Branched Chain Amino Acids: What They Are & Why We Need Them
BCAA. You’ve seen these four letters before – they are grouped together and stamped across an array of health and fitness products, often with little to no explanation. You search the label for some context, but aside from discovering how many grams are in whatever product you’re looking at, it’s tough to find enough information.
So what are BCAAs? What do BCAAs do?
BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that serve as the building blocks of all of the proteins our bodies create. 9 of these amino acids are considered essential amino acids, meaning our bodies cannot make them on their own, they must be obtained through what we eat and how we supplement. Within this group of 9 are the branched chain amino acids (or the BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Branched chain amino acids hold a very specific chemical structure and can be implemented into your diet through meat, eggs, and dairy products. Those who exercise frequently can also make sure they’re getting enough BCAAs by using a BCAA powder.
What are BCAAs good for?
BCAAs stimulate protein synthesis, which in turn, builds muscle (1). Mixing a BCAA powder with water and sipping on it before or during a workout – or even between meals – will help your muscles repair from strength training and rebuild stronger and larger than before. Many protein powders contain added BCAAs for this benefit and can be used in meal replacement shakes and post workout smoothies to refuel. Some athletes get crafty in the kitchen and even mix their BCAA-rich protein powders into oats and baking mixes!
Another major benefit BCAAs offer is decreased muscle soreness and reduced fatigue after your most intense lifts as they reduce glycogen depletion rates when consumed beforehand (2). We all know the struggle of being at the bottom of a set of stairs after a rough leg day, not to mention how trying it can be to raise your arms up past your shoulders after benching your personal best. That soreness presents 12-24 hours after your workouts due to tiny tears created in muscle fibers when you put them under stress. BCAAs have been shown to decrease muscle damage and accelerate recovery.
Finally, while every type of athlete can generally benefit from BCAAs, endurance athletes in particular experience less muscle wasting when supplementing appropriately. Muscle wasting takes place when the amount of muscular breakdown imposed on a muscle exceeds the amount of rebuilding taking place. Avid runners and cyclists can promote muscle maintenance within their training schedules by consuming BCAAs and protein as an energy source to fill tears and reconstruct muscle after long workouts, preventing the body from using preexisting muscles as fuel (3).
What should I look for in a BCAA supplement?
- Land on labels that educate on what’s inside. You’re too smart to spend your money on something that can’t fully articulate its function. When it comes to your nutrition, you’ve got to trust what you’re putting into your body.
- Go for “micronized” powders, like Promix BCAAs: this simply means that the powder is finely broken down for the fastest available absorption and bioavailability.
- A 2-1-1 BCAA ratio (leucine, isoleucine, valine) is ideal for optimal muscle repair and protein synthesis.
- Avoid supplements with added sweeteners or artificial flavors. Promix’s BCAA powder is a fermented, plant-based, vegan-friendly solution flavored with crystallized fruit juices and non-GMO whole-leaf stevia extract. Supplements should taste natural: if your BCAAs taste like the gross flavor candy at the bottom of a Halloween bag that no one wanted, chances are, there’s something in it that shouldn’t go in your body. Similarly, BCAAs should never contain corn, soy, or gluten, and should always be tested by a third party lab for purity.
Ready to take your performance to the next level? Cut down on down time by implementing BCAAs into your day! Browse our different flavors, try our capsules, or take a look at some of our protein powders that include a quality dose of BCAAs in every serving to keep you going strong.
If you have any questions regarding our products and how they enhance your training, visit our FAQs page, or feel free to email us at [email protected]. Be sure to follow Promix Nutrition on instagram for the most up-to-date announcements and more posts to inspire you!
(1) Van De Walle, MS, RD, Gavin. Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition. Healthline Website. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-bcaa. Published July 11, 2018. Accessed Jan 4, 2019.
(2) Patel, Kamal. Branched Chain Amino Acids. Examine Website. https://examine.com/supplements/branched-chain-amino-acids/. Published October 8, 2018. Accessed Jan 4, 2019.
(3) Bennet, Andrew. Are There Supplements That Prevent Muscle Loss. Livestrong Website. https://www.livestrong.com/article/100812-supplements-prevent-muscle-loss/. Accessed Jan 4, 2019.