Our Guide To BCAAs And How To Use Them To Maximise Your Results
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 50 seconds.
It seems like everyone is raving about BCAAs these days. And, well, rightly so! They really are all they’re cracked up to be. Amidst other benefits, they’ve been proven to help you lose fat, reduce recovery times and improve performance in the gym. But, no doubts the question that has just sprung to your mind is … “How?”
Well, don’t worry. Everyone thinks that at the start. In fact, the topic of BCAAs is one of the most complex a bodybuilder or weightlifter could hope to understand. But don’t worry, we’re going to break it down into simple terms for you here. So, the first step in this guide to BCAAs is, of course …
What does it stand for?
BCAAs stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids. See, that was simple! Now let’s take it up a notch …
What are BCAAs?
There are in fact three Branched Chain Amino Acids. These are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. They are 3 incredibly important amino acids that are found in a number of meats and eggs. What makes them important and “essential” is that your body is unable to make them on its own. As such, you do get them naturally if you consume a well-balanced diet.
However, in order to access their true benefits, most serious weightlifters take them in supplement form as well. Being aware of them and conscientiously adding them into your diet can allow you to quickly get ahead in your fitness. To help break things down into more simple terms, it’s best for us to look at what each one of the 3 BCAAs do exactly.
The primary benefit of leucine is its ability to help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery times. Which is perfect if you are working out each day, back-to-back and want to be able to perform at your best. But how does it do this?
Well, it can simultaneously work to prevent muscle protein breakdown and encouraging MPS (muscle protein synthesis). This is the process of building new protein within your muscles. And, of course, this is essential to growth.
It also has the ability to help stabilise your blood glucose levels and to improve your body’s hormone control. As such, Leucine seems to have garnered greater levels of research over the years, and is widely considered to be the most important of the 3 BCAAs.
When you consume carbohydrates of any kind, they either do one of two things. They could be transferred into your glycogen stores, and then used as energy when you need it. Or alternatively, they could be stored as fat.
Well, isoleucine is incredibly beneficial as it improves your body’s ability to use the glucose it has stored up. Most significantly, when you are working out. As such, you benefit from getting more energy during your workouts, and hopefully less fat buildup over time.
What you should start to find, when regularly adding isoleucine into your diet, is that your blood sugar levels become more stable than before. Which can then help to prevent noticeably large spikes in your insulin levels.
The third and final essential branched-chain amino acid is valine. The effects valine has on your body are sort of a combination of those of leucine and isoleucine. It can help with:
– Repairing tissue damage
– Regulating blood sugar levels
– Promoting regular growth of muscles
– Giving your body greater levels of energy
– Aiding healthy brain functioning
In order to gain access to all of the aforementioned qualities, it is best for you to consume all 3 BCAAs at the same time. And indeed, it is far easier to get supplements that include all, as opposed to just one.
4 science-backed benefits that BCAAs can offer you
OK, so now that we’ve looked at the sorts of things that each one of the BCAAs can do for you on your own, let’s dig a little deeper into the 4 main health benefits BCAAs offer you. And rather than just taking our word for it, there are links through to the studies that support each claim as well!
1. Improving weight loss efforts
Studies that have taken place have indicated that those who consume 15 grams of BCAAs each day have a 30% lower risk of becoming overweight, compared to those consuming 12 grams per day (1). By helping to better regulate the means by which carbohydrates and glucose are used, it is expected that this can help prevent the buildup of fat.
Instead, that glucose gets used for energy, allowing you to workout at higher levels every time. By also helping to reduce recovery times, you can do more exercise in a shorter period of time. As such, BCAAs play a part in helping you to increase exercise levels and to shed more excess weight.
2. Reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
DOMS is the feeling you get the day or two after you have a heavy workout. For some, this feeling is great as it’s a sign that the workout went well. However, it can be incredibly annoying if you then want to workout again, but the muscle groups are too sore to do so. Well, BCAAs can provide protection against the muscle damage that occurs in workouts (2).
One study found that those who received BCAA supplements as opposed to a placebo could perform up to 20% better with the same exercises 24-48 hours after a session (3). It is believed that they can achieve this partly due to their ability to reduce blood levels in the enzymes lactate dehydrogenase and creatine kinase.
3. Reducing tiredness during workouts
BCAAs have been shown to not only reduce physical fatigue during workouts but also mental fatigue. This isn’t to say that your physical performance is necessarily enhanced, but the experiments have shown that individuals are less tired if they consume BCAAs either prior to or during a workout.
In fact, one study found that those who received BCAAs during a trial workout experienced 15% less fatigue than those who were given a placebo (4). Another found that those who received BCAAs during a cycle experiment could keep going for 12% longer than those who received the placebo (5).
4. Increasing your body’s muscle mass
Arguably the main reason that weightlifters are drawn to BCAAs is their ability to increase muscle mass. This is a big claim and one that has been closely scrutinised for years. However, there is scientific proof to back this statement up. You are able to access this benefit as it is believed the BCAAs activate enzymes in your body that build muscle mass (6).
This is especially true if the supplement you consume has a higher proportion of leucine, as opposed to isoleucine or valine (7). It is important to note, however, that the supplementary form of BCAAs is not necessarily the only way to access this benefit. This study found that taking whole protein supplements (which contain BCAAs naturally) are more effective for muscle growth than taking BCAAs individually (8).
How much BCAAs do you need in your diet?
As with the nutritional intake of anything, there is no hard and fast rule as to how much you should consume each day. However, due to the growing popularity of BCAAs, a number of studies have taken place into what the ideal amount to consume each day is. These findings range anywhere from 15mg to 65 mg per pound of body weight per day (9, 10).
However, a general consensus should find that women need around 9 grams per day, whilst men need around 12 grams. If you do not exercise and eat a healthy, protein-rich diet, then you should not necessarily have any need to take supplements. However, if you workout, then you will benefit much more from taking BCAA supplements.
If this is the case, then you should aim for a supplementary intake of around 10 to 20 grams of BCAAs a day. Again, there is no hard and fast rule to this. And if you carry out a lot of high-intensity training each week, then you could benefit from taking more. That’s why it’s worth trialing different amounts to find a balance that suits your lifestyle best.
How many BCAAs do certain foods contain?
As mentioned throughout, BCAAs are not only found in supplements. They come naturally in eggs and many types of meat. So, if you’re curious as to how much you are already consuming, here’s a breakdown of the typical amounts found in different foods.
– 10g of chicken breast: 0.38g BCAAs
– 10g lean beef: 0.36g BCAAs
– 10g tinned tuna: 0.32g BCAAs
– 10g salmon: 0.35g BCAAs
– 10g beef steak: 0.36g BCAAs
– 1 egg: 1.3g BCAAs
– 10g peanuts (roasted): 0.4g BCAAs
For each of those, perhaps 45% is Leucine, whilst the remaining 55% is made up evenly of Valine and Isoleucine. This isn’t exact, but is the general proportion. As you can see, if you are looking to regularly consume a high level of BCAAs every day, in order to keep up with your active lifestyle, it can be hard and expensive. As such, most serious weightlifters turn to other, much more convenient ways of buying BCAAs.
The best way to buy BCAAs
If you’re keen to start accessing the awesome health benefits of BCAAs then there are plenty of options available to you. In fact, it is one of the most commonly purchased supplements here at Ultimate Fitness Birmingham. So much so that we now offer a range of different supplements for you to try.
However, above and beyond the best product we offer is TNT BCAA Triple Charged. It has to be the most advanced BCAA supplement currently available anywhere and, best of all, it gets real results! It is recommended that you take it one of two ways:
1. Mix in 28g to a 2-litre water bottle and drink all throughout the day
2. Mix in 14g to water either pre-workout, intra-workout or post-workout
It all depends on your daily schedule and whether you are working out that day. As such, we offer it in bulk form, or as individual shots mixed in with water when you’re at the gym. We highly recommend you give it a try and vary the times at which you take it. Some benefit more from the enhanced energy levels during workouts, whilst other members prefer taking it afterwards.
Either to reduce muscle soreness or improve mass-gaining efforts. If you have any more questions about BCAAs or would like to discuss other supplements we offer then just come and speak to us next time you’re in the gym!