Ok, you’ve got your gym bag packed and you're heading for the gym. As you enter the gym, you notice everybody’s drinking brightly colored liquid from their shakers. You turn and ask a Thor look-a-like what everyone’s drinking, and he answers “BCAAs Bro!”
You look at your water bottle and think, why doesn’t my drink have a color? You smile, and nod to him like you know what they are, and walk off to perform a quick Google search on your cell phone.
But, before you go off to join the crowd, you might want to learn a little more about what these BCAAs are, what they can do for your body, and more importantly, if you really need them.
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What are Branch Chain Amino Acids?
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are an extremely popular supplement in the health and fitness industry and are made up of the three amino acids:
These amino acids are classified as essential, as they cannot be produced by your body and must come from an outside dietary source.
The Benefits of Supplementing with BCAAs
The main reason people take BCAAs is to reduce the loss of muscle mass during and after intense exercise. This amino acid combination aids in stimulating the nervous system, increasing cellular uptake of glucose and muscular protein synthesis.
Studies have found that people new to working out, who tend to fatigue or gas out early, can benefit from BCAA supplementation, as BCAAs may lengthen the time before exhaustion sets in. However, veteran gym junkies won’t receive this benefit as their already higher than average level of conditioning is well past the level of help BCAAs can provide in this respect.
BCAAs are also needed for the repair of skin, bone and muscle tissue, and for this reason are great for after surgery or injury.
Do I Need to Supplement with BCAAs?
This is a tricky question that I’m going to answer in two parts:
- Do you need BCAAs? Yes
- Do you need BCAA supplements? Only if you’re not getting enough BCAAs in your diet.
This is a major point that many big name supplement brands would rather you not know. If you’re eating protein rich food, you’re already getting plenty of BCAAs and other amino acids to aid bodily functions and provide the benefits associated with supplementation.
These foods include:
- Plant combinations (This is important as it is very difficult to gain a range of amino acids from one plant alone)
However, if you’re currently eating a low-calorie diet, because you’re looking to compete in a bodybuilding, cutting weight for a fight, or constantly on the run and don’t have time to prepare a regular meal, then BCAA supplementation is ideal for you. If not, save your money and reserve the use of BCAA powder for the times when you really need it.