Your body needs protein to build muscle, and that protein is made up of amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids that are used to build the thousands of different proteins in your body, nine are considered essential. This means that your body can't make them, and they must be obtained from your diet.
And of those nine essential amino acids, three are referred to as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
So, what are the benefits of taking BCAAs? In this article, we'll discuss:
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of taking BCAAs!
BCAAs are unique compared to other essential amino acids in that they are taken up directly by the muscles rather than being metabolized in the liver like other amino acids. Below, we'll dive into detail about some of the benefits of taking BCAAs.
Increase Muscle Growth
BCAAs can help increase muscle growth by stimulating protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the process your body uses to build new proteins, and it's essential for muscle growth.
One study showed that people who consumed 5.6 grams of BCAAs after lifting weights had a 22% greater increase in muscle growth compared to the placebo group.
When taken alongside whey protein, which has all essential amino acids, BCAAs can further increase muscle growth.
Lessen Exercise Fatigue
It's normal to experience some fatigue when you exercise, but BCAAs can help reduce that fatigue and how quickly it happens. BCAAs can help to reduce exercise fatigue by reducing the amount of tryptophan that enters the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid that's converted into serotonin, which can make you feel sleepy.
When you exercise, your muscles use BCAAs in your bloodstream, which causes the level of BCAAs in your blood to decrease. When this happens, the levels of tryptophan in the brain increase, leading to feelings of fatigue.
However, taking BCAAs can help prevent this by supplying the muscles with the BCAAs they need and keeping tryptophan levels in the brain low.
Decrease Muscle Soreness
It's also common to experience some muscle soreness after exercise, especially if you're just starting a new workout routine. The scientific name for this soreness is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
DOMS is caused by tiny tears in your muscle fibers that occur when you exercise. These tears are actually a good thing and are a sign that your muscles are growing. However, they can still be quite uncomfortable.
BCAAs can help decrease muscle soreness by reducing the amount of protein breakdown during exercise and decreasing creatine kinase levels -- which are markers of muscle damage.
Prevent Muscle Breakdown
It's normal for your body to break down and rebuild muscle proteins constantly. But when more protein breakdown occurs than protein synthesis, it can lead to muscle loss.
This is especially common in older adults and during periods of extended fasting or calorie restriction. However, it can also happen in younger adults who are overtraining.
BCAAs can help prevent muscle breakdown by decreasing the rate of protein breakdown and increasing the rate of protein synthesis. This helps create a positive protein balance, which is essential for muscle growth.
The timing of when you take BCAAs can impact their effectiveness. Most people will achieve the best results by taking BCAAs before or after exercise.
There isn't much difference between taking BCAAs before or after exercise in terms of muscle growth. The more important factor is that you take the BCAAs within a two hour window of exercising.
BCAAs can also be taken throughout the day to help preserve muscle mass during periods of extended fasting or calorie restriction.
Some athletes who compete in endurance sports like long-distance running or cycling may also benefit from taking BCAAs during their event. This can help to decrease fatigue and improve performance.
How many BCAAs should I take?
The recommended dose of BCAAs is 2-3 grams per day. However, some people may need to take more depending on their goals and exercise routine.
What are BCAAs side effects?
The most common side effect of taking BCAAs is an upset stomach. This is more likely to occur if you take larger doses of BCAAs or if you don't eat enough food with your BCAAs.
It's also important to note that BCAAs can interfere with some medications, so be sure to speak with your doctor before taking them.
Do I need to take BCAAs if I'm already taking protein supplements?
Protein supplements usually contain all of the BCAAs that you need. However, if you're not getting enough protein from your diet or supplements, taking additional BCAAs can be beneficial.
Can I get BCAAs from food?
Yes. Protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy contain all the BCAAs you need. If you're concerned about getting enough BCAAs, you can always add them to your diet in supplement form.