Twelve Top Benefits of BCAA Supplements
Amino acids—ah, chemistry. These fantastic little molecules achieve so much in the human body. From transporting nutrients to building muscle, they do it all—but you didn’t come here for a biochemistry lesson, right? You came here to prove once-and-for-all that, yes, you do need all these different supplements, honey.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so while it’s true that your protein powder contains amino acids, it may not contain an optimal dose of branched-chain amino acids.
What are Branched-Chain Amino Acids?
BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids: valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Their unique molecular structure allows them to breakdown and immediately head to the muscles without first passing through the liver, like the other amino acids. This phenomenon is what first made experts consider the fitness applications of BCAA supplements.
BCAA Benefits: Why You Need a BCAA Supplement
Adding a BCAA supplement to your stack provides various benefits to your fitness and your overall health.
- One of the top BCAA benefits is that adding a supplement, instead of relying on your protein powder alone, guarantees an optimal, balanced dose of the three amino acids. Of the three, leucine is the crowned BCAA supplement king. If a muscle cell is a car, then leucine is the key to start it. In your muscles, the key switches on the muscle protein synthesis process. Your supplement should include a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine: valine: isoleucine to get the most BCAA benefits. Some BCAA supplements increase the ratio to ten to one, but it’s unnecessary. The two to one ratio is ideal for maximum BCAA benefits.
The most well-known BCAA benefit, and the reason most people include the supplement in their routine, is to gain more lean muscle mass. One study shows that using a BCAA supplement after a grueling leg day led to more muscle protein synthesis when compared to a placebo. This means more gains—the main reason we work out!
- 2011 study shows that BCAA supplements helped athletes who submitted to an exhaustive exercise test resist fatigue 17.2% greater than participants who were given a placebo.
- More than providing improved endurance, BCAA supplements also switch the body into fat-burning mode. This is the science behind the previous BCAA benefit: better endurance. Instead of depleting the muscles’ glycogen stores, BCAA supplements protect these stores and force the body to burn fat for fuel.
- Naturally, reserved glycogen leads us to the next BCAA benefit: less fatigue. Thanks to the switch in fuel, BCAA supplements improve endurance, but they also delay mental fatigue. This is a result of the relationship between the BCAAs and another amino acid, tryptophan. When BCAA levels drop, the body produces more tryptophan, which then converts to serotonin in your brain, making you feel tired and fatigued. BCAA supplements delay this drop and tryptophan spike.
- The delay in the tryptophan spike is also responsible for the next BCAA benefit: improved mental focus and clarity. BCAAs support short-term memory processing, which helps you feel clearer and more focused through your workout.
- Preventing muscle wasting, also known as muscle sparing, is another well-known BCAA benefit. When we exercise and apply stress to our muscles, it causes tiny, microscopic tears in the fibers. This damage is what leads to more muscle—it tells your body, “Hey, we need more of these fibers; we lift heavy things.” This is a good thing, and it’s a natural process. However, if your nutrition fails to support the process, namely, you don’t have enough amino acids to synthesize proteins, your body can’t switch out of this breakdown process. BCAA supplements help to prevent an excessive breakdown during exercise, then switch the body into muscle synthesis when you’re done.
- Providing the nutrients your body needs to switch quickly from catabolizing into synthesizing muscle proteins means that your recovery process is enhanced and sped up. This allows you to keep working hard in the gym because your body isn’t tired and broken down, and it also leads to achieving your fitness goals more quickly, all while reducing the risk of over-use injuries.
- Preventing muscle wasting and enhancing your muscle’s repair process also means reduced muscle soreness, which is a fantastic BCAA benefit. If you work out, you’re all too familiar with hitting the weights a little too hard and being so sore it hurts to walk the next two days. Not to mention, walking down the steps feels impossible. BCAA supplements work to reduce that soreness.
- All of these benefits add up and translate to improved sports performance. Henceforth, using BCAA supplements can make you better at your activity, be it running, wrestling, or lifting weights. More efficiency in your body processed and improved performance leads to better results.
- What’s more, regularly using BCAA supplements is linked to better aerobic and anaerobic performance over time. This means that the results you’re achieving while using your supplements won’t suddenly disappear when you discontinue use. The supplements help to improve the body’s overall efficiency.
- Lastly, BCAA supplements can support the immune system. Long-term, intense training can weaken the immune system and lead to fatigue and overtraining. Studies show that regular, long-term supplementation with BCAAs can improve the immune system’s function. This is thanks to the branched-chain amino acids versatility—the gut can use them to refuel and regenerate the immune cells more efficiently.
As you can see, there is a lengthy list of BCAA benefits, and you can’t ensure you’ll get them all through the use of your regular protein shake or even your diet alone. It’s worth noting that EAA supplements are also excellent. In some cases, it might be more beneficial because essential amino acid supplements include the BCAAs and the six other essential amino acids required to create new muscle. In the market for a BCAA supplement? Check out our fan favourite: Allmax Aminocore BCAA.