What is BCAA?
BCAAs, also known as branched chain amino acids, are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine which combined make up about 1/3 of skeletal muscle tissue in your body.
The word “essential” is used because your body can’t make them, so they have to be obtained from either food sources and/or supplementation.
The term “non-essential” amino acids simply mean that your body can make these by itself from vitamins and other amino acids. Don’t make the mistake of thinking “non-essential” is not important. For example a non-essential amino acid such as glutamine, is very essential in the process of repairing muscle tissue.
What is BCAA used for?
BCAAs play a vital role in the muscle building process. When you eat food containing protein, it gets broken down into individual amino acids small enough to get absorbed into the bloodstream.
During an intense workout or endurance exercise the levels of these three amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) fall which contributes to you getting tired during training.
A recent study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that BCAAs administered before and following damaging resistance exercise reduces indications of muscle damage and accelerates recovery in intense workouts.
Richard B. Kreider, PhD, author of ‘Overtraining in Sport’, says “In our view, the greatest potential application of BCAA supplementation is to help athletes tolerate training to a greater degree rather than a performance enhancement supplement.”
What foods supply the most BCAAs?
You can obtain BCAAs from whole food sources, with the greatest amounts found in dairy and red meat. Here is a breakdown of several foods containing these essential amino acids:
- Isoleucine is found in meat, fish, and cheese products.
- Leucine can be found mainly in beans, brewer’s yeast, casseinate, brown rice, and corn.
- Valine can be found in food sources such as soy flour, fish, meats, cottage cheese, grains, mushrooms, peanuts, and vegetables.
Should you supplement with BCAAs?
Taking a BCAA supplement is especially useful if you are on a low calorie diet or preparing for a competition. It’s also a matter of convenience since taking BCAAs via a powder, pill, or liquid drink may be easier for you.
Here are suggested dosage guidelines for bodybuilders and athletes:
- Pre workout (30 minutes before) => 5 grams
- Intra workout (during workout) => 5 grams
- Post workout (30 minutes after) => 5-10 grams
In a nutshell, as all other amino acids, BCAAs are building blocks of protein that produce up to 35% of muscle mass in your body. If you are aiming to maintain lean body mass while losing body fat then supplementing with BCAAs is a smart choice.
*Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. So never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider.
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About the author
Marco Carbajo is a bodybuilder, entrepreneur, writer, author, speaker, trainer, and founder of Bodybuildingblogger.com, the premier online source for recreational, competitive, and aspiring pro bodybuilders, fitness, figure, and bikini athletes all over the world providing top level workouts, discount supplements, nutrition, news, support, motivation and promotion.