Supplement spotlight... BCAAs: what are they and are they just protein?
Updated: Jul 25
The following article discusses the supplement BCAA, and helps you to understand the purpose of it. Supplements are just that, a supplement and they cannot replace a complete diet. Food, sleep, exercise and stress management should be considered before supplementing, however the one caveat is that if you are on a calorie restrictive diet, you might want to consider a supplement since your chances of eating ALL of the vitamins and minerals you require will be greatly reduced, and since more food would equal more calories some people might supplement with what their diet is missing.
Another example is Omegas if you are vegan, it can be very hard to get enough through vegan sources without supplementation, or potentially you live in a part of the world that has poor soil quality (e.g. New Zealand has less selenium in the soil), so it might be beneficial to supplement. Read on to find out why someone might consider taking BCAA.
Do you want to naturally increase the available energy that you have for your workouts? Reduce cortisol (the stress hormone)? Reduce muscle breakdown? Build lean muscle? Read on about the effects of supplementing with BCAAs or Branched-Chain Amino Acids.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids are a special kind of amino acid, known as such due to their unique structure. There are 3: leucine, isoleucine and valine. There is a scientific ratio that the body most easily utilize and administer these and this is the ration of 2:1:1. All 3 components are crucial, but the most crucial one is the leucine, as it acts as the gatekeeper for turning on protein synthesis.
BCAAs increase the amount of energy you have for workouts and help with muscle recovery. Cortisol levels are also reduced post-workout by BCAAs and muscle growth is increased (when supplementing correctly with your workout).
BCAAs can come in pill form and as a powder. Both provide effective ways to increase your BCAA consumption, however, the difference is personal preference and palatability.
Timing: BCAAs can be taken four or more key times a day: both before and after training, first thing in the morning, and right before your bedtime. Remember that to reap the benefits, it is important to take the adequate dose required. Whilst there are BCAAs within protein powder, studies show that supplementing further with exogenous sources can really enhance your lean muscle building goals.
Before and after your workout, BCAAs reduce cortisol production; increase the muscle synthesis and aid in reducing your muscle soreness. By having either right before or even during your workout, muscles are provided with BCAAs for energy instead of using their stores of BCAAs for energy.
Right before bedtime is great for muscle recovery. Sleep is where the body prioritizes repair and therefore provides BCAAs to assist in the overnight repair process. After an all night fast (because you don’t eat when you are asleep), BCAAs help to limit muscle catabolism.
Go on, give it a whirl and see how BCAAs can make you get more from your hard work and effort.
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