A beginner's guide to using BCAAs - your new favourite gym partner
Let’s talk BCAA’s
Don’t let the acronym intimidate you because branched-chain amino acids are that gym partner that will support you through every step of the process. From pre-workout motivation to endurance and post-workout recovery, BCAAs won’t skip a beat and exist to support and sustain your fitness goals. The best kind of gym partner a girl could ask for. Because BCAAs are in it for the long haul…
So what are they?
There are 20 different amino acids that make up the thousands of proteins in our bodies. Without them, we are unable to function at our optimum level. Out of the 20 different types of amino acids, nine are essential meaning that our bodies don’t produce them naturally so they must be obtained through diet. Within these nine, BCAAs may be broken down into three essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine.
Put simply, BCAAs are the building block of your muscles, which your body does not produce naturally so it asks that you help it out by supplementing these through diet. The best sources of BCAAs include beef, chicken breast, canned tuna, salmon, eggs and of course whey protein powders.
But as science would have it, the best time to take your BCAAs is within an hour before or after your workout for muscle growth and recovery or during your workout for endurance. So when eating a steak is not ideal during your gym session, BCAA supplements offer the perfect alternative.
What science says…
BCAAs make up approximately 40% of the body’s essential amino acids pool, of which around 18% are found in our muscles. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are mostly broken down in our muscles instead of our liver, giving them a
starring role in energy production during exercise.
BCAAs can be likened to a gym partner, the kind that will spot you and help you lift your weights. Studies have shown that taking BCAA supplements can help reduce exercise fatigue by helping reduce the level of serotonin in your brain, a chemical that has been linked to the onset of fatigue during exercise.
While study results have varied depending on environmental factors and exercise duration, BCAAs have been found to directly support and increase mental focus during exercise.
Now, if you love the feeling of struggling to walk down the stairs post workout, then this supplement is not for you. But if you prefer to take your recovery more seriously, then read on.
So how does this work?
BCAA’s are shown to help both prevent and reduce the severity of muscle soreness by working to lower enzymes such as creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase in the blood. Now, excuse the scientific jargon, but to put it simply, BCAA’s help lower the levels of muscle-damaging enzymes when you exercise. Studies have indicated that participants who have taken BCAA’s have reported an average of 30% less muscle soreness.
A claim to fame, BCAAs have been used to help sustain and speed up muscle growth. The BCAA leucine has been shown to activate a pathway in the body, which stimulates muscle protein synthesis.
One study has found that consuming 5.6grams of BCAAs following resistance training was found to increase muscle protein synthesis by 22%. While this supplement is not intended to replace your protein powder, it is produced to boost its benefits.
How to take them…
When it comes to versatility, BCAA’s hold the crown. Add them to your smoothies or mix them up as a light pre-workout drink. Or alternatively use them to beat your 3:30itis for an added boost of energy. As luck would have it, unlike most good things in life, you can never have too much of your BCAA powder.
Taking branch chain amino acids before exercise is shown to increase performance, muscle growth and to reduce the onset of DOMS. While studies on dosage have been varied, 10grams per serving is the suggested half an hour prior to your session for optimum results.
For a refreshing drink with added benefits, you can use your BCAA during your workout session to help boost endurance and combat exercise fatigue. The minimum dosage to help give you added energy is 4grams per serving.
The optimum time to take your BCAA is 30minutes to an hour following your workout to help aid in muscle recovery. As branch-chained amino acids are not complete proteins, they are not intended to replace your protein powders but rather to help optimize their benefits. Add your servings of BCAA to your post workout protein shake with a serving of your choice of protein powder, carbohydrates and healthy fats to speed up your recovery and muscle growth.
Consistency is key
Like all good things in life, commitment will make all the difference to your results. While you will benefit from taking BCAAs during your workout, it takes an average of 10 days to see the results. To consistently improve your performance, gains and results, you will need to consistently push yourself and not skip your supplements regime.