What Are BCAAs? | Essential Compounds
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What Are BCAAs? | Essential Compounds

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You hear about them all the time at the gym, online, or in magazines, but what are BCAAs? We can get a sense that they are important, but what makes them so important that we can’t live without them.

Many lifters, athletes, and bodybuilders take BCAAs in the form of supplements, while others take them through whole foods. In today’s article, we’ll be explaining what exactly BCAAs are and whether or not investing in a BCAA supplement is worth it.

BCAA Composition

Establishing what exactly a BCAA is is important before diving into this article. BCAA stands for branch-chain amino acid and makes up three of the nine essential amino acids humans have to consume to live. These three amino acids, isoleucine, valine, and leucine, are special for their purposes and effect on protein synthesis in the body. What Are BCAAs? | Essential Compounds


The branch-chain amino acid leucine is responsible for the energy uptake in our muscles along with the preservation of our muscles from breaking down. Taking isoleucine helps our bodies lose less muscle when it begins to breakdown. (1✔)


As the next branch-chain amino acid on the list, valine does what isoleucine does but at a less discrete level. Valine can preserve energy and enhance endurance by maintaining liver glycogen and blood glucose. (2✔)


As the main amino acid out of the bunch, leucine provides BCAA users with the bulk of the benefits. It is the most investigated and researched branch-chain amino acid because of how potent it is compared to isoleucine and valine. (3✔)

Leucine is responsible for stimulating protein synthesis, which starts up muscle growth. Also, leucine preserves lean mass and increases insulin levels. Leucine is so powerful that taking it as the only BCAA can be just as effective as taking them all combined. (4✔)

Benefits of BCAAs

Let’s discuss some of the main benefits people get from taking BCAAs and why one might consider taking them. The benefits come from consistently taking bran-chain amino acids in the form of supplementation or through food.

Reduce Muscle Soreness

The main benefit people receive from consuming branch-chain amino acids is the reduction of overall muscle soreness from working out. Heavy resistance training causes a strain in your muscle, leading to soreness that can impact your performance in the gym.

What Are BCAAs? | Essential Compounds

When we train with resistance, with enough stress, and intensity, our muscle fibers begin to wear and tear. This sounds harmful, but in reality, our muscle fibers are meant to do breakdown and heal themselves soon enough. (5✔)

However, before they heal themselves, the torn muscle fibers give people a certain discomfort depending on the intensity of the workout and the muscles’ resilience. This discomfort is known as DOMS, or delayed-onset muscle soreness. (6✔)

BCAAs have been proven to reduce the effect of DOMS on a person’s muscles after intense exercise. The reduced soreness allows lifters to train more often without having to worry about strenuous discomfort. (7✔)

Muscle Breakdown Prevention

When our bodies are not physically active, the chances of muscle breakdown or muscle wasting increase, muscle breakdown doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens over a long period of time with sedentary people.

What Are BCAAs? | Essential Compounds

BCAAs have been shown to be a useful supplement in combating muscle breakdown when exercising and training. The time breaking down muscle decreases while muscle protein synthesis is promoted. (8✔)

Promote Muscle Growth

The branch-chain amino acid that shines in this benefit is leucine. As mentioned before, leucine is the main organic compound from the trio as it is responsible for stimulating muscle protein synthesis in the body.

What Are BCAAs? | Essential Compounds

In a study involving ten young men put through consistent resistance training, BCAAs really show their effects. The ten subjects were split into two groups, the control receiving a placebo and the experimental group receiving about 6g of BCAAs.  (9✔)

At the end of the study, the dramatic difference in muscle building was quite astonishing. The experimental group on BCAAs has a 20% increase in muscle mass when compared to the control group. (10✔)

Supplementation vs. Natural

When BCAAs are brought up, most people tend to think about branch-chain amino acids’ supplementation form. However, not known by many, BCAAs can also be consumed naturally through whole foods.

The foods that will most certainly contain every brain-chain amino acid are complete proteins, foods that have all nine essential amino acids. Some complete proteins include:

  • Chicken 
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Milk 
  • Fish 
  • Quinoa 

Including any of these foods in your diet will suffice your body’s need for BCAAs since we only need about 5-12 grams and for athletes 10-20 grams. For this reason, is why we believe that BCAAs aren’t really the most necessary supplement on the market. (11✔)


In conclusion, what are BCAAs? These amino acids are categorized in their own separate category for their effects on our body’s composition. Isoleucine, valine, and leucine all have a role in muscle growth and increased endurance in the body.

We can consume BCAAs naturally through whole foods like chicken, beef, and fish, which can be easily incorporated into many people’s diets. For this reason, BCAA supplementation can be rendered obsolete through whole foods.

Got any questions? Leave them down below, along with comments you may have!

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