How to make BCAAs work for you
If you have ever looked into nutrition or stepped foot in a gym in the last decade, chances are you’ve heard of BCAAs. But what the heck are BCAAs and how do they work? Fear not, we’ve simplified the research for you to explain how and when to include them in your diet for maximum results.
What are BCAAs?
Leucine, isoleucine and valine are the three essential amino acids that make up your branched-chain amino acids, otherwise known as BCAAs. These essential amino acids, meaning you have to get them from outside sources because your body doesn’t produce them independently, make up about a third of your body’s muscle protein and are what your body relies on for energy when you’ve depleted your glycogen stores during exercise. BCAAs help promote muscle growth, repair and reduce muscle soreness.
Why do you need BCAAs and how do they work?
Let’s break this down a little to explain how and when BCAAs help you out. Your body’s primary source of energy is glycogen, and you want to keep this supply stocked so that your body doesn’t go after the next available source, protein, which you need to keep your muscles strong. At the same time, when you’re lifting weights or pushing your body to new limits in a cardio session, your muscles will tear slightly and as they heal they grow back stronger. In order to do this efficiently and minimize soreness, they need to have the right fuel.
BCAAs not only help stock your supply of glycogen to increase endurance and keep your blood sugar levels balanced, they also help increase muscle protein synthesis that works to rebuild your muscles and prevent muscle fatigue. Studies have also shown that when taken with whey protein, BCAAs actually allow your body to synthesize muscle protein at about 4 times the rate it would otherwise. That’s a big difference and extremely helpful when your body is craving protein for recovery.
It’s important to remember, as with all nutrition and supplements, everything is great when used correctly and at the right time. If you’re going for a quick jog or doing a yin yoga class, it’s probably not necessary to chug down a shaker bottle full of BCAA supplements. Save them for when you have an intense sweat session that you really need help getting through and recovering from.