Everything about Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)

Everything about Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)

Whether you want to sail through your HIIT sessions or lift the heavyweights every day of the week, BCAA is what you need. BCAA or Branched Chain Amino Acids are the building blocks of proteins. Your body needs amino acids to build new muscles and repair the old ones. There are twenty amino acids in total, out of which our body can produce only eleven. The other nine amino acids have to come from our diet or in the form of supplements.

What are BCAAs?

BCAAs are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, which comprise around 35% of your body’s muscle protein. They are essential because, unlike other amino acids, our body cannot produce them.

BCAAs help to preserve your stores of glycogen, which fuels your muscles during workouts and prevents protein breakdown. They also speed up muscle protein recovery post-workout or training. Leucine is considered the most important one out of the three as it activates and stimulates cell growth.

Benefits of BCAAs

Benefits of BCAAs

1. Delay Fatigue During Workout 

Research suggests that BCAAs can fight fatigue during exercise so you can go longer and stronger. When your muscles get tired after continuous exercising, BCAAs provide additional energy to your muscles. BCAAs also block tryptophan; a chemical that enters the brain and causes fatigue. BCAAs ensure greater mental focus during exercise.

2. Improves Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance 

BCAAs ensure greater output during exercise. It delays fatiguing and exhaustion of muscles. Research shows that 10 weeks of BCAA supplementation (12 g/day) resulted in a 19% increase in all-out sprint peak power and a 4% increase in average power. BCAAs supplementation can improve both aerobic exercise capacity and anaerobic performance.

3. Boosts Immunity

High volume intense training can lead to fatigue and immune suppression. Research shows that cells in the immune system use BCAAs as fuel to regenerate them efficiently. A strong immune system ensures quick recovery and protects the body from any harmful infections.

4. Protects Lean Muscles 

High-intensity exercise such as marathons or mountaineering can lead to muscle breakdown. BCAAs preserve muscle mass during high-intensity activities and exercises. BCAAs ensure that the body does not consume its own amino acid (protein) stores.

5. Promotes Muscle Protein Synthesis 

Leucine, in BCAAs, initiates muscle protein synthesis, which is necessary for muscle building. Dairy products, eggs, fish, and poultry are high in BCAA content.

6. Reduces Muscle Soreness Post Exercise 

BCAAs prior to and post-exercise may reduce muscle soreness. BCAAs intake also reduces muscle damage during high-intensity training. It ensures that you recover faster and suffer less muscle soreness during exercise.

7. Helps Fat Burn 

BCAA can help you lose weight. BCAA and Leucine help to reduce excess fat and normalize visceral fat.

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8. Build Muscles 

BCAAs are protein builders. They help to repair and build new muscles in the body. A well-balanced diet contains all the essential amino acids required for muscle building.

9. Maintain Blood Glucose Levels

BCAAs help in regulating blood sugar levels. They utilise a large portion of blood sugar during workouts and help to regulate it.

 

Natural Sources of BCAA

Natural Sources of BCAAs

Getting BCAAs from food is a great way of providing your body with all the essential nutrients. There are a variety of vegetarian and non – vegetarian sources of BCAAs.

 

Vegetarian Sources:

  • Dairy Products – Dairy products such as milk, Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, are rich in BCAA content.
  • Lentils – Lentils contain few key Essential Amino Acids and a cup of Lentils provides 2-3 g of BCAA.
  • Soy – Soy products like soymilk, soybeans, tofu, and tempeh are high in BCAA. Soy protein contains around 18% of it. This protein is a great source of BCAA for vegetarian people.
  • Brown Rice – Brown rice contains 37% of the protein as amino acids and 18% as BCAA. Though it lacks an essential amino acid threonine, it can be compensated by eating brown rice with spinach and other leafy vegetables.
  • Almonds and Cashews – Almonds and Cashews are rich in Isoleucine. It helps stabilize blood sugar and boost energy levels. Some other nuts, which are good sources of BCAA, are peanuts, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.
  • Chickpeas – One cup of chickpeas can fulfill the daily requirement of protein. They are loaded with protein and fibre. They are a good source of BCAA.

Non- Vegetarian Sources of BCAA:

  • Chicken – It is an excellent source of lean protein. One chicken breast has about 55 grams of protein. It is the most popular source of obtaining BCAA.
  • Turkey – It is another good source of lean protein. Along with BCAA, it also contains tryptophan, the chemical responsible for easing pain.
  • Salmon – Salmon is a superfood and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It helps fight soreness and muscle pain post-exercise.
  • Tuna – Tuna is also called ‘chicken of the sea.’ Tuna is rich in protein, omega -3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
  • Eggs – Eggs contain a good amount of BCAAs. Eggs have all the essential amino acids that our body can easily digest. Eating an entire egg with yolk can stimulate muscle growth and muscle repair.

BCAA Supplements

bcaa supplements

BCAAs are proteins and perform the same function as any other protein in our body. BCAA supplements are mostly for people involved in intense athletic exercises or weight lifting. They need quick protein synthesizers to improve their performance and fasten the recovery process.

BCAA supplements come in pill or powder form. You can consume BCAA with other supplements such as glutamine and creatine. Supplements are a great way to get the required nutrients immediately. However, please note that supplements are often under scrutiny for their harmful ingredients.

Do BCAA Supplements Work?

Research shows that there is no evidence that amino acids like BCAA when taken in the form of supplements work better than the ones derived from food. BCAA supplements may reduce muscle soreness and enhance your performance in the gym, but a well-balanced diet rich in protein does the same work.

Whole food protein may be better than any supplement. Food not only contains protein but is rich in other essential nutrients as well. Most importantly, you know what you are consuming and are safe from the side effects of the supplements.

If you are meeting your daily protein requirement, there is no need for additional BCAA supplements. However, if you do decide to take BCAA supplements, there are no great side effects of it either. Consult your Nutritionist first; Check the Company, read the label well for its ingredients and Nutritional values before buying your supplement.

Importance of BCAA during Exercise:

  • BCAA provide an essential fuel source to the muscles during exercise. They enhance muscle performance and provide strength to the body during intense workouts.
  • It reduces muscle soreness and damage caused during exercise.
  • It reduces fatigue during exercise by keeping tryptophan away from the brain.
  • Promotes muscle building post-exercise by stimulating protein synthesis.
  • It provides energy to your muscles during prolonged exercise
  • Boosts immunity and helps the body to recover quickly

How Much BCAA Do You Need?

Here we are talking about BCAA supplements and their daily dosage. Depending on your workout regime, your daily dosage should be 5-10 grams per day.

BCAA Dosage for Women

Females following a normal gym schedule should stick to 3-5 grams a day. In simple words, you can take BCAA powder once or twice a day. You can take up to 12 grams a day if you are into rigorous training. Divide your intake into 4-5 serves in a day.

BCAA Dosage for Men

The recommended dosage for men can be 15-20 grams in a day. If you are not exercising strenuously, you can stick to it two times a day. If you are an athlete, you can increase your dosage per day to 6-8 serves of 5 gm each.

Right Time to Consume BCAA

BCAAs can be taken before, during, or after the workout. BCAAs rapidly increase amino acid levels in our blood, promote protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown. When taken before the workout, they provide extra energy to perform and post-workout they help the muscles to recover. You can also take BCAA in between meals if your protein intake through diet is less.

Summary

BCAAs are essential for people engaged in high-intensity training or prolonged workouts. You can take BCAAs if you are on a restricted diet and are unable to fulfil your daily protein requirement. 4-10 grams of BCAA dosage is healthy for normal adults even if they do not work out or engage in rigorous physical activities.

If you lead a completely sedentary lifestyle, taking BCAA supplements is not a good choice. Rather, try to take in BCAA from your food. Various vegetarian and non-vegetarian food options are a rich source of BCAAs. There are plenty of benefits of taking BCAAs, but supplements may not be for you. You can derive all the benefits of BCAA supplements from a well-rounded diet as well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Are BCAA supplements good?

The body can not produce BCAA. So, one can get it from diet or supplements. Its supplements may not be good for people who lead sedentary lifestyles. However, they help reduce muscle soreness during strenuous workouts. Coupled with the right diet, BCAA supplements taken additionally as per prescribed dosage may help protect against muscle damage and speed up muscle recovery.

Q. Does BCAA help in quick weight loss?

A. It prevents muscle loss. BCAA helps you to work out longer and therefore, lose more fat without losing muscle mass. Also, it keeps you energetic and reduces sugar and junk food cravings. It increases protein synthesis, which helps you during workouts. It reduces the level of serotonin in the body, which helps to keep focus during training. To sum it up, it is great for gym-goers or people engaged in high-intensity physical activity, as it aids fat loss. Thus, one gets a leaner and toned body faster.

Q. How much BCAA should one consume in a day?

A. 5-12 grams of it is adequate for a sedentary to regular lifestyle need. However, for gym-goers, athletes, or people who are into active cardio workouts, 10-20 grams are required on a daily basis. For the former, a balanced diet can provide the right amount of BCAA. Anything over and above, it is good to add supplements from reputed brands.

Q. Are there any side effects of BCAA?

A. If it is consumed in large quantities without guidance, it may increase the risk of increased insulin resistance which may lead to type 2 diabetes. Other common side effects are nausea, dehydration, headache, fatigue, and sleeplessness. Studies show that people with liver ailments, kidney disease, heart disease, and who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, can develop complex health risks with BCAA supplements.

Q. Is BCAA good only for those going to the gym?

A. It is good for everyone. A healthy diet rich in protein provides the daily requirement of BCAA. For people who are engaged in strenuous physical exercise, BCAA supplementation is recommended. It helps to prevent muscle damage, soreness and ensures quick muscle recovery while curbing cravings and increasing energy during a workout session.

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