What are BCAAs and do you need them?
Let's start from here: Proteins are made up of amino acids. Our bodies need 20 amino acids to function properly, 11 of them are non-essential and 9 are essential. The non-essential ones our bodies can break down, refigure and build up on its own. The essential ones we need to get from our diet. Three of these nine essential amino acids are considered branched-chain (because of their chemical structure). BCAAs stands for branched-chain amino acids. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAA supplements have been shown to help with building muscle, decreasing muscle fatigue, and alleviating muscle soreness.
In one study (1), participants were split in two groups. One group was consuming a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAA and the other group - placebo. The BCAA supplement group had a 22% greater increase in muscle synthesis compared to the placebo group. But! There is always a "but". When comparing supplements, the ones with BCAA have only three of the essential amino acids and they are associated with 50% less muscle synthesis compared to supplements who have all of the nine essential amino acids (for example whey protein powder). Reducing exercise fatigue During exercise your muscles are using the BCAAs in your body. This causes their concentration in your blood to drop. When this happens, it triggers a change in your brain. Levels of another one of the essential amino acids called tryptophan go up. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin in your brain and serotonin contributes to the feeling of fatigue you get at some point during your workout and after it. In two studies (2,3) participants who supplemented with BCAA experienced a reduction in fatigue levels and had an improved physical performance during exercise. This means that people who experience fatigue after training can probably benefit from supplementing with BCAA. Foods high in BCAAs
BCAAs are found in animal products, mainly in meat. Have a look at list below (from Healthline).
Who are BCAAs for
BCAAs are popular among athletes and bodybuilders, and they are among the people who probably benefit the most from them. If you consider yourself an average exerciser and aren't excluding animal foods from your diet, you are probably eating enough BCAAs to support your training. I always advice my clients the following: If you can get it from food, get it from food. Supplements should not be a substitute for a balanced diet. If your workouts are more intense and you are after some great changes, maybe you will benefit from supplementing with BCAAs. Just remember - it's always best to check with your health care provider first. Thank you for reading.