A Beginner’s Guide to Protein: What are BCAAs? [Part Three]
Maybe you’ve heard about BCAAs, maybe you haven’t – but they are a critical part of your protein regiment if you’re looking for results. So here’s the scoop on BCAAs!
What are BCAAs?
Simply put, branch-chain amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and are important in fueling muscle growth, muscle maintenance, endurance, recovery and fat loss. BCAAs are an anabolic (muscle building) group of amino acids containing Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. These three BCAAs work cohesively together and you can customise BCAAs to fit your individual needs. BCAAs can help you feel less fatigued, and when you feel less fatigued you are able to push through your workout routine with extra endurance, stimulating increased muscle growth, and better fat metabolism. BCAAs can also aid in muscle time recovery.
Let’s break the function of the three amino acids down real quick.
Leucine – triggers muscle growth
Isoleucine – when the body breaks this down, it produces molecules that fuel your muscles
Valine – reduces fatigue, enabling you to workout harder and longer.
Another benefit of BCAAs is that as a supplement they are free-form, and require minimal digestion – which enables a quick absorption into the bloodstream. This means your kidneys and liver don’t have to process anything. You are getting an immediate response.
When to use BCAAs?
BCAAs are used for multiple reasons. Some people use BCAAs to help build muscle, or to maintain muscle when reducing caloric intake. As well, some people just want that extra endurance boost to maintain a longer workout to burn fat.
BCAAs can be taken by powder or pill form. You can also find BCAAs in high quality whey protein. BCAA powder is the best option since, as mentioned earlier, BCAAs absorbs straight into the bloodstream. BCAA pill form takes a little longer to digest. Keep in mind, when using a whey supplement containing BCAAs, the absorption rate changes as well.
Taking BCAAs immediately pre and post workout is optimal.
Taking BCAAs immediately pre and post workout is optimal. Remember, since they require minimal absorption time you will be receiving the benefits quickly! BCAAs are primarily used during your workout (pre/post) because of the quick absorption rate, however, those on calorie reduced diet wanting to drop pounds to define muscle gains have often sip BCAAs through the day to maintain muscle while they are calorie deficit. When using a whey product containing BCAAs, check the nutritional label and be aware of what you are already consuming before adding more into it.
How much to take?
Generally, 4-8g of BCAAs (pre and post workout) is what you’re aiming for. Studies have shown that the lower end can be adequate, but the higher end (8g) may provide a performance benefit.
When choosing a BCAA, you are looking at Leucine to be the front runner on the label. It will range at around 2-4g. Isoleucine and Valine will respectfully range at around 1-2g.
There are also protein rich foods you might be consuming daily that contain BCAAs. Top BCAA protein rich contenders per 6oz servings are: chicken (6.6g), 95% lean beef (6.2g), and canned tuna (5.6g).
BCAAs are available in powder and capsule form. Capsule form has a slower digestion process, so most people who consume BCAAs are doing so via powders to mix up quickly right before they workout. Powders also have more flavor choices.
So there you have it. Protein Basics 101. If you missed the two previous posts in this series be sure to catch up! Always to remember to consult a physician before starting any supplement regime. And remember, a protein rich diet is always the best way to fuel and feed your body. Supplements, however, can be a helpful aid when striving or maintaining personal goals.
Tim McComsey is the founding owner of TRYM Fitness: Dallas’s Premier Personal Training and Nutrition Company, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Dietitian. He started TRYM Fitness in 2011 and has been growing successfully ever since! This is his 15th year in the fitness industry and his scope of work has broadened from being ambassador to Sunwarrior, a partner to Vitamin World, and a sponsored athlete to 361usa shoes and apparel. He also contributes to Men’s Fitness Magazine and Human Fit Project with video and content production. Through his years in the industry he has placed 1st in several fitness competitions including the 2013 Dallas Europa Men’s Physique. His passion is to empower both men and women to be the healthiest and most fit they can be using various platforms.