If you've ever walked into a supplement store or if you've ever browsed fitness websites, you have certainly seen the acronym 'BCAA'. Short for branched chain amino acids, BCAAs are one of the most important supplements you should be using if your goal is muscle building or weight loss. Let's take a look at the 4 things you need to know about BCAAs and why you should take them.
- BCAAs Come from Protein
You sit down to a plate of chicken, brown rice, and broccoli. When you eat that piece of chicken, your body takes the protein and starts to break it down. It's trying to get to the thing that counts: amino acids. BCAAs come from protein-based sources. What's more, there are two types of amino acids: essential and non-essential. Your body can actually make non-essential amino acids from different vitamin, minerals, and other compounds. Essential amino acids must be ingested through whole foods or supplements.
- The Essential Amino Acids
There are a total of nine essential amino acids.
Even though there are nine, only three are focused on for the purposes of fitness. When you're goals are muscle building and fat loss, the three essential amino acids to focus on are…
- The Benefits of Taking Amino Acids
As mentioned above, amino acids are very important if you want to build solid lean muscle mass, support fat burning goals, or simply maintain your weight. Each of the amino acids supports one another in a large list of fitness related benefits including the following:
- Promotes protein synthesis
- Supports post-workout recovery
- Helps to avoid muscle breakdown
- Enhances fat oxidation
- Promotes lean muscle tissue development
- Boosts the immune system (1-4)
- The Best Sources of Amino Acids
You always want to strive to reach your daily protein intake via whole foods. It is through eating whole foods that your body will respond the best to ingestion, digestion, and assimilation. Here are some of the best whole food sources for amino acids:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Greek yogurt
With that said, supplementation has come a long way and there are many excellent supplements with a high rate of bioavailability. You can purchase a whey protein or plant-based protein supplement but if you want to skip the middle man, just buy BCAAs directly. It saves your body the process of breaking down the protein.
- Buy it here
On par with whey protein, amino acids have cemented their importance in the world of health and fitness for years to come. Able to promote fat burning and muscle recovery, amino acids are easily one of the best supplements to invest in. Just remember that they are a supplement. You should be striving to get your dietary protein from whole food sources. A supplement is just that: supplementary.
- Mourier A, Bigard AX, de Kerviler E, Roger B, Legrand H, Guezennec CY. Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite wrestlers. Int J Sports Med. 1997 Jan;18(1):47-55.
- Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S.
- Negro M, Giardina S, Marzani B, Marzatico F. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008 Sep;48(3):347-51.
- Norton, Layne, Layman, Donald. Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle after Exercise. J. Nutr. February 2006 vol. 136 no. 2 533S-537S.