BCAA’s: What are they and what can they do for my body?

 

Have you ever thought about taking BCAA’s? Have you thought about it because you hear that your friends take it, or you’ve read about it somewhere? What are BCAA’s? Better yet, what are they intended to do versus what we’re told they do or help with? Are they good for working out and if so, should I take them before, during or after the workout? This blog is going to share all these answers.

There’s nothing more frustrating than being told you should take something because it’ll help with what you’re trying to do and then finding out it doesn’t help with that at all. Or you just don’t see any results. So, time to figure out what BCAA’s are and what they can do for you and your body.

chart of whole foods that are high in Branch chain amino acids

Introduction to BCAA’s

 

So let’s start with the nerdy talk. Branch Chain Amino Acids, otherwise known as BCAA’s. These are the building blocks of protein! They are definitely important since your body is built on a lot of protein. Now there are 20 BCAA’s, however eleven of them your body makes by itself. The other nine BCAA’s are what’s known as essential because your body can’t make them and relies on getting them from outside sources, such as food that we eat!

When we’re talking about putting on some muscle there are three BCAA’s you should look at. Those three are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Leucine is the most important for the muscle building category.  This guy is so important when it comes to building muscles it’s probably the reason someone somewhere thought, “let’s make BCAA’s even more accessible and make it a powder for people to consume after a workout!”. Why is it important you may ask? Well let’s talk about that.

chemical breakdown of 3 branch chain amino acids

BCAA’s, Protien Synthesis & Muscle Repair

 

Leucine actually diminishes from your body during a workout. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to do that! That being said, your body needs Leucine in order to stimulate protein synthesis and the building of muscles, or really the repairing of muscles. Hearing this you may be thinking “Well of course it makes sense then to take BCAA’s after a workout, I need to make sure I have enough Leucine to start building muscles.”

To this statement I say yes and no. See through all the food we as humans consume, it’s very easy to get in enough of this three BCAA’s without taking supplements. It’s very hard to actually not be getting in enough BCAA’s since they are in all foods! So why do people so aggressively swear by taking BCAA’s after a workout claiming it’s helped them put on muscle mass. Well let’s look at this scenario. If the person claiming this is on a very strict and minimal diet, then yes taking the BCAA’s has probably helped their body out a good amount with putting on muscle.

eggs, red meat and chicken that contain BCAAs

What’s one supplement that almost everyone takes more regularly then BCAA’s though? Well if I were to take a not so wild guess, I’d say protein powder. People drink protein shakes throughout the day, before workouts, during workouts, after workouts. We just can’t get enough of our protein shakes. Well, if you recall what I said earlier in this blog about BCAA’s being the building blocks of protein that would mean that there are BCAA’s in protein powder!

That’s right, I said it. BCAA’s come in your protein powder already. So why would you buy BCAA’s powder to take after a workout if you are already taking a protein powder with BCAA’s in it after your workout? That’s just spending extra money on something you already purchased and getting the same thing.

 

3 flavors of xtend BCAA supplements, watermelon grape and blueberry

BCAA intake for Vegan Diets

 

With that being said, if you are Vegan and take a plant-based protein powder, please double check that it does have the three BCAA’s for protein synthesis because not all do. That would be the necessary time to buy BCAA’s on top of buying your protein powder. In fact, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan in general I highly recommend buying BCAA’s because those famous three BCAA’s are very hard for you to get since we’re not eating meat sources.  So, for your health and muscle building capabilities please buy some.

So, taking a BCAA’s after a workout isn’t really going to help you build muscle, but it may aid in it a little bit to make sure the process starts. You really have to hit the gym and break those muscles down in order for your body to start repairing and making them bigger to handle the stress you put on them. You need to eat a lot of protein in order to fill those muscles up!

 

BCAA pill with orange casing

Benefits of Taking BCAA Supplements

 

Here are a few different things that research suggests taking BCAA’s can help with. Notice how I said suggest because there are many factors that are in play.

Research has shown that taking this supplement may help reduce fatigue in exercise. BCAAs help restore levels of tryptophan in your brain, a chemical that converts to serotonin and causes fatigue during exercise. So that’s definitely an incentive to drink some before and during your workouts! One other thing that BCAA’s may do when taking the correct amount is help reduce DOM (delayed onset muscle soreness). However, stretching properly and staying hydrated can also help with that as well.

So, there are definitely pros and cons to taking this popular BCAA supplement. At the end of the day, you just need to decide what you’re trying to do and if you are taking them and you do notice some sort of difference and like it then by all means keep taking them. There is no harm in taking them.

Keep in mind that when it comes to supplements, they are just that, supplements. They aren’t meant to replace you taking actual whole foods. You should always try to get what you need from foods before supplements. These just make it easier to consume throughout the day and particularly the one thing versus many things you would get from the whole foods. If you want to try BCAA’s, do it. I personally would just drink them throughout the day and maybe during the workout versus only after.