BCAAs: How They Can Benefit You in the Gym
There is an abundance of supplements on the market and knowing the right ones to take for your personal goals to ensure maximum results can be tricky. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are frequently found in pre-workout supplements. However, there can be many other benefits from these.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs, are a type of amino acids — known as the building blocks to all cell growth found in proteins. The unique chemical structure of these amino acids is referred to as ‘Branched-chain’. Branched-chain amino acids are ones which the body is unable to make enough of its own, making them part of the essential amino acids group that we must receive from our diet. The names of the three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
What are the benefits?
Like many supplements, such as BCAAs and Protein, the main reason to take them is to build muscle. When you engage your muscles during exercise, it causes them to break down and ‘tear’. To ensure that we provide them with the essential nutrients to recover and rebuild effectively, we need to take in amino acids and protein. As muscles are continually switching between breaking down (catabolism) and healing (anabolism), taking in additional amino acids allows your muscles to rebuild optimally.
Often taking BCAAs before a workout if frequently recommended as they’re well known to help produce more energy. Research has found that taking BCAAs can decrease the body’s perception of exhaustion, making it feasible to increase your performance and achieve more reps or use a heavier weight. Additionally, having increased energy allows you to complete more challenging workouts, thus aiding the muscle building.
Feeling sore after a workout is common, especially when you are pushing your body to new places frequently. This soreness is known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS and can take a few days for the pain to dissipate. To find out more about DOMS please read our article on what they are and ways to reduce them. A great benefit of BCAAs is that it has been shown to reduce the soreness from DOMS; this allows you to recover quicker and train more efficiently. Researchers have identified that the cause for this may be since BCAA’s are readily available and work quickly to aid with recovery.
Prevent Muscle Breakdown
When we challenge our muscles, the muscle proteins that they are made up of are continuously broken down and rebuilt, this is known as synthesis. For muscle growth, there must be the right amount of muscle synthesis taking place to balance out muscle protein breakdown. Muscle breakdown or wasting occurs when the breakdown exceeds the amount of synthesis.
Muscle wasting is an indication of malnutrition; in humans, they account for 35% of the essential amino acids found in muscle proteins. Therefore, the BCAAs and additional essential amino acids must be restored during times of muscle wasting to prevent muscle breakdown.
When to take BCAAs?
To gain the positive benefits of BCAAs listed above, there and two main times that they should be taken.
1. Before a Workout
If you’re looking for an energy boost during your strength workout, the best time to take BCAA’s would be before it. It can be mixed into your pre-workout if it isn’t already or on their own.
This is also a beneficial time to take them to avoid excess muscle breakdown while you exercise. Many people opt for drinking BCAAs during a workout as one form you can buy it in is many different flavours of powder that can be mixed with water to make a refreshing drink.
It’s also possible to add them to a protein shake for an extra BCAA boost. Many supplement brands offer protein blends with BCAAs added in which provide you with an easy way to ensure you’re getting the optimum amount needed.
2. After a Workout
Taking BCAAs after your workout is a great way to improve your recovery and reduce any soreness from DOMS, while still working to help build muscle.
You can easily mix with water and enjoy as a drink post-workout, or you can get them through your next meal from different protein sources.
BCAAs are found in both animal and plant sources of protein, but if you feel a meal is a little low on them, then supplementing with BCAAs can be a convenient alternative too.
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By Ella Orrock