BCAA – What is it and do you REALLY need it?
BCAA powder, BCAA tablets and BCAA gummies seem to be the “in-style” supplement right now. It is touted heavily via social media with little to no detailed information, which no doubt leaves you scratching your head, thinking ‘is this the must-have ingredient I need to be able to reach my fitness goals?’
In this short, digestible article we cover everything you need to know about BCAAs so that you can carry on your day scratch-free, less confused and a little more clued up on your nutritional needs.
What are BCAAs and do we need them?
BCAAs stand for Branched-Chain Amino Acids and YES we NEED them.
There are 20 Amino Acids used in our body. When we eat protein our digestive system breaks the protein down into amino acids. We then take these amino acids and combine them to make new proteins. These new proteins help us build muscle, stimulate chemical reactions, transport nutrients, regulate metabolism, boost immunity and perform several other functions.
However, of the 20 amino acids 9 of them are essential (Lysine, Histidine, Threonine, Methionine, Valine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Phenylalanine and Tryptophan).
These can not be produced by our bodies. We need to get these essential amino acids from the foods we eat – namely complete proteins.
Main food sources high in Essential Amino Acids (EAAs)
The main food sources high in Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are:
Vegan sources of complete proteins are:
So where do BCAAs come in to the equation?
Of the 9 essential amino acids three of them have a special molecular structure that branches off to one side. The three EAAs are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Together these three are the most prevalent and make up 35-40% of the EAAs in our body and 14-18% found in our muscles.
What do BCAAs do?
Enhances Fat Burning
Studies have shown that when supplementing with BCAAs and using exercise-induced muscle glycogen depletion protocols (training high reps, fasted) lipid oxidation increases (2).
Almost everyone has experienced the feeling of being run-down. This is most definitely the case for individuals who exercise at high or strenuous intensity for prolonged periods of time.
Supplementing or ingesting enough BCAAs can help boost your immunity via metabolic regulation (3).
Reduce Muslce Soreness (DOMS)
No-one who trains correctly is exempt from muscle soreness. While extreme soreness is not the goal, having mildly sore muscles a few days after working out is an indication of growth and the body’s need to recover. BCAAs have been shown to alleviate muscle soreness and speed up recovery (4).
How much BCAAs do we need?
The World Health Organization (1985) suggests that an adult should consume 34mg of BCAAs per kg of body weight. However, recent studies show that your daily requirements may range as high as 210mg per kg of bodyweight (5).
Based on collective research the requirements are:
Women: minimum 9grams of BCAAs daily
Men: minimum 12grams BCAAs daily
However, your daily requirements may be higher if you are a performance athlete or someone who does intense or heavy resistance training.
Who should supplement with BCAAs?
If your diet is rich in protein and you are meeting your requirements as per your activity levels you likely do not need to supplement with BCAA powders or tablets. However, if you are on a calorie deficit for the purposes of weight loss it is highly recommended to consider supplementation to meet the necessary requirements.
Meat, Poultry & Fish provide: 3-5grams per 3oz
Beans & Lentils provide: 2.5-3grams per cup
Milk provides: 2grams per cup
Cheese provides: 1.3 gram per 1oz
1 large Egg: 1.3grams
Quinoa provides: 1gram per cup
Pumpkin seeds and nuts provide: 0.7- 1 gram per 1oz
Tofu and Tempeh provide: 0.9-2.3 grams per 3oz
When should you take BCAAs?
It is important to remember that BCAAs are assimilated into the muscles quickly (around 15-30mins after ingestion).
This makes it ideal to supplement before and during your workout.
In addition, research shows that taking BCAAs before a workout resulted in less muscle soreness after exercise than those who supplemented post-workout. However, this is mostly beneficial when consistently taken over a long period of time. (6)
Furthermore, if you supplement with post workout protein shakes they tend to contain a serving of 3-5 grams of BCAAs which is more than a sufficient enough serving size.
Which BCAA Supplement should you Buy???
You have several options to choose from when looking for a reputable supplement company and prior research is ALWAYS recommended. The things to look out for and compare are: Ingredients, Brand Quality, Price, Manufacturers location and delivery time.
We get all of our supplements from Women’s Best.
The nutritional breakdown of their BCAAs are as follows: (CLICK HERE for pricing)
Nutritional value per 100g:
Energy: 1095kJ / 262kcal
– of which are saturated fats: < 0.1g
– of which is sugar: 0g
Dietary fiber: 0.4g
BCAA 2:1:1 (Leucin, Valin, Isoleucin) 52g
*Nutritional values can vary depending on flavor.
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