Whether you’re a casual exerciser or a serious athlete in Las Vegas, you know how important it is to fuel properly before and after a workout. But do you supplement your pre- and post-workout meals with branch chain amino acids (BCAA)?
Use this overview to help you understand what BCAAs are, how you can work them into your diet, and how they can help your athletic performance.
Branch Chain Amino Acids: What Are They?
Every cell and organ in our bodies is made of various proteins. These proteins are made up of basic amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 total amino acids, but only nine of them are what we know as essential amino acids.
Three essential amino acids are known as branched-chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They’re called BCAA because of the way they’re formed. Instead of being linear, they’re made of branches.
Why Are They Important?
Our muscles need BCAAs, both for growth and support, but our bodies do not naturally produce them. BCAAs are also special because they’re primarily used up completely by our muscles instead of being broken down by the liver.
Since we don’t make BCAAs internally, we need to find external sources. Several foods are naturally high in BCAAs, such as eggs, fish, meat, and dairy products. But you can also work them into your diet by taking a BCAA supplement.
BCAA benefits impact athletes and non-athletes alike, but here are a few main reasons why BCAAs can be particularly important to those who exercise.
Build Lean Muscle
BCAAs are critical to the general muscle-building process in the body. One study showed that those who integrated a branch chain amino acid supplement along with a strength training program developed lean muscle and decreased body fat.
Perform Better During Exercise
Branch chain amino acids are shown to help inhibit tryptophan in the brain. That means that you can fight fatigue and possibly feel more energized for longer during a workout.
Branch chain amino acids can also help after a workout too. There’s some evidence that BCCA supplements can help reduce muscle damage and speed up recovery post-exercise.
Along with helping to keep the muscle undamaged and less affected by soreness and inflammation, they can also help promote muscle growth after excise too.
Improve Your Immune System
Another great benefit of BCAAs is immune support. People who exercise a lot can put their immune systems under stress. But BCAAs can help fortify and strengthen your immune system.
Tips for Taking BCAA
Finding the best BCAA source or best branch chain amino acids supplement for you is an individual process. Generally, though, once you decide on the right dosage, like any supplement, regularity is key.
You may decide that you want to take it at a specific time of day or a certain point during and after a workout.
Whip Your Nutrition Plan Into Shape
Branch chain amino acids are just one important part of the nutrition and health puzzle.