A Complete Primer on the Benefits of BCAAs

BCAAs are essential fatty acids (EFAs) which have been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, decrease fat mass and improve athletic performance. They are found naturally in some foods such as fish oil, nuts, seeds and certain vegetables. However they can also be synthesized from other EFA’s like stearic acid or linoleic acid. There are two types of BCAAs: leucine and valine. Leucine is the most abundant and has been shown to provide the greatest increases in muscle protein synthesis. Valine is less abundant but still present in high amounts in egg yolks and dairy products. Both are necessary for proper amino acid metabolism.

The effects of BCAAs on body composition are not well understood at this time, however there appears to be no significant difference between the effects of BCAAs when consumed alone or together with carbohydrates or fats. It has been suggested that BCAAs may act synergistically to promote muscle growth.

BCAAs are known to enhance the uptake of nutrients into skeletal muscles and may therefore aid in weight loss. Studies have shown that BCAAs stimulate lipolysis (breakdown) of fat cells and increase energy expenditure during exercise.

The effects of BCAAs on endurance performance are well known. In general, endurance performance increases in athletes who supplement with BCAAs prior to training and competition. It has been suggested that the additional energy derived from BCAA supplementation may be a driving force in the increased time to exhaustion.

Do you have any other questions about bcaa benefits?

What is the best way to take bcaas?

Before, during or after your workouts? With or without food? Or maybe you should take them in the morning and at night? And what if you’re trying to lose weight? Should you take them with carbohydrates or without? What about other supplements?

These are all important questions because they will affect how bcaas impact your goals. Since bcaas are best known for their impact on muscle growth and repair, most people take bcaas before and/or after their workouts. This is the time when your body is suffering the most damage and can benefit the most from bcaa supplementation.

There is a camp, however, that believes that you should only take bcaas at specific times such as before a workout or after a workout but never both. There are also those that believe in taking them at any time because they don’t have any sort of anabolic properties in and of themselves.

I’ve tried both and I can’t really tell too much of a difference. The only thing that I have noticed is that it makes my stool a little softer when taken pre-workout. This isn’t really a problem unless you’re doing something that requires a very firm stool such as gymnastics or long distance running. In that case, you may want to limit your pre-workout bcaa supplementation.

Sources & references used in this article:

Management of hepatic encephalopathy: a primer by T Jawaro, A Yang, D Dixit… – Annals of …, 2016 – journals.sagepub.com

The intermediates in branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) biosynthesis are indispensable for conidial germination of insect pathogenic fungus Metarhizium robertsii by F Luo, H Zhou, X Zhou, X Xie, Y Li, F Hu… – Applied and …, 2020 – Am Soc Microbiol

The impaired function of macrophages induced by strenuous exercise could not be ameliorated by BCAA supplementation by W Xiao, P Chen, X Liu, L Zhao – Nutrients, 2015 – mdpi.com

The ABC of Supplements for Successful CrossFitters by M Catris – breakingmuscle.co.uk

Repletion of branched chain amino acids reverses mTORC1 signaling but not improved metabolism during dietary protein dilution by A Maida, JSK Chan, KA Sjøberg, A Zota, D Schmoll… – Molecular …, 2017 – Elsevier

Branched-chain amino acid intake and the risk of diabetes in a Japanese community: the Takayama study by C Nagata, K Nakamura, K Wada, M Tsuji… – American journal of …, 2013 – academic.oup.com

Branched Chain Amino Acids and Sports Nutrition and Energy Homeostasis by JMM Sanz, A Norte, ES García, I Sospedra – Sustained Energy for …, 2017 – Elsevier