building up the stores in your body means you can reap the benefits at all times. However, if you’d like to limit your dose to once a day, you should base the timing on the benefit most important to you:
- Muscle Building – Take BCAAs before or during your workout to prevent muscle breakdown.
- Recovery – Take BCAAs during or after your workout to promote repair.
- Performance – Take BCAAs before your workout to provide energy for your muscles.
- Weight Loss – Take BCAAs before your fasted cardio to help burn fat for fuel.
If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on a supplement, you want to know that it’s going to work. Now that you understand BCAAs, let’s talk about why to take BPI Sports’ BCAAs.
Best BCAA™ is our best-selling branched-chain amino acid formula. It uses Oligopeptide-Enzymatic technology to deliver leucine, isoleucine and valine faster and more efficiently.
BCAAs FOR WOMEN
Do BCAAs offer additional benefits for women? Read this article to learn about the connection between amino acids and collagen production.