BCAA stands for Branch Chain Amino Acids. While amino acids are known as ‘the building blocks of protein,’ BCAAs are a group of 3 amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) that our bodies can use for energy and muscle protein synthesis.
Like the other essential amino acids, BCAAs can’t be made by the body, so we must get them from proteins in our diet. While we can get them from our food, dietary BCAAs have to pass through our liver for processing before they can be absorbed and put to use in the body.
Requiring no digestion and rapidly absorbed, BCAA supplements can be taken before, during and after your workouts to provide immediate support for the metabolic processes involved in reaching your fitness goals. Here are 6 ways a BCAA supplement can get you in great shape!
1. Maintain existing muscle
Did you know that dieting to lose body fat will inevitably result in losing muscle mass as well? When we lose weight quickly, our bodies try to protect us by holding on to our fat stores and burning muscle instead, and around 30% of the weight you lose on a diet will come from your muscles! This is terrible news for your metabolism, hormonal balance, strength and overall fitness.
To maintain our valuable muscle mass while eating in a caloric deficit, we have to be proactive about it. Using a BCAA supplement will counteract this problem in two ways.
Firstly, it will stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is the body’s process of repairing and growing muscle tissue after exercise. Secondly, your BCAA supplement will reduce the rate of catabolism, which is the process of breaking down muscle tissue for energy.
2. Gain muscle
In addition to helping you keep the muscle you have, BCAAs can also help you increase your lean muscle mass if you’re eating in a slight caloric surplus.
As mentioned above, BCAAs stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Protein powder does this too but complimenting your protein powder with BCAAs can further accelerate the process to help you reach your goals even faster.
3. Easier fat burning
Through holding on to and gaining more muscle, our metabolism increases and shedding body fat can become much easier. Supplementing BCAAs can enhance your fat burning efforts and even improve your glucose tolerance.
In other words, BCAAs can help you get lean – and stay lean. Be sure to use a supplement with a good ratio of leucine, as this amino acid is particularly important in encouraging the body to use fat stores for energy.
4. Maintain hormonal balance
BCAAs can help us with much more than just gaining muscle and losing fat. One of the best benefits is that BCAAs balance certain hormones during and after intense workouts.
Testosterone and oestrogen are produced by both men and women, and the balance of these sex hormones directly affects energy, sex drive, lean tissue development, fat storage and our moods.
Cortisol is the stress hormone that helps control blood sugar levels, regulates metabolism, reduces inflammation and assists with mental clarity. However, elevated levels can lead to rapid weight gain, anxiety, and depression.
Our levels of testosterone and cortisol can change drastically during intense exercise, meaning our workout efforts could result in hormonal imbalances.
This can lead to junk food cravings, bad moods, low energy and motivation, water retention and fat gain – none of which are particularly helpful on the journey to our goals… So, if you’re struggling to reach your fitness goals, then a hormone imbalance could indeed be the culprit – and a BCAA supplement may be the answer you’ve been looking for!
5. More intense & effective workouts
Two of the BCAAs (isoleucine and valine) can be converted into glucose for extra energy and help to combat fatigue during a workout. Meanwhile, the other BCAA (leucine) converts to ATP, which is fuel for our muscles.
Since BCAA supplements bypass digestion and go directly to the bloodstream, they can be used as an immediate source of energy during intense exercise. BCAA supplementation reduces fatigue, improves our endurance as well as helping us stay motivated to push through and maintain intensity during our workouts.
6. Avoid muscle soreness & workout more!
Is muscle soreness getting in the way of regular workouts? Sipping BCAA’s during your workouts will help to reduce the damage to your muscles while accelerating the recovery process. The result? You can train more frequently and at a higher intensity – which means you’ll reach your goals much sooner!
We can improve this process further by drinking a post-workout protein smoothie that contains BCAAs and balanced carbohydrates. This induces an insulin response, which enables the amino acids to be quickly transported into your cells, where they can begin working to repair damage and build new muscle tissue.
BCAAs are an amazing supplement – whether you’re looking for that competitive edge, or you’d like to speed up your progress towards your goals. Although their effectiveness is supported by scientific research, remember that not all BCAAs are created equal.
Some supplement companies will cut cost by using unethical ingredients such as dairy, duck feathers and pig fur, in addition to artificial additives, sweeteners and colours. A plant-based BCAA that’s free of herbicides, pesticides, soy and gluten, is the perfect secret weapon in your fitness strategy!