Individuals who train or workout at the gym have most likely heard of BCAAs, but what exactly are BCAAs good for? The term BCAA gets thrown out a lot, especially by people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
BCAAs are more important than you think, especially for lifters and athletes. They come in different forms, but the version we’ll be talking about will be about the supplement. In today’s article, we’ll be talking about BCAAs; what exactly are they, and are they worth buying?
What’s a BCAA?
To start off, we need to learn the definition of a BCAA, and for that, we must learn about amino acids. The term BCAA stands for branch-chain amino acid, a type of amino acid that is essential for athletic performance. Amino acids are organic compounds that contain an amino group, a carboxyl group, and a side chain. There is a multitude of combinations that, in turn, can create a number of different amino acids.
Out of the 20 amino acids that exist, nine are essential, meaning that our bodies cannot produce them. To compensate, we need to consume foods that are complete proteins, foods that contain all nine essential amino acids.
From those nine amino acids, we have three branch-chain amino acids; these are valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Although all nine essential amino acids are important, these three, in particular, should be paid close attention to for athletes and lifters alike.
Benefits of BCAA Supplements
There are a handful of things that set apart BCAAs and regular amino acids, so much so that there’s an entire supplement for BCAAs. Here are some of the benefits that BCAAs bring to the table when consuming.
Reduce Muscle Soreness
One of the main benefits BCAA offers and why so many bodybuilders take them is their muscle soreness reduction factor. When we work out, the heavy resistance training causes tiny tears in our muscle fibers, leading to delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short. (1✔)
Depending on how often you go to the gym or train in general, your muscles will handle DOMS differently. Someone who’s brand new to working out will experience a much longer period of DOMS than a seasoned lifter at the gym.
However, regular lifters still feel the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness, which can inhibit their performance at the gym. For this reason, BCAA supplements are taken by athletes to reduce their periods of muscle soreness to get back to training sooner. (2✔)
After intense exercise, research has shown a large decrease in DOMS when individuals take BCAAs compared to a placebo. (3✔)
Increase Muscle Growth
The three amino acids that form the branch-chain group are valine, leucine, and isoleucine. One amino acid, particularly leucine, is responsible for promoting muscle protein synthesis, the process in which our bodies make muscle. (4✔)
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. (5✔)
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. (5✔)
Prevent Muscle Breakdown
In our bodies, skeletal muscle is constantly being broken down and being reconstructed to build bigger muscles. However, this can only be done with the right amount of dietary protein, along with the right quality.
BCAAs are a useful supplement in combating muscle breakdown when exercising and training. The time breaking down muscle decreases while muscle protein synthesis is promoted. (6✔)
Should You Invest in a BCAA?
This is our question at hand, is investing in a BCAA worth it? Since we have established what BCAAs good for are, does all this information help us determine if BCAAs are a must-have in your supplement arsenal? The answer is quite simple once you look at your overall diet and your nutrition quality.
If your day-to-day diet fulfills all your macronutrients properly with the right amount of protein, carbs, and fats while being high-quality, there’s no need to look into it further; you don’t need a BCAA.
I say this because if you’re “honest” about consuming high-quality protein, then the branch-chain amino acids are already there. Incorporating complete proteins, like mentioned before, will fulfill all your BCAA needs.
Other supplements like whey protein contain the BCAAs found in regular brain chain amino acids while being a complete protein source. If you’re looking for BCAAs, your best bet is to get it from a protein powder or get it from whole foods. Branch-chain amino acid supplements aren’t bad, just unnecessary.
In conclusion, we discovered what are BCAAs good for exactly. Their amino acids, leucine, valine, and isoleucine, help athletes and trainees with not only muscle building but also muscle soreness.
However, the supplement by itself isn’t the most sought-after thing worth investing in. A protein powder gives you all the BCAAs while adding the other six essential amino acids. I personally recommend this whey protein if you’re in the market for one.
Got any questions? Leave them down below, along with comments you may have!