BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids.
They’re called branched because of their structure which includes a side chain of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms.
The three bases are Leucine, Isoleucine & Valine and they account for around a third of essential amino acids in muscle proteins.
What this means is that even though amino acids in general are very important for muscle growth.
The three BCAA’s are key players when you want to promote muscle protein synthesis.
Because BCAA’s are so important to muscle tissue and
also help keep blood sugar levels constant.
You want to make sure to get enough to support your workouts.
But what do BCAA’s actually do.
Studies have shown that BCAA’s and BCAA supplementation can have certain benefits.
Since BCAA’s especially Leucine are vital to muscle growth!
Supplementation can promote muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle growth over time.
It can also be used to prevent fatigue for Beginners.
Other studies have shown that it can improve your immunity by providing energy and helping in the synthesis of new cells.
BCAA’s also reduce exercise induced muscle damage.
Which means you suffer from less soreness and get better long term muscle function and growth.
Now the problem with these findings is that they come from studies that looked at people were not getting enough protein in the first place.
Obviously when you’re already getting very little protein your body will love any additional amino acids.
And therefore perform better.
What you have to know is that you don’t have to consume supplements to get your BCAA’s.
Pretty much all quality whole food protein sources are high in them!
For example meet, eggs and dairy products.
But also whey protein supplements.
I will assume that you are already getting most of your protein from such sources!
So the real question we should be asking is What do BCAA’s supplements do when you consume them In addition to a normal protein intake.
And the answer is not much!
Even though there aren’t any studies I know, of that compare the two scenarios.
1: an ideal protein intake without BCAA’s supplementation.
AND 2: an ideal protein intake with BCAA’s supplementation.
There is no actual evidence that taking BCAA’s does anything when you’re already getting enough to protein.
Which indirectly will lead to plenty of BCAA’s through your normal diet.
Now there is one benefit to BCAA’s supplementation that I haven’t talked about.
People who want to exercise in a fasted state for example when working out first thing in the morning should take them.
That’s because when you exercise In a fasted state, Muscle breakdown is increased.
Too much muscle breakdown will hurt your muscle growth over time.
Which is why you want to minimize it.
Taking a good BCAA’s supplement can prevent muscle breakdown.
That’s because the amino acid leucine is mostly responsible for the suppression of muscle breakdown.
Which you get plenty of from BCAA’s supplements.
Now of course you could also eat something to get your leucine and avoid muscle breakdown.
But that would break your FAST which I assume is not what you want to do.
When you’re trying to work out in a fasted state.
BCAA’s supplements on the other hand won’t break your fast because they have a very small impact on insulin
So the bottom line is that BCAA’s supplements are usually overhyped and not necessary.
If you’re already getting enough protein
The only situation where they are useful is when you want to or have to exercise on an empty stomach.
And want to avoid muscle breakdown.
That said how should you take them.
Assuming that you’re in a fasted state and want to take BCAA’s supplements before your workout go with a dose of 5 to 10 grams.
After your training you should break your fast and get some additional protein.
Preferably from Whole Foods sources.
But like I said before it’s more important to what your total protein than to micromanage your BCAA intake.
Most people will not exercise on an empty stomach so they don’t have to worry about it anyways.
Now are there any side effects.
BCAA’s supplements are generally very safe.
If you stick to the recommended daily intake you will be fine.