With fitness being a priority a growing trend, and new supplements making their way into the industry, it sometimes becomes difficult to find out the best ones that help. BCAA, or Branched chain amino acids, is one such supplement that has been a topic of mixed reviews since forever. Questions like are BCAAs necessary, when to take BCAA and how to take BCAA during workout are always on the minds of gym-goers. In this article, I cover these questions surrounding BCAAs in detail.
What are BCAAs
Protein is the building block of muscles, and protein is made up of a collection of amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acids, and they can be classified into:
a) Essential Amino Acids: These are amino acids that cannot be made by the body. Hence, they are to be taken from an external diet or supplements. There are 9 essential amino acids.
b) Non-Essential Amino Acids: They can be produced by our bodies, even if we do not get them from our diet.
c) Conditional Amino Acids: They are not generally essential, but may be needed during stress or illness.
Out of the 9 essential amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine are the most important ones, and they are the ones responsible for maintaining muscle mass and helping you build muscle.
Although BCAAs are available in natural food, there are also many supplements that give you that. In this article we will talk about the supplements and how often you should take the BCAAs, when should you take BCAAs and more. It is important not to take more than you need so that your body can absorb it properly.
As we’ve discussed above, BCAA’s consist of three important essential amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. While are three of them are important and have unique properties, Valine stands out due to its effectiveness in helping you build more muscle. It is important to know the composition of BCAA’s before you decide when to take BCAA.
Due to their uniqueness in the chemical structure, they are absorbed directly in the muscle instead of the stomach, thus making them metabolized faster than other amino acids.
What are BCAA supplements?
BCAA supplements are available in the form of powders and capsules. These can be mixed with components such as water or other liquids. Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine are the three main amino acids present in BCAAs. The amount of leucine is typically twice in the supplements because it is very effective for boosting protein synthesis and controlling the muscle protein breakdown. Another interesting feature about the BCAAs is that it is not processed by the liver first like other food, the muscles absorb it directly giving a quicker result.
Another reason why BCAA supplements are helpful is that they make it easier to reach your amino acid goals.
Benefits of BCAAs/ Why Should You Take BCAAs
To build muscles: The absorption in your muscles proteins gets faster after you have taken BCAAs and do exercise. It also reduces the speed in which the muscle protein is being broken down.
Reduces tiredness: When you take BCAAs, the brain limits tryptophan from coming in. Tryptophan is used to produce serotonin, which plays a role in making us feel tired.
Reduces muscle damage and soreness: When you do heavy exercises, your muscles may feel sore from the strain you undertake. This can be relieved by taking BCAAs.
Provides energy and immunity: When your body has exhausted its glucose reserves after exercises, BCAAs becomes the source of energy. Due to a lot of exercises, the amount of amino acid glutamine reduces in your body, which helps in maintaining the immunity. When you take BCAAs, it gets converted into glutamine and balances the immunity levels. When to take BCAA supplement depends on a lot of factors, that we’ll talk about in the next section.
How often should you take the BCAA supplements?
BCAAs supplements can be taken in a number of ways and regardless of what you are taking it with it is important to stay within the prescribed limit. The prescribed limit is 5-10 grams of the BCAA supplement powder. The daily intake has to be decided based on how much you are working out.
When to Take BCAA Supplements/ When Should You Take BCAA Supplement
There is not much evidence whether BCAAs or other supplements are beneficial more when taken before or when taken afterward.
A small study showed that when some young men took the 10 gm BCAA supplement before doing an exercise, they had less muscle soreness and muscle damage as compared to those who took it afterward. While in another study where whey protein was given to athletes just before and after their weight-lifting exercises, both groups had the same level of improvement. The amount of whey protein given was 25 gm which included 5.5 gm of BCAAs. So, it is hard to say whether BCAAs should be taken before or after exercise. And, there is no best time to take BCAA supplements.
There was another study where the goal was to see the effectiveness of taking BCAAs during the workout. In this study, the 193 athletes were given 16 gm of BCAA when they were participating in a marathon. Out of these few were given placebos and the result was no different from those who took BCAAs during the exercise and those who didn’t.
The levels of BCAAs in your blood go to the maximum after 30 minutes of taking it. But, no optimal timings have been found yet. It is better to follow what works for your body better to know when to take BCAA supplements.
Another important question is how much BCAAs to take? The answer is that you need to take 200 mg per kg of your body weight daily. For example, if you weigh 75 kgs, you need to take 15 gm of BCAA supplements daily.
Continue taking it for the long term with a minimum of ten days to see its benefits.
BCAAs as powder or pills?
One of the reasons why BCAA supplements exist because of the convenience to use. And, it comes mainly in two forms — powder and pills.
The benefit of taking BCAA in the powder form is that it can be mixed with water or a sports drink so that it reaches the muscles quickly. While capsules are easy to carry and can be consumed before or after training. So, whether you make your BCAA drink or take BCAA pills, it is up to you.
Not sure about the right supplements for your fitness goal? Let us help you out:
BCAA Dosage for Men and Women
For men, the BCAA dosage can be around 15-20 grams in a day. The dosage can be divided into two times a day if the workout is not very rigorous. If you work out a lot, the dosage can be increased to up to 6 times a day of 5 gm each, where you can take one serving of BCAA after workout.
BCAAs dosage for women is recommended to around 3-5 gm a day in two parts if your workout is normal. If your workout is rigorous, you can take up to 12 gm in a day in 4-5 servings.
BCAA dosage can also be taken as pre-workout, to get a speedy flow of aminos into your body before starting your workout.
The Best Food Choices for BCAAs
- Chicken Breast: Chicken breast is an excellent source of high-quality BCAAs. A 6oz serving of chicken breast contains around 36 grams of protein, with over 6 grams of BCAAs.
- Lean Beef: Lean Beef is another great source of BCAAs. A 6oz serving of lean beef contains around 35 grams of protein and over 6.2 grams of BCAAs
- Eggs: While eggs are an important source of BCAA, whether you’re consuming a whole egg or just egg white makes the difference. 1 average whole egg contains about 1.2 gram of BCAAs, while just the egg white contains around 0.8 grams.
- Dairy Products: Milk products such as cheese, yogurt and milk are excellent sources of BCAAs.
Also Read: Creatine is another great supplements that can help you lift more and build muscle faster. Here’s how you can use creatine to gain weight.
Top 5 BCAA Supplements
The following BCAA supplements do not indicate that these are the best ones in the market. However, I’ve personally tried each one of them, and have classified as per the ratings. You can research more about the different BCAA supplements available in your area, and then move on with buying the one with the best reviews. My top 5 BCAA supplements are:
- XTEND BCAA POWDER: Scivation’s XTEND is a premium, sugar-free and carb-free BCAA supplement that delivers excellent results. The formula is based on 2:1:1 ratio, and is perfect for those who’re looking to take amino during their workout.
7g BCAAs per serving
2.5g of Glutamine per serving
No Stimulants, Sugar or Carbs
- Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000: With 5 grams of premium quality BCAA in each serving, BCAA5000 is known to help build lean muscle, recover muscle and help in improving endurance.
5g of BCAAs per serving
Zero sugar, carbohydrate or gluten
- Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA 5000: ON is one of the pioneer brands in nutrition supplements, and is also one of the highest quality supplements maker. Its BCAA5000 is a perfect blend of Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine in 2:1:1 ratio. The product is also available in an unflavored version.
Supports recovery and muscle building
- PostJym BCAA+: Another great BCAA supplement, BCAA+ delivers excellent quality, great-tasting BCAAs. The product also contains Glutamine, taurine and L-carnitine L-tartrate to help you repair broken muscle tissues, and helping you repair faster from workouts.
6g of BCAAs per serving
3g of Glutamine per serving
2g of Creatine HCL, Beta-alanine and L-carnitine L-Tartrate
BCAA Side Effects/ Are BCAAs Safe?
Before considering the particular case of BCAAs, it is important that you consult a health practitioner before starting with any supplement in your diet. While the particular supplement may not cause any side effects and BCAAs are generally safe, a previous medical condition or illness can aggravate the problem, thus leading to indirect or direct side effects.
Coming over to BCAAs, there are generally no side effects of the supplement, considering that you buy your supplements from a genuine and trusted source. Since BCAAs are combinations of three essential amino acids, and given that they are taken in moderate quantities, there may not be any side effects.
However, if you experience any side effects such as fever, nausea, headache or stomach pain, discontinue use immediately and consult with your doctor.
It is important to check the details of the BCAA product before you buy it. Check whether it would suit you and see how the nutrients are divided into the product. Research the benefits and whether it would suit your diet and body. Getting professional advice from a doctor or nutritionist will definitely be a viable option and give you proper information.
When to take BCAA supplements largely depends on the particular goal that you are working towards. The best time to take BCAAs is generally in between workout, to be used to provide muscles with enough protein and prevent muscle breakdown. Have questions? Let me know in the comment section below!
Also Read: Apart from BCAAs, there are various other supplements that can help you build muscle/gain weight. Checkout some of the best supplements that can help you gain weight.