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BCAAs - Do you really need them?

First let's explore what BCAAs are. BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) are made of three amino acids; L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine. Branched Chain Amino Acids are important because they are the major "Building Blocks" of protein. All three of the amino acids that make up the BCAAs are known as Essential Amino Acids and they make up 35% of the amino acids in your skeletal muscle system.

BCAAs are in fact needed for the maintenance of muscle tissue and appear to preserve muscle glycogen, and may even help to prevent muscle protein breakdown during exercise. Studies have shown that BCAA supplementation can minimize the loss of lean muscle tissue during dieting and intense training. Studies also show that BCAA supplementation may reduce recovery time and aid in the repair and growth of muscle tissue. Sounds pretty important right? So let's discover how you can obtain these three very important amino acids.

How to get more BCAA’s into your diet

Since we know that BCAAs are made from three different Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s), it should be known that every single source of complete protein contains them. That means that everything you eat a piece of chicken, steak, or fish you are in fact getting BCAAs. And don’t forget about non animal sourced complete proteins like Quinoa and KLegumes that are also high in BCAAs. So now you’re probably wondering do I need to supplement with BCAAs and if so what are the benefits?

Supplementing with BCAAs

Supplemented with BCAAs gives you a huge dose of them in a single shot without A) then calories from food and B) having your body break down the food in order to get the BCCAs. You see when you eat it takes time, sometimes several hours for your body to process the protein and release BCAAs into your bloodstream. But supplementing does this right away. So if you're training on an empty stomach or training for extended periods of time, BCAAs can be of great importance. And hey, it never hurts to have a few extra BCCAs floating around right?

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How should BCAAs be consumed?

Two university studies suggest that BCAA’s are significantly effective at increasing muscle mass and strength, while reducing body fat when consumed during exercise or immediately prior to and after training. It's recommended that you begin consuming BCAAs immediately prior to, and continue sipping throughout your training session.

Other results you can expect from using BCAA’s

  • Increased Exercise Training Volume (More Volume/More Total Work = Greater Adaptation or More Muscle)
  • Increased Muscle Protein Synthesis
  • Reduced Muscle Protein Breakdown
  • Increased Muscular Endurance
  • Increased Energy & Endurance Capacity
  • Improved Blood Glucose Disposal & Insulin Response
  • Increased Power Output
  • Increased ATP Synthesis
  • Increased Nitric Oxide (NO)
  • Delayed Onset of Muscle Fatigue/Increased Time to Exhaustion
  • Improved Neuromuscular Responsiveness & Recovery
  • Improved Hydration
protein powder and capsules

How much BCAAs should I take?

Studies show that taking 4-8 grams before a workout and 4-8 grams after are optimal. Lesser amounts are effective but if increased performance and recovery are needed a higher dosage is more effective. Taking BCAA's immediately before or during a strenuous workout or cardio session will increase performance. For optimum results it’s best to take BCAA's away from food.

I hope this gave some clarity as to what BCAAs are, how they work and why you should consider taking them.