Did you know that there are twenty types of amino acids and nine of them cannot be produced by our body? These nine are called essential amino acids, and they contain the proteins that we need to help build and sustain muscle tissue.
Three of these essential amino acids, better known as branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs for short, are leucine, isoleucine and valine. The term branched-chain describes the chemical structure of these essential amino acids.
BCAAs are important because they help to improve muscle growth and reduce the negative effects on the body after exercise, such as muscle fatigue and soreness. Outside of supplements, BCAAs can also be found in foods that are rich in protein such as eggs, meat and other dairy products.
What do BCAAs do?
Improve Muscle Growth
The most immediate benefit of consuming BCAAs is an increase in muscle growth. Consuming 5.6 grams of BCAAs after a workout helps to boost muscle protein synthesis by 22%.
The specific BCAA that you want to be looking for is leucine. Leucine encourages muscle protein synthesis by activating special pathways in the body that help to create muscle.
However, consuming BCAAs is only one part of the puzzle. To more effectively encourage muscle growth, you'll want to add all of the essential amino acids to your diet. Pair your BCAAs with other essential amino acids in order to maximize the positive results of your workouts and to build muscle more effectively.
Prevent Muscle Breakdown
If you are in a calorie deficit or are fasting, you need to be aware of muscle breakdown, which can reduce the size and strength of your muscles. If unable to get energy elsewhere, your body will start to breakdown the proteins in your muscles to use as an energy source.
While it is normal for muscle proteins to break down and synthesize, when the rate of protein breakdown occurs faster than the rate of muscle protein synthesis, this can lead to an overall lower level of protein present in the muscles.
Amino acids help to prevent protein breakdown in your muscles. As BCAAs make up a significant amount of essential amino acids, it is imperative these are replenished and available to minimize the breakdown of protein.
Another benefit of consuming BCAAs is a reduction in muscle soreness after high-intensity workouts. Muscle soreness can last for 12-24 hours after a workout. In the case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), you may still be feeling sore 72 hours after you leave the gym.
BCAAs reduce muscle damage which, in turn, reduces the onset of muscle soreness. Because BCAAs reduce protein breakdown during exercise, you are able to preserve more muscle and consequently have less damage (and less soreness) following your workout. This means you can hit the gym at a higher level, and more often, because your body will be able to recover sufficiently.
The faster you can recover from intense exercise, the more effective you can be with your training, and the more likely you are to hit your training goals. We recommend consuming BCAAs before exercise to help prevent DOMS and muscle fatigue, as well as to decrease your post-workout recovery time.
During exercise, the level of BCAAs in your blood decreases and, in turn, the amino acid tryptophan increases. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is converted into serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood and sleep. While high levels of serotonin are generally positive, serotonin can contribute to fatigue during exercise.
Studies have shown that people who consume BCAAs before exercise are able to focus better. By replenishing the BCAAs in the body, there may be a reduction in the uptake of tryptophan, meaning fatigue is also reduced.
Regardless of how often or what time you work out, going into a workout with less fatigue and more focus is always a benefit.
Help with Weight Loss
There is evidence to suggest that supplementing with at least 14 grams of BCAAs can lead to a reduction of body fat percentage. Although generally not the main reason why people turn to BCAAs as part of their supplement regime, it may be important to those focusing on lean muscle mass.
If reducing weight is one of your fitness goals, look out for BCAAs on the ingredients label of the pre-workout supplements that you are considering.
Where to Find BCAAs?
Although BCAAs can be found in protein sources such as meat, poultry and fish, getting the right ratio of the amino acids is vital for maximum results.
The only way to do this effectively is to use supplements, such as HydroBCAA +Energy, which combines BCAAs at the recommended 2:1:1 ratio with 125mg of caffeine to help promote lean muscle growth and recovery. Our BCAAs all come mixed with electrolytes to enhance hydration throughout the day.
Diet and BCAA Supplements
It is critical to pair the BCAAs you get from supplements with those that you can get from a well-balanced and healthy diet. BCAAs are often found in protein-rich foods.
Omnivores can easily consume meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products for their protein and BCAA needs. However, plant-based eaters still have great options for a BCAA and protein-rich diet.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, consuming beans or lentils is a good way to increase your protein intake. Pumpkin seeds, quinoa, nuts, tofu and tempeh are also known to have high amounts of BCAAs and work well for a plant-based diet.
If you are on a high protein diet, chances are that you are already getting a sufficient amount of BCAAs in your diet and supplements may be ineffective.
However, if you are not eating a sufficient amount of proteins in your diet, BCAA supplementation may be the best way for you to reach your desired results.
When used correctly, BCAAs can be a vital addition to your diet and workout regimen. They help to promote muscle growth and recovery, reduce fatigue and muscle breakdown. BCAAs are the perfect solution for those who are looking to grow muscle mass while also maintaining a high intensity in the gym for extended periods.
As the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine are essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the human body, it is important to obtain them through one’s diet and supplements. Look for a pre-workout with these essential amino acids, like our BCAA range, to meet your personal fitness goals!