What is a BCAA?
Have you stumbled upon the BCAAs on our shop page, read about them online, or have a friend who swears by them? If so, you may be questioning what BCAAs are and why people take them. You may even wonder if you should be adding them to your training regimen. Well, wonder no longer! Read on to learn what BCAAs are, how your body uses them, and how they can impact your training!
What is a BCAA?
BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acid, which is a subcategory of amino acids. There are a total of 20 amino acids that are used as the building blocks for proteins in the body. Protein is best known for making muscles in your body, but it is also used in your bones, tissues, enzymes, hormones, and more.
There are only three amino acids within the subcategory of branched-chain amino acid: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
How are they used in the body?
BCAAs have many uses, but in a sports context, we focus on the following:
- They provide a small amount of energy during exercise. (BCAAs are the only amino acids broken down in your muscles. Other amino acids break down in your liver.)
- They signal muscle protein synthesis for building and repairing muscles.
- They make up part of muscle structure.
Why supplement them?
Since your muscles burn BCAAs for fuel, the amount left to signal the process of building and repairing your muscles decreases. The theory is that supplementing before working out will increase the amount of BCAAs. This provides you with an adequate amount to trigger the process for building and repairing your muscles, even after some are used as fuel. Studies suggest that they may help with muscle recovery, prevent muscle damage, and combat soreness.
How much do I need?
Research suggests that consumption should be highest for leucine, as it is the main signaling amino acid. It seems to improve muscle recovery at about 2–3 grams. Research also indicates that a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine may be optimal.
Can I get them from food?
Absolutely! Dairy and whey are great sources of BCAAs. However, it takes about 2 ½ cups of milk to get 5 grams of BCAAs. So, for those looking for a lower-calorie option, supplementation is a great choice.