Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAA’s for short, is an extremely popular supplement that’s finding its way slowly into everyone's pre- and intra-workout drinks. Is it an effective athletic performance enhancer though? We are going to dig into branched chain amino acids and go over how they work; giving you everything you need to know about incorporating them into your daily routines.
What are BCAA’s & Do They Work?
BCAA’s are simply a portion of the building blocks, otherwise known as amino acids, that go into making a complete protein. Specifically, branched chain amino acids are made up of three proteinogenic amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
The primary claim to fame is that they can allow you to train longer, harder, and can potentially reduce soreness and improve recovery time. It’s able to accomplish this by fueling and supplying your body with easy digestible nutrition during a time when it needs it most. For people who are cutting or are on calorie deficit diets, it can do all of this without adding a single calorie to your daily intake. In fact, branched chain amino acids are incredibly popular amongst bodybuildings during the “cutting” phase of their diets, because it can help prevent them from going catabolic while on a calorie deficit diet.
Does science support it?
Being one of the most popular supplements on the market, millions of dollars have been spent investigating the effects of BCAA’s on performance athletes. After all of these studies, the science is quite clear:
- BCAA’s can reduce perceived muscle soreness
- BCAA’s can increase athletic endurance (by up to 17%)
- BCAA’s can reduce fatigue
Branched chain amino acids can give you what you need to work out longer, harder, and will allow you to get back in the gym that much sooner to do it all over again. For all of these reasons it’s obvious why this supplement has become a staple in every athlete’s gym bag.
How Much Should I Take & How Should I Take It?
It is generally recommended that athletes take 5 grams to 8 grams mixed with water either during their workouts or immediately prior to working out. This is to help your body fight the effects of catabolism of your workout, ensuring you maintain as much lean muscle mass as possible. Branched chain amino acids can be taken year round, and there is no reason to every “cycle off” of them.
Seasoned and veteran athletes can take up to 15-20 grams a day, or even more in some cases.
Are there any downsides to taking BCAA’s?
The most common downside that people experience with BCAA’s is, depending on the brand, mixing it into water can sometimes be difficult. That said, there are some excellent brands out there that dissolve quickly and taste great -- so make sure you find the brand that’s right for you.
Any last minute tips about BCAA’s?
- A lot of companies will sell BCAA’s blended with other supplements like caffeine or electrolytes so make sure you always check the nutrition label before you make your purchase.
- Try mixing with tart cherry juice. Tart cherry juice has been scientifically proven to also improve athletic performance and aid in recovery. Most BCAA’s are loaded with artificial sweeteners, so mixing it with a tart cherry juice can make for a delicious and highly nutritious pre workout drink.
Branched chain amino acids are one of our favorite supplements, and for good reason. Yeah, it’s trendy, but the simple fact of the matter is that it works. It’s easy to take, you can take it year round without any concern of negative side effects, and the benefits are too many to count.