It’s been quite sometime since I’ve written a fitness based post and since this blog was primarily started as a fitness blog, I wanted to write something on the subject. Specifically BCAA’s.
What are BCAA’s?
So to begin, BCAA – Branched Chain Amino Acids, are a group of essential amino acids that consist of leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAA’s stimulate protein synthesis in our body, which in turn helps fuel and build muscle, the amino acid leucine is the main contributor for that, while amino acids isoleucine and valine contribute to energy production, fatigue reduction and blood sugar regulation. This is why, for those who have intense workout regimen, it is recommended that they drink BCAA’s before, during and after workouts to improve muscle efficiency during workouts and muscle recovery post workout.
Benefits of BCAA’s
- BCAA’s isoleucine and valine reduce fatigue during workouts by providing extra glucose to your muscles, improving your muscle efficiency and boosting energy levels, therefore enabling you to take on more high intensity workouts.
- Leucine maintains a stable level of glucose in your blood for longer periods of time, therefore maintaining your energy levels for longer. It also helps in creating protein for your body to use as fuel to rebuild the broken down muscle and causes less protein loss from high intensity workouts, leading to faster recovery and less muscle soreness.
- BCAA’s can help you lose fat faster as they are a good appetite suppressant.
- It’s a great testosterone booster. Higher testosterone is linked to less fat storage in your body as it’s very good at burning fat.
- It boosts somatotropin, the hormone most commonly known as Growth Hormone a.k.a. Human Growth Hormone. This hormone is responsible for the growth of all of body’s tissues, including bones. Meaning BCAA’s aid in developing stronger bones.
- BCAA’s are also known to improve cognitive functions like memory, response time and concentration. One of the ways it does that is by lowering the amino acid tryptophan.
- BCAA’s are also said to reduce complications linked to liver failure.
When to take them
BCAA’s are quite effective when you take them before a workout to give you an energy boost and continue that boost by continuing the intake during your training session when your BCAA levels are starting to drop. That drop causes the amino acid tryptophan (the one that makes you sleepy) to rise. BCAA’s help in reducing the amount and effect of tryptophan, keeping you sharp and fully awake during your workout. Some even take it after their workout, with some added whey protein, to help in recovery of muscle and reduce soreness. You can even take them an hour or so before you go to sleep to maximize protein synthesis in your body and help with muscle recovery. Although, exact time to take them for best results isn’t yet certain, these observations are based on anecdotal evidence at best.
How much BCAA you need will depend on what kind of training program you are/will be following and other factors such as your daily caloric intake, your sleep quality and your goals. A standard is often said to be around 15mg per pound of your body weight or around 34 mg per kg of body weight for those who workout 3-4 days a week for 1 hour or so. Depends on your routine, this number can possibly reach up to around 65 mg per pound or 144 mg per kg of body weight. *More active individuals and athletes might need a higher dosage based on their specific requirements*.
Sources – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12730426 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16365094
Note1 – Men’s and women’s dosages might differ by 1-3 mg, depending on the lifestyle and goals.
Note2 – BCAA’s can be taken on an empty stomach as well, as they are a good supplement for those who are unable to keep a timely eating schedule and are missing out on essential nutrients.
Note3 – Those who are on a vegan or vegetarian diet often receive relatively less amount of BCAA’s than those who eat meat and dairy, as meat and dairy have higher amounts of BCAA’s in same quantities. If you might think to increase the amount of food or combine it with other foods to make up the difference, please pay attention on the intake amount, as it may lead to increased and unbalanced nutrient consumption, especially fats and sugars causing overnutrition. To avoid that, get the powdered form of BCAA’s to fulfill your RDA, while adjusting and maintaining your daily whole food intake accordingly.
That’s it. Hope you found this article useful and helpful in understanding the fundamentals of BCAA’s. Thanks for reading.