Why & When to Take BCAAs
BCAAs, a supplement frequently used by athletes, stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids. At a glance, BCAA supplements help with recovery, allowing you to go harder in subsequent workouts and reducing muscle soreness. Taking BCAAs before, during and even after a workout improves not only the recovery process post-workout but can also improve muscle power during workouts, and overall gains. Most athletes - from amateur beginners to professional experts - and some people with health issues can benefit from supplementing their diets with BCAAs.
What Exactly Are BCAAs?
The actual contents of BCAAs are three important amino acids - leucine, isoleucine and valine. Of these three, some experts argue that leucine is the most important. Your body needs all of these, but cannot produce any of them, and thus you need to consume them.
BCAAs are even more important for vegetarians and vegans. Most people get enough by eating animal products, but those following a plant-based diet may be deficient. Most high-protein plant-based foods do contain some amount of BCAAs, just not as much as meat or dairy. So, if you are a vegan or vegetarian and maintaining healthy muscle is a priority for supplementing with a BCAA or Amino product may benefit you.
All About Leucine, Isoleucine & Valine
Some say that leucine is the most important BCAA. It helps you maintain energy levels by improving the stability of glucose levels for a longer period of time. It also helps your body build muscle by aiding it to process protein, and causes less protein loss in your muscles from high-intensity exercise. This leads to better recovery and less soreness. It causes you to process protein more efficiently meaning it may even be able to help you build strength faster. In one study, Leucine alone was responsible for up to a 25% increase* in protein synthesis!
Isoleucine is an amino acid with several important bodily functions. Like leucine, your body cannot synthesize it. You must get it through food. In fact, most of the qualities of isoleucine are similar to leucine. However, the way it functions in the body is slightly different. The metabolic pathway (how your body translates the amino acid into a useful nutrient) of leucine is through fat, but isoleucine's metabolic pathway can be through carbohydrates or fat. It's a small but notable difference.
As with leucine & isoleucine, valine helps to bring extra glucose to your muscles to give them more energy for explosive workouts. It also helps with your immune system and brain function. If you are an insomniac, you may find that valine helps you sleep better. However, when taken alone, valine is not as helpful for muscle growth and recovery as it is in conjunction with its other two BCAA buddies. They are more powerful together!
Proven Benefits of Taking BCAAs for Athletes
Some experts think that the soreness you feel after a workout is due to tiny tears in your muscles from exertion. Studies** prove that BCAAs reduce this uncomfortable feeling. Scientists believe BCAAs minimize muscle damage and decrease protein loss in muscles, leading to these results. If you ask your lifting crew, you will most likely find anecdotes about the magical serum that helped them recover from their workouts much faster!
Reduce Tiredness During Workouts
As you exercise, the levels of BCAAs in your blood decrease^, causing tryptophan - yes that chemical that makes you sleepy after eating turkey on Thanksgiving - to increase. By supplementing BCAAs before and during a workout, you can make sure to keep your mind sharp and your body fully awake for the duration.
Improves Muscle Growth With Better Protein Synthesis
During muscle protein synthesis, your body sends protein to repair and build your muscles. This process can be very efficient, with as much protein as possible getting where it needs to go, but sometimes it needs a little help. Some experts believe that resistance training, ie strength training, is the initiator of protein synthesis. Diet and supplements can regulate and improve the synthesis process. When taken by itself BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, but when taken with a complete profile of amino acids - like those found in a whey protein shakeπ - it can increase synthesis even more!
Some athletes believe that BCAAs can help you lose fat faster. First of all, they can often act as an appetite suppressant, quelling cravings for those who are controlling calories. The stuff is usually pretty sweet, giving you a healthy treat that tastes candy-like, but is much better for you than sugar-laden delicacies. BCAAs also naturally increase levels of testosterone and growth hormone, two hormones your body uses to reduce fat growth. BCAAs are a smart part of any weight loss plan.
Other BCAA Uses & Benefits
Keratin, the source of BCAAs, was first used centuries ago as a medical treatment for wound recovery and blood clotting. Now we have better methods for these health problems, but it proves that the benefits of BCAAs have been relevant for a while. The supplement is available over the counter to anyone who wants to improve their athletic endeavors. Others take it to improve their mental acumen and concentration. There are also several benefits in the medical field.
When to Take BCAAs
You may want to experiment within your own workout routine to find out how BCAAs best work for you. However, most experts would say that taking BCAAs before and during your workout is best to give you a boost in energy and focus.
Most BCAAs come in a powder form with delicious flavor choices. So, before you work out, fill up a water bottle with a scoop of BCAAs and start drinking it before your workout, finishing the bottle during your sweat session. You can also take them again after with whatever protein shake you enjoy.
Some coaches even recommend taking BCAAs before you go to sleep to give your muscles the maximum chance at recovery and protein synthesis throughout the night. The good news is you can take a dose of 5-10mg of BCAAs several times a day to make sure you are at peak performance. You can even take them on an empty stomach as they may give you a boost of energy if you're having a day of poor nutrition.
Do BCAAs Really Work?
There is more than enough proof that BCAAs really do work to improve muscle protein synthesis and recovery, leading to bigger gains and more energy. One thing to consider is that you may already be getting plenty of BCAAs in your natural diet if you eat a lot of animal products. A 6oz serving of chicken breast has 6.6g of BCAAs, while 12g of peanuts have 6.8g of BCAAs. Other great sources include lean beef, and certain types of fish. So, if you're a big meat eater, and you don't see any benefit from supplementing BCAAs, that might be why.
Most people, however, could never eat that much in a day and still maintain a fully balanced diet. So for just about everyone, adding BCAAs to a workout regimen is a big help!
Which BCAAs Should I Get?
Ronnie Coleman Signature Series nutraceuticals offers several methods for intake of BCAAs. We have top workout supplements for athletes of every level. Our BCAA powder comes in 3 delicious flavors and each scoop offers a serving of 4.4g of BCAAs. You can also try our unique BCAA tablet. If you're not sure about BCAAs, try a sample size! Remember to pair your BCAA supplementation with whey protein powder for maximum results.