There are so many different supplements on the market these days, it’s hard to know which ones are beneficial to help us achieve our fitness goals, as well as which are important in getting us the nutrition we need to live a healthy lifestyle.
You may have heard of BCAAs but don’t necessarily understand what they are, what they do or how to incorporate them into your diet.
Here is a quick summary:
BCAAs are the combination of 3 essential amino acids that are necessary for optimal health as they provide us with high levels of protein and are absorbed by muscles in our body at a rapid rate.
BCAA powders can help to:
- Boost energy and delay fatigue.
- Help increase muscle growth and lean out muscle mass.
- Protect the immune system.
- Help to manage muscle recovery and repair.
- Assist with keeping our hormones in balance.
- Provide weight loss/fat burning benefits.
Check out Happy Way’s BCAA powders if you’d like to add them to your daily routine!
We’re here to break down the benefits of BCAAs for you and explain the ins and outs of these supplements - so it’s simple and easy to decide what’s best for you and your body. So read on to learn more!
WHAT ARE BCAAs?
To maintain optimal health our bodies require protein, and amino acids - which are often described as the “building blocks” of protein - are required so that our bodies function properly. Essential amino acids supplements are necessary to help produce muscle, prevent illness, transport nutrients around the body and carry out bodily functions.
There are 20 amino acids in total - 11 of these are considered non-essential, whilst the other 9 are referred to as essential amino acids. The difference between non-essential amino acids and essential amino acids is that non-essential amino acids are already found in the body naturally, whilst essential amino acids must be sourced externally from our diet or suitable supplements.
BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids are made up of three essential amino acids:
They are named BCAAs because of their structure and how they are chained together. BCAAs are considered extremely important when it comes to maintaining muscle mass in the body but they also have a lot of other health and nutritional benefits too.
WHAT DO BCAAs DO?
BCAAs are essential amino acids that when incorporated into our diet, can be found in high levels in our muscle tissue as protein. When consumed they are absorbed rapidly by the muscles in our bodies, instead of being broken down by the liver like other amino acids. This is what makes them so special and a great source of energy when it comes to exercise and performance.
BCAAs also play an important role in regenerating protein in our bodies and of the 3 essential amino acids, leucine is said to be key when it comes to building muscle and preventing the breakdown of muscle. The best ratio of BCAAs is 2:1:1, which is double the amount of leucine to isoleucine and valine. This is important for those who are trying to build muscle mass, maintain lean muscle or avert the breakdown of muscle during intensive or lengthy exercise. Because it diminishes and absorbs quickly during exercise, leucine must be replaced through the diet to enable further protein integration, allowing the body to increase and build more muscle.
Happy Way’s BCAA powders have higher levels of leucine as per the ratio above.
THE TOP 6 BENEFITS OF BCAAs
1. DELAYS FATIGUE AND BOOSTS ENERGY
BCAAs have been found to decrease fatigue, both mentally and physically during extensive exercise. Whilst we all reach a point of exhaustion at some stage during our training, BCAAs can help prolong that feeling, giving us more energy to power through our workouts. During exercise, BCAAs aid in blocking the level of tryptophan (an amino acid) which converts to serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone) in the brain, therefore stimulating feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. Because BCAAs can reduce serotonin levels, they can be considered an additional energy source, helping delay muscle tiredness and therefore allowing you to exercise for longer periods.
Happy Way’s BCAA powders are 100% natural and provide you with the necessary nutrients to help give you a healthy energy boost. If you’re needing a little pick me up, try our BCAAs as an alternative to that extra cup of coffee for the day. In both Raspberry and Green Apple flavours, they will keep you hydrated and also taste delicious too.
Happy Way resident nutritionist Malissa creates a yummy Raspberry Lemonade Mocktail with our Raspberry BCAA powder! Check it out below.
2. INCREASES MUSCLE GROWTH/LEAN MUSCLE MASS
As mentioned previously, the essential amino acid leucine is a big contributor to activating muscle growth, which is why a lot of people who are looking to increase their muscle mass incorporate BCAAs into their daily diet. Leucine stimulates protein synthesis which is necessary for building muscle. But whilst BCAAs have fantastic benefits and can be a contributing factor to muscle growth, to get the maximum results your body requires all 9 essential amino acids, which can be found in whey protein powder.
If you’re a woman and concerned about bulking up or building too much muscle, it’s important to remember that men have a lot more testosterone in their bodies than women and therefore can increase their muscle size at a faster rate. For women, BCAAs help with building and maintaining a lean muscle mass, which will not only benefit and protect your cardiovascular and bone health but also allow you to increase the intensity of your workouts and strength at the gym.
Check out Happy Way’s range of whey protein powder here.
3. PROTECTS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Managing a busy lifestyle, as well as keeping up with an intense exercise schedule day in and day out, can leave very little fuel in the tank and often have us feeling fatigued and run down. When this happens we’re often at risk of getting sick, as our immune system is weak and we’re not allowing ourselves enough time to recover properly. We can often try to push ourselves, not wanting to lose focus of our fitness goals once we’ve got into a rhythm of consistent training. However, when we don’t listen to our body's needs we can end up making our return to exercise a lot more drawn out, which can become quite frustrating.
The benefit of BCAAs is that they can help boost and protect our immunity. They provide a fuel source to the cells in our gut, enabling them to regenerate quickly and therefore protecting us from harmful bacteria or pathogens that make us sick. Happy Way’s BCAA powders are packed with minerals and vitamins which help boost and protect your immune system and maintain a healthy immune function.
4. HELPS MANAGE MUSCLE RECOVERY AND REPAIR
We all know that after an intense workout or exercise session we can feel both tired and sore. This is quite common when we’ve exercised for the first time in a while and often the aches and pains we feel can last for days afterwards. These post workout feels are known as DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and by adding BCAAs into your diet it can help decrease the pain we often experience, as they minimise muscle damage during exercise.
Consuming BCAAs pre and post workout can help speed up muscle recovery between workouts, which allows us to bounce back faster and therefore get on with our days with less moans and groans! This will mean that we can exercise more often and maintain a consistent or higher intensity of training each time, enabling us to reach our goals faster.
5. CAN HELP KEEP OUR HORMONES IN BALANCE
As we know life can sometimes get stressful and often exercise or physical activity can help to correct an imbalance of the stress hormone cortisol. For women, when cortisol levels are high, it can increase their blood sugar levels (affecting their energy, appetite and mood) whilst decreasing other hormones like progesterone. If women’s hormones are out of whack, it can affect their mental health, energy, sex drive and even their physical well-being.
BCAAs can help balance out women’s hormones by increasing testosterone levels (this happens in men also) which will then not only impact your fitness performance but improve your moods and well-being overall.
6. CAN ASSIST WITH BURNING FAT
For those that are looking to burn fat as a part of their fitness and health goals, BCAA powders can assist in getting you there as they boost your metabolism, therefore allowing your body to burn more calories during exercise and rest periods. BCAAs can help reduce our need for a sugar fix by regulating our blood sugar levels and preventing a sudden drop, which can leave us craving processed foods and drinks that are high in sugar. Because BCAAs boost energy levels, they enable us to train for longer at a higher intensity, resulting in the loss of weight and a decrease in fat.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS OF USING BCAA POWDERS?
Generally speaking, there are no real risks or negative side effects to worry about when taking BCAA supplements. Ensure that you are following the instructions on the packaging or seeking advice from a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns. BCAAs do not increase weight in the body as they are low in calories and in fact can contribute to fat burning if taken correctly.
WHAT FOODS ARE HIGH IN BCAAs?
Whilst BCAAs are considered essential amino acids and therefore are not naturally found in the body, there are a variety of foods that do contain increased levels of BCAAs, providing we are eating foods that are high in protein. You can find BCAAs in:-
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Meat, poultry and fish
- Nuts, seeds
- Beans, lentils, peas
- Soy products
BCAAs are also found in some protein powders, including our whey and vegan protein powders. Check out Happy Way’s range of whey protein powders, as well as our selection of vegan protein powders, which are all 100% natural and contain BCAAs, along with other vitamins, minerals and nutrients. If you’re unsure how to choose the best protein powder for you, read our blog here.
ARE BCAA POWDERS GOOD FOR VEGANS?
Because vegans cut out meat and dairy from their diets, they need to be more mindful that they get the necessary intake of vitamins and minerals that are required for optimal health and nutrition. By simply upping their protein and amino acid intake through supplements or alternative food sources like nuts, grains and other plant based foods, those living a vegan lifestyle can still gain the benefits and achieve their fitness and health goals like any other individual.
Incorporating BCAA supplements and vegan protein powders into their diet is the best way for vegans to ensure they’re getting the necessary nutrients. Happy Way’s BCAA powders are vegan friendly and we also have a range of delicious vegan protein powders that all contain the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine.
Check out our recipe for a delicious vegan post workout smoothie below, with Happy Way’s vegan nutritionist Hayley!
WHEN DO I TAKE BCAA SUPPLEMENTS?
BCAA supplements can be taken at any time throughout the day, but if you are aiming to reap certain benefits or reach certain goals then you can plan the timing accordingly. They are safe to take daily, and in fact if you are taking them to help reach your goals then you will notice the benefits and results best if they become a part of your daily diet. If however you don’t want to have your BCAA powder every day, then try using it only on days that you workout or exercise, so that you can gain the benefits of boosted energy, reduced fatigue and therefore increased performance.
BCAA PRE WORKOUT BENEFITS
Most people do prefer to take their BCAA supplements prior to exercise. Try to have your BCAA powder roughly 15-30 minutes before working out to give the supplement time to kick in, as this will allow you to gain all the benefits such as reducing fatigue, increasing stamina and boosting your energy levels during exercise.
BCAA POST WORKOUT BENEFITS
Having your BCAA powder 30-60 minutes post workout can assist with muscle recovery, repair and restoration. Because BCAAs help to reduce muscle soreness and muscle breakdown, it’s a good idea to have your BCAA supplements post training, to support your body’s recovery process and eliminate the feelings of exhaustion that we often experience in the days following an intense workout. If taken after exercise, you will notice that your body can repair and bounce back at a more rapid rate, because BCAAs absorb quickly into the body.
HOW DO I USE BCAA POWDER?
If you are unsure how much BCAA powder you should be consuming, follow the recommended dosage on the packaging or speak with a healthcare professional to determine what’s best for you. At Happy Way, we recommend having 10g of BCAA powder per serving, for both pre and post workout. Simply mix your favourite BCAA powder with 200ml of water and stir or shake for around 20 seconds, or until it has completely dissolved.
BCAAs are a healthy alternative to coffee, allowing you to get the necessary vitamins and nutrients to help you power through your day! Once opened, be sure to store your Happy Way supplements in a cool dry place and in an airtight container. It’s recommended that you use your BCAA powder within 90 days of opening and always use a dry spoon or scoop when making your shakes.
Check out Happy Way’s BCAA powders and full range of protein powders on our website here. For recipe inspo follow @happywayrecipes on Instagram.