So you've started your fitness regime, and maybe watched a few video's on YouTube to get some motivational advice from those truly dedicated to fitness and you have spotted they all seem to take BCAA's supplements - or Branched Chain Amino Acid's. Why? We take a look at the many reasons you should be taking these.
So what are BCAA's anyway? - they consist of 3 specific amino acids (Leucine, Iso-Leucine and Valine) that have to be consumed through diet as our bodies aren't able to produce these naturally. Amino Acid's are the building blocks of proteins - proteins are usually huge structures that are made of hundreds of Amino Acid's.
There are 20 different Amino Acid's (used in humans) and the body can produce 11 of these without digesting any protein, the other 9 have to be derived from protein sources. Of these 9 essential amino acid;s the 3 BCAA's have been strongly linked with increasing protein synthesis (the process by which amino acids are linearly arranged into proteins) when present in the blood.
So now you know what they are, what are the benefit's?
1) Protein Synthesis
The main benefit of BCAA's as already mentioned is they have been shown to stimulate protein synthesis. Which aid's both muscle gain and recovery. Quicker recovery means you can get back to your workouts faster. Win win.
2) Improves Strength and Ability
When you push hard in your workout, your body releases tryptophan into the brain, increasing serotonin levels and making you feel like you can't carry. BCAA's compete with the tryptophan and can help give you the endurance you need to make that workout a little longer. Consuming them in the first half of your workout will elevate BCAA levels and stimulate protein synthesis reducing the potential for muscle catabolism (the breaking down of muscle tissue).
3) They Support Your Immune System
When you are consistently pushing your body, you are consistently putting stress on your immune system. Without adequate supplementation, you may actually increase your risk of illness. By supplementing with the adequate amount of BCAAs, you’re aiding immune system function, especially in those over 35, who are naturally seeing decreased protein synthesis due to ageing.
4) They Help Maintain Muscle Mass
When you are both dieting and exercising, your body looks for energy that is generally stored in fat cells. If you cut fat out, your body turns to muscle for fuel during even moderate exercise. So by stimulating protein synthesis, you can counteract the effects of protein breakdown, which means that you can lose weight without losing a significant amount of muscle mass.
If you're a beginner to the supplement world, i would recommend these BCAA's from My Protein to start. They come in pretty cheap at £8.64 for a 250g pouch.
Before or After Cardio?
Although BCAA's have a muscle sparing effect, they will also cause a small spike in insulin which can inhibit fat burning. If fat burning is your reason for doing cardio i would recommend you take your BCAA's after your workout.
Best of luck with all of your fitness goals!