Recovery, Growth, and Results: Why You Need to Use BCAAs
Fitness supplements are no longer the luxury they once were, only available to athletes and bodybuilders. Now, everyone seems to have a brightly-colored supplement bottle sitting on their kitchen counter or on top of the refrigerator. From muscle heads to soccer moms, there is a supplement for everyone. Is there one supplement that crosses the boundaries of fitness experience and goals?
Branched chain amino acids are an essential, effective, and useful supplement for everyone regardless of age, gender, or experience. Let’s take a look at what branched chain amino acids are and how they can benefit you.
What are BCAAs?
Even if you’ve never taken a supplement before, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ve heard of amino acids. The byproduct of protein breakdown, there are 20 total amino acids that play a role in hundreds of biological processes in the body. We can further breakdown the 20 amino acids into two types: essential and non-essential.
Non-essential amino acids can be created within the body from other nutrients so it’s not necessary to seek them out in your dietary choices. Of the 20 amino acids, 11 of them are considered non-essential. The remaining nine amino acids are essential, which means they must be ingested via food or supplements.
Of these nine essential amino acids, there are three that are considered the most important within the fitness world. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are called branched chain amino acids, and they are the three you should be focusing on if you want to build more muscle, lose more fat, and see better results.
Benefits of BCAAs
Branched chain amino acids offer several key benefits that relate to how well you perform in the weight room and the results you’ll see weeks or months down the road.
Protein Synthesis: Your muscles, hormones, and protein synthesis are intertwined and share an important role in hypertrophy, endurance, and strength. BCAAs have been shown to trigger protein synthesis, especially when consumed post-workout and before bed. Protein synthesis is key to promoting several of the benefits listed below.
Muscle Growth: If your goal is muscle mass, you’ll want to supply your muscles with the nutrients they need after a tough workout. Hypertrophy-focused weight training has been shown to have a dramatic effective on muscle growth but only if there is a positive protein balance. If the right protein-focused nutrients aren’t consumed within 24 to 48 hours post-workout, the result is muscle catabolism or breakdown. What are the ideal nutrients to promote muscle growth? Branched chain amino acids.
Fat Burning: What if your goal isn’t to get big? Just the opposite, what if you want to burn fat, lose weight, or get shredded? Can branched chain amino acids help? Studies have demonstrated that diets high in amino acids correlate with more fat loss and a lower prevalence of obesity.
Another study involving wrestlers showed that BCAA supplementation was able to promote a lower body weight while maintaining lean muscle mass.
Performance: In pre-workout supplements, you are bound to find BCAAs. In intra-workout supplements, it’s a guarantee. Why? Some studies suggest that branched chain amino acids, especially when paired with arginine and creatine, might help to improve your workout performance. A study involving female athletes confirmed that those supplementing with a BCAA and arginine mix demonstrated better sprint-based performance.
This makes BCAAs ideal for weight lifting, sprinting, or activities where a giant burst of energy is required. BCAAs won’t hurt endurance-focused exercise such as marathon running, but it hasn’t been proven to help performance for it either.
Muscle Protection and Recovery: It’s the part of exercise that doesn’t get much attention because it lacks the glitz and glamour of putting in the hard work. Despite it being boring in comparison, muscle recovery is essential to see the results you want. Branched chain amino acids can support your recovery in two key ways:
First, BCAAs are the very building blocks of muscle tissue, providing the necessary elements to repair tissue. Second, as mentioned above, BCAAs trigger protein synthesis, which promotes an anabolic environment ideal for growth and repair. Finally, BCAAs help to avoid catabolic breakdown. If you don’t consume the right nutrients or if you over-train, you put yourself and your muscle tissue at risk for breakdown. BCAAs can help to protect your muscle tissue from catabolism.
How You Should Use BCAAs
Convinced you need to start using branched chain amino acids as a part of your diet and exercise program? You know BCAAs can support your results, but you may not know when to take them.
BCAA Timing: There are three key times to take BCAAs if you want to skyrocket recovery and results. We recommend taking a serving of a BCAA supplement before your workout to support your performance as well as a second serving during your workout to protect your muscle from breakdown. Finally, if you want to avoid calories but support protein synthesis before bed, take a third serving of BCAAs. They are an excellent super low-calorie option to promote anabolism while you sleep.
Dosage Levels: The most trusted studies involving BCAAs use a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, respectively. Here’s a breakdown of the grams per serving that you should look for:
- Leucine: 2 grams
- Iso-leucine: 1 gram
- Valine: 1 gram
Do You Use BCAAs?
What benefits have you noticed since you started using them? Do you recover faster? Have you gained more muscle? Ever try Alien Recovery? Let us know in the comments below!