You might have seen the name before but you’re not too sure what they are or what they’re good for. Known as the building blocks your body uses to make proteins, BCAAs are a very popular supplement for a range of reasons. Research has shown that they can be great for gaining skeletal muscle (the kind that makes you bigger) and they’re particularly helpful for maintaining muscle whilst on a calorie-deficit diet – read more on this here.
If you’re wondering what they are, what they do and who they’re for then we’re here to help!
What are they?
Lets start with the basics, BCAA stands for Branch Chained Amino Acid . A large proportion of our cells, muscles and tissue is made up of amino acids, meaning they carry out many important bodily functions, such as giving cells their structure.
They also play a key role in the transport and the storage of nutrients. Amino acids have an influence on the function of organs, glands, tendons and arteries. They are also essential for healing wounds and repairing tissue, especially in the muscles, bones, skin and hair as well as for the removal of all kinds of waste deposits produced in connection with the metabolism. (1)
So now we’re clear that Amino Acids are important for our body to function at optimum levels, what are ‘Branch Chained’ Amino Acids?
BCAAs consist of three essential amino acids:
These amino acids are ‘essential’ because they cannot be produced by the body and must be supplied through our diet. These 3 amino acids are also grouped together because they are the only three amino acids to have a chain that branches off to one side. We won’t bore you with the science behind these molecules but you can read more here if you’re interested!
Why are these particular amino acids important anyway? Well... BCAAs make up a large chunk of the body's total amino acid pool. Together, they represent around 35–40% of all essential amino acids present in your body and 14–18% of those found in your muscles (2)
Unlike most other amino acids, BCAAs are mostly broken down in the muscle, rather than in the liver. Because of this, they are thought to play a role in energy production during exercise (3)
What are they good for?
So, now we have an idea on what BCAAs are. What do they do? What are they good for?
BCAAs are particularly good for helping you maintain your muscle whilst dieting. As you lose weight, they help you keep your strength and hard earned muscle.
Increase Muscle Growth
Branched-chain amino acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis, potentially more than a normal protein on its own. BCAAs have been shown to activate the enzymes responsible for building muscle. Leucine itself activates a certain pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which is the process of making muscle. (4)
In one study, people who consumed a drink with 5.6 grams of BCAAs after their resistance workout had a 22% greater increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to those who consumed a placebo drink. (5)
Decreased Muscle Soreness
Research also suggests BCAAs can help decrease muscle soreness after a workout. It’s not uncommon to feel sore a day or two after a workout, especially if you’re new to it. This soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – it typically develops 12 to 24 hours after exercise and can last up to 72 hours.
While the exact cause of DOMS is not clearly understood, researchers believe it’s the result of tiny tears in the muscles after exercise (6)
BCAAs have been shown to decrease muscle damage, which may help reduce the length and severity of DOMS.
Several studies also show that BCAAs decrease protein breakdown during exercise and decrease levels of creatine kinase, which is an indicator of muscle damage (7)
In one study, people who supplemented with BCAAs before a squat exercise experienced reduced DOMS and muscle fatigue compared to the placebo group (8).
Reduced Fatigue, More Energy, Better Workouts
Using BCAAs has been shown to give you more energy, reduce your fatigue and therefore better workouts.
Studies have shown up to 15% less fatigue in those given BCAAs during exercise, compared to those who were given a placebo (9)
In one study, this increased resistance to fatigue helped the BCAA group exercise for 17% longer before reaching exhaustion, compared to the placebo group (10)
So more muscle growth, less soreness and more energy. Not bad!
Who are they for?
BCAAs are great for anyone looking to make lean muscle gains or maintain their muscle whilst losing weight so that’s most of us covered!
You can get most of your BCAAs from Whey Protein, so why use a BCAA supplement? It’s a good question, with a simple answer. BCAAs are vital for muscle growth but if you’re trying to keep your weight down or lose weight, consuming a Whey protein shake can add to your calorie count. BCAAs contain zero calories and are therefore the leanest way to maintain your shape, muscle mass and encourage weight loss, not muscle loss.
How do you take them?
You only need a tiny amount of BCAAs per serving (11.5g) and it should be mixed with water. We created our BCAAs in a refreshing apple flavour so they’re a great hydrating drink you have anytime of the day. If you’re sick of drinking water and want a little zest in your life, add our BCAAs!
The Supreme Nutrition Team