Exercise is an essential part of our well-being, from keeping us in shape to maintaining our health and positive mental attitude. However, when you’re lifting weights regularly and looking after your workout plan and nutrition, you might start to feel that you plateau after a period of following a disciplined plan.
What can you do to improve your results and keep progressing in the gym or your favorite sport? Do supplements work and – among them – are BCAAs worth your time?
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) are three of the nine essential amino acids in your body. Amino acids make up thousands of different proteins in the body and are instrumental in muscle and tissue growth, recovery, and overall health.
In this article, we’ll explain what BCAA supplements do, how they work, and why you should take BCAA to level up your workout results and get in the best shape.
BCAA: What Do They Do?
To understand if BCAAs are beneficial as a supplement, we need to look at what your body uses them for in the first place. Amino acids are naturally present in all the different proteins in our body. Among them, nine are considered essential amino acids, which means they cannot be fabricated by the body on their own and you need to include them in your diet.
Of the nine essential amino acids, the BCAAs account for three: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Being branched-chain means they have a particular chemical structure that matches protein-rich foods like eggs, dairy, and meat.
BCAAs help with structure, transport, signaling, and many other metabolic processes. Scientists consider amino acids so important that they think, without them, we “don’t function very well as humans.” This might be true about any protein within the body, but what makes BCAAs special is how effectively they work within the body to deliver benefits in building muscle.
How BCAA Works
Branched-chain amino acids are a key part of the muscle-building elements in your body, as well as great preventers of muscle damage and impaired recovery. Here’s how they work:
- Leucine is the most anabolic BCAA as it triggers protein synthesis, which in turn builds muscle. It is also beneficial in muscle repair and bone health, both essential for optimal athletic results.
- Isoleucine helps red blood cells transport oxygen to the muscles while you exercise. This gives you more energy and focus, while also improving your immunity thanks to higher hemoglobin levels in the blood.
- Valine also supports muscle protein synthesis, helping tissue repair and giving you an energy boost that’s crucial during most workouts.
BCAAs make up 35% of the essential amino acids found in muscle proteins and account for 40% of the total amino acids required by the body. To put it simply, they play a key part in all muscle building and repair processes within your body, while also giving you benefits for your immune system, bone health, and more.
Why Take BCAA Supplements
Taking BCAAs can be beneficial as a pre- or post-workout supplement, as they have roles at both times around your regular gym sessions. Because of how BCAA works to support muscle gain and lean mass development, it’s recommended to take a supplement that combines them with other essential amino acids, such as the HydroBCAA + Essentials. This will not only give you the optimal 2:1:1 ratio of BCAAs, but will boost their overall effect on your body.
So now we know how BCAAs work, but what are their benefits? Here are the top 5 benefits of BCAA supplementation as outlined by scientific studies, showing how BCAA works to optimize muscle gain and healthy athletic performance.
They Increase Muscle Growth
Through research, it’s been discovered that leucine – one of the three BCAAs – stimulates muscle protein synthesis. This then helps your body build muscle quicker and more efficiently after a weightlifting session. To top it off, taking BCAAs with whey protein after exercise boosts results even further.
They Decrease Muscle Soreness
One of the great ways BCAAs support your fitness journey is by helping decrease muscle soreness after a workout. The DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) many of us struggle with from 12 to 24 hours after exercise can often mean a missed session or the inability to perform as well on a workout after you’ve pushed yourself to the limit.
BCAAs have been shown to reduce muscle damage, which is the reason for the length and severity of DOMS. They also reduce protein breakdown during effort.
As a result, preparing for your workout with a pre-workout mix that includes BCAAs will set you up for maximizing gains while also allowing you to go back into the gym sooner.
BCAAs Reduce Fatigue After Exercise
A good workout will take a lot out of you and it’s normal to feel fatigued, and sometimes, unmotivated for your next one as a result. Luckily, studies have shown that taking a BCAA supplement can improve mental focus during exercise. This is because muscles use existing BCAAs during exercise, causing there to be a low level of them within the blood.
When blood levels of BCAAs decrease, the essential amino acid, tryptophan, in your brain increases. This is then converted to serotonin, believed to contribute to the development of fatigue. Countering this by taking BCAAs before a workout ensures you have a better session with added focus.
Prevent Muscle Waste With BCAAs
One concern for athletes working hard to improve their muscle mass is the fact that muscle proteins are broken down during effort. They’re constantly rebuilt, but what happens if the re-building doesn’t take place as quickly as the breakdown?
Several studies have supported the use of BCAAs to inhibit muscle protein breakdown. Using them after a workout ensures that, even if you push yourself hard with reduced nutrition or in a fasted state, you won’t damage your muscle recovery.
Liver Disease Benefits
An additional benefit of using BCAAs as a supplement is that they’ve been proven to improve health in people with cirrhosis (chronic liver disease). This may not appear as an immediate benefit to you if you’re in good health, but the liver takes a lot of the pressure from our physical activity and can be affected by intense exercise.
As a result, protecting your liver’s health is an added reason why you should take BCAAs if you’re training hard.
Start Enhancing Your Workouts Today With BCAA Supplements That Work
Picking the right supplements to benefit your body and maximize your muscle building and fitness can be tricky. Manufacturers make various claims about the effectiveness of their blends, however, taking something that is scientifically proven and third-party tested like our BCAAs will ensure you’re staying healthy and making the most of your workout regime.
Our range of BCAAs also offers you the choice to focus on specific results: HydroBCAA + Energy is designed to keep you well hydrated and give you extra energy with added caffeine for example, while HydroBCAA + Essentials is a great all-around supplement to increase your intake of essential amino acids and electrolytes, promoting the best recovery.