For a lot of people, especially women, it can be hard to know which branched-chain amino acid (or BCAA) supplement to use. There are tons of different options out there, but they’re not all created equal.
If you don’t know where to start, keep reading for some helpful tips on how to choose the best BCAA for women.
What Are Branched-Chain Amino Acids?
As you probably remember from your high school science class, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acids, and nine of them are considered essential. This means your body can’t make them on its own, and you must get them from food and/or supplements.
There are three branched-chain amino acids included among the list of essential amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. These three amino acids are referred to as branched-chain amino acids because of their unique chemical composition. They make up about 35 percent of the body’s total muscle protein.
Branched-chain amino acids help to preserve your muscle glycogen stores and provide fuel to your muscles while you’re exercising. They also help to reduce muscle protein breakdown during workouts.
Benefits of BCAAs for Women
Any athlete can benefit from using BCAAs. They have some specific benefits for women, though. Here are some of the primary reasons why women ought to make BCAAs a priority in their supplement regimen:
For women who are looking to lose body fat or improve their body composition, BCAA supplementation can be very helpful. BCAAs help to prevent muscle breakdown and make it easier for you to maintain and build muscle mass. This, in turn, helps you to maintain or speed up your metabolism, which allows you to burn more calories while exercising and at rest.
Adding BCAAs to your supplement routine can help to reduce your appetite, too. First, sipping on a flavored drink can help to curb hunger. However, the Leucine found in BCAA products is also beneficial.
Leucine activates an enzyme in the body known as mTOR. mTOR regulates cell growths and plays a key role in protein synthesis. When mTOR levels increase, the brain receives a signal that the body’s nutrition needs are met, which reduces appetite and regulates hunger.
Improved Muscle Building Potential
If you’re more interested in gaining muscle than losing body fat, BCAAs are still a useful supplement to incorporate into your regimen.
BCAAs support muscle protein synthesis and can help you recover faster from your workouts. They can help stay energized during your workouts, too, which allows you to push more weight and perform exercises with better form, both of which will lead to results that are more noticeable.
Improved Hormone Balance
For women, BCAA supplementation can help with hormone balance. Testosterone is an important hormone for women as well as men, and low testosterone can make it harder for women to gain muscle. Low levels of testosterone can have a negative effect on women’s metabolisms, too.
BCAAs can help to increase testosterone. They also can lower cortisol levels. When cortisol (a stress hormone) is high, this can lead to spikes in blood sugar (which can affect mood, energy, and appetite) and a decrease in important female hormones like progesterone.
BCAAs can help women have healthier pregnancies, too. When a woman is pregnant, she needs adequate levels of amino acids (including BCAAs) to provide the fetus with adequate nutrition.
Sufficient amino acids play a key role in the building of the fetus’s organs, skin, and other body tissues. By adding BCAAs into your routine during pregnancy (with your doctor’s permission, of course), you can ensure that you and your growing baby are properly nourished.
How to Choose the Best BCAA for Women
Clearly, BCAAs have a lot to offer. How do you know which supplement to choose, though? If you’re not sure what to look for in a BCAA for women, here are some key factors to consider:
Amino Acid Ratio
One of the most important things to take into account when you’re choosing a BCAA supplement for women is the ratio of Leucine to Isoleucine and Valine.
Because their main goal in supplementing with BCAAs is to maximize muscle gain, some people assume that the more Leucine there is in a supplement, the better. In reality, though, the ratio that is ideal is 2:1:1. That means you’re getting twice as much Leucine as Isoleucine and Valine.
There are a few reasons why this ratio is ideal. First, a greater amount of Leucine compared to Isoleucine and Valine is needed because Leucine plays the most important role in muscle protein synthesis.
It should be noted, though, that the combination of Leucine with Isoleucine and Valine seems to be more effective than using Leucine alone. This has to do, in part, with the fact that Isoleucine plays an important role in fat-burning.
Valine is essential when you’re working out, too. This is because your brain converts another amino acid, tryptophan, into the neurotransmitter serotonin. When this process happens, you feel tired and get fatigued more quickly.
Valine helps to reduce levels of tryptophan in the brain so that less conversion to serotonin takes place. This helps to give you more energy and makes it easier for you to push through your training sessions.
Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are all needed in the proper amounts to provide maximum results. If you want to experience all that BCAAs have to offer, don’t just load up on Leucine or try to find a product that contains a ton of it compared to the other amino acids. Instead, look for a product that contains a 2:1:1 ratio of all three branched-chain amino acids.
Consider the serving size of your BCAA supplement before you start using it, too. How many grams of each amino acid are you getting in a scoop of BCAA powder?
Remember, more isn’t always better. You don’t need to overload your body with amino acids to see results.
A product that contains about 7 grams of BCAAs (3.5 grams of Leucine, 1.7 grams of Isoleucine, and 1.7 grams of Valine) is sufficient for most people. Check the label before you add a scoop to your pre-, intra-, or post-workout drink.
Beyond BCAAs, consider the other ingredients used in your supplement before purchasing it.
Does it contain other essential amino acids like Tryptophan or Threonine? Is it made with electrolytes to help with hydration? What ingredients are used to sweeten it or add flavor? Is it made with sugar or gluten?
If you are sensitive to any particular ingredients, be sure to double-check the label before you purchase a supplement. This will help you avoid any potential negative reactions to your BCAAs.
It’s best to stick to supplements that are third-party tested. There’s not a lot of regulation in the supplement industry, and a lot of manufacturers are putting out products that contain potentially dangerous ingredients or that have misleading labels.
Look for a supplement maker that invests in testing and goes the extra mile to ensure their products are safe and of a high-quality. ProSupps® HydroBCAA® +Essentials, for example, is Informed Choice® Certified and Banned Substance-Tested.
The Right Way to Use BCAAs
BCAAs are generally considered to be a safe supplement for women to use on a regular basis. To minimize your chances of experiencing negative side effects, though, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind when using them, including the following:
You can use BCAAs at any time of day, but most women like to consume them before or during their workouts. When you supplement with them around this time, you can minimize muscle protein breakdown during your workouts and ensure you stay hydrated during tough training sessions.
Using BCAAs around this time is especially helpful to women who are exercising while fasting. It helps them to preserve their muscle and ensure that their metabolism isn’t negatively affected as a result.
You can also consume BCAAs after your workout if you need help with recovery. If you drink a post-workout protein shake or consume a protein-rich meal afterward, though, you don’t really need to worry about supplementing with additional BCAAs. Your shake or meal will likely provide you with a sufficient amount.
Check the label so you know what serving size is before you make your drink. Most of the time, one scoop equals one serving. It pays to double-check, though. This will help you ensure you’re getting a sufficient amount of BCAAs and seeing the best results from your supplementation.
Enjoy the Benefits of BCAAs Today
Now that you know more about the benefits of BCAAs and how to choose the best BCAA for women, it’s time to pick some up so you can experience all that they have to offer.
If you’re looking for a BCAA supplement that checks all the boxes outlined above, ProSupps® HydroBCAA® +Essentials is the perfect option. Order yours online today, or use our store locator to find a distributor near you.