Protein is essential for muscle growth and recovery, but should you also be taking added amino acids (BCAAs)? BCAAs or branched chain amino acids are essential for us due to the body's inability to create them on its own. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine all need to be ingested in order for the body to utilize them. Along with this, they make up roughly 40% of the amino acids in the body making their ingestion incredibly important.
BCAAs are found in protein based foods, things like chicken, steak, fish, protein shakes, etc. This is another reason why high-protein diets are so important for athletes, the amino acids in them are what make the protein so useful for us. This being said, it's important to note that diets higher in protein are always the most important factor when worrying about amino acid intake.
BCAAs, like protein are one of the supplements that will never hurt your progress. If some days you question your total protein intake, supplementing can help ensure you're getting enough. Better safe than sorry if you're in question, here's why taking BCAAs can be so beneficial.
- Increased protein synthesis - we've discussed this concept in multiple articles, the more protein synthesis taking place, the better your recovery and growth. Protein synthesis is the utilization of protein to help you recover and grow faster. Since amino acids are protein building blocks, supplementing extra can be beneficial.
- Decreased soreness - BCAAs, especially leucine have been seen to help prevent muscle soreness (DOMS). This is due to their ability to help prevent excessive protein breakdown, ensuring you the proper fuel to keep moving forward and recover without dipping into stores only needed in extreme situations.
- Increase fat loss - BCAAs help improve glucose tolerance (a trait of most lean athletes) and can be used as fuel before burning through ATP and other energy reserves. Also, it has been observed that BCAAs facilitate fat loss by increasing fat oxidation and improving energy expenditure.
- Increased muscle growth - supplementation of BCAAs can help increase your anabolic response (muscle growth response). Prolonged protein synthesis = more time to grow, this being said, increased aminos in the body with high-protein will create an anabolic environment.
- Better hormone balance - when your body is in a depleted state your cortisol (stress hormone) levels increase, which inhibits growth and slows release of muscle building hormones (testosterone and other growth hormones produced by the body). BCAAs have been seen to prevent a depleted state by supplying you with better fuel to avoid slipping into reserves pushing you to a depleted state.
Supplementing BCAAs won't hurt you, they're a great tool if you're worried you're not getting enough protein. If you don't take them are they going to make or break your progress? No, but better safe than sorry when it comes to athletic growth. We offer BCAAs in the gym and would gladly help/recommend you with any questions and regards you have!