BCAAAugust 16, 2021
BCAA, branched-chain amino acids, are three essential amino acids that the body needs to boost muscle growth and enhance performance during training. These amino acids are Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine. To understand their significance to the body better, it is better to point out some facts. BCAAs make up about 35-40% of all essential amino acids in the body, with about 18% of these BCAAs stored in the muscles. Moreover, they aid in sparing glucose from the liver and muscle to regulate blood sugar levels. They can also reduce blood sugar by increasing the absorption of sugar in the muscle cells. The body cannot produce these amino acids. You need to consume BCAAs through diet.
1. BCAA’s show evidence of decreasing physical and mental fatigue.:
According to different studies conducted on groups of subjects where one group was given BCAA and the other a placebo, showed that those who were given BCAA experienced 15% less fatigue and 17% higher exercise duration than those who were given a placebo. Moreover, a study took place to understand the effect of BCAA on stress levels during strenuous exercises. Subjects took a cycling test under excess heat. Some subjects consumed BCAA and the other a placebo. BCAA subjects cycled for 12% longer than those in the placebo group. Another study showed that BCAA has a much more significant effect on exercise fatigue on untrained individuals than trained ones.
2. BCAA’s can reduce muscle soreness after exercise:
Two enzymes involved in the muscle damage pathways are creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase. BCAAs help lower the blood levels of these enzymes, which improves your recovery through protection against increased muscle damage. A study compared the muscle soreness levels of two groups after a workout. The group given the BCAA supplement rated their muscle soreness levels 33% lesser than those given a placebo. Non-BCAA supplement subjects showed a 20% decline in performance in the same strength training tests as those given a BCAA supplement only 24-48 hours later.
However, the effectiveness of the BCAA supplement in reducing muscle soreness depends on your general diet and gender.
3. BCAAs may increase muscle mass:
BCAAs activate key enzymes, mTOR, and p70 S6 kinase, which help improve protein synthesis post-workout and prevent muscle loss. A study shows higher leucine levels than valine and isoleucine increase muscle mass. This could indicate why muscle mass increases with supplementation due to the high ratio of Leucine in it and not BCAAs.
4. BCAA’s help maintains normal blood sugar levels:
Studies have shown that leucine and isoleucine may help lower your blood sugar levels by increasing insulin production that allows your muscles to deal with glucose. However, studies have also shown that taking BCAA supplements with a high-protein diet can reverse the effects and lead to insulin resistance.
Most researches have resulted from studies on animals. Thus, the results may not show exactly what happens in the human body. The effects seem to differ based on your individual biochemistry. For example, a study on subjects with the liver disease showed; that 10 subjects experienced a drop in blood sugar levels who took 12.5 grams of BCAAs thrice a day; with no effect on the rest 17 subjects.
5. BCAA enhances fat loss.
Subjects who consumed only 12 grams of BCAA every day; through their diet had a 30% higher risk of obesity; than subjects who consumed 15 grams of BCAA from a BCAA supplement. Another study based on competitive wrestlers; showed that consuming a high protein diet with a restricted calorie intake allowed; them to lose 3.5 pounds and 0.6% more body fat when they included BCAAs; into their diets for more than 19 days. BCAA weightlifter research on the effectiveness shows; that those who consumed 14 grams of BCAAs daily for 8 weeks gained more than 4 lbs;. of muscle mass and burned more fat and hence lost more body fat than those weightlifters; who supplemented with 28 grams of whey protein daily. BCAAs for women are more beneficial because women usually lack adequate dietary protein daily or weekly.
6. BCAA’s can improve the symptoms of patients with liver failure:
A study has shown that liver disease or failure; patients who took BCAA supplements could reduce the severity of their HE. Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE) is a common complication arising from liver failure; that causes confusion, coma, and a lack of consciousness in the patient. BCAA supplements can also help improve your resistance to fatigue;, which allows you to improve your internal weakness, enjoy quality sleep, and improve cramps in patients with liver disease.
Moreover, a study conducted in 2014 demonstrated that subjects who had been taking BCAA supplements; and were undergoing liver surgery had their hospital stay duration reduced, which, consequently; led to a decrease in their risk of complications from the surgery; and even helped improve their liver health and function. However, it is also important to note that BCAA supplements; cannot increase the overall survival rate from liver failure or decrease the risk of other complications such as gastric bleeding. A more recent study has shown that BCAA supplements can aid in treating liver; cancer by reducing the level of water retention in the body and thus,; preventing the risk of premature death by 7%.
7. BCAAs can enhance your exercise performance:
BCAA supplements can help reduce fatigue from exercise and improve endurance. A study assigned 26 college-age males to two groups. A group took a BCAA supplement and the other a placebo. They cycled to exhaustion. The results found that during cycling, Serotonin, a brain chemical that plays an important role in exercise fatigue;, levels in the blood were lower in participants who took BCAA than those given a placebo. BCAA supplement group experienced improved energy metabolism; and lowered levels of substances that indicate muscle damage, such as creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase. In conclusion, BCAAs can help improve exercise performance and decrease fatigue.
8. BCAAs help prevents muscle loss during illness:
BCAAs, especially leucine, help maintain muscle mass in people; with a chronic illness such as cancer. This, accompanied by a high protein diet that provides additional leucine; to the body, can help prevent muscle loss in patients; and help provide their body with strength to fight off chronic diseases, such as cancer.
9. BCAA’s can help improve HIIT training and sprint performance:
BCAAs aid with high-intensity training and enhance speed. A study conducted in 2015 on the effects of combined BCAA and arginine supplementation on intermittent sprint performance over 2 consecutive days included 7 females and 15 males who were successful at an international or national level handball competition. Participants played simulated handball games for two days. BCAA group had better intermittent sprint performance on the second day.
BCAA Side Effects
1. BCAA supplements are not as beneficial as whole proteins:
When it comes to absorption, consuming a complete protein source is preferable to taking isolated amino acids. This is because high dosages of particular amino acids may outperform other amino acids when it comes to absorption, resulting in more muscle development.
2. BCAA evidence is mixed as to their effectiveness.:
Tiredness is not decreased by BCAA. The advantages of BCAA supplementation are only seen when you don’t consume a sufficient protein quantity in your diet. Furthermore, an additional study has shown that BCAAs may not always promote muscle development compared to a placebo, even when the participants participate in the same workout regimen as the control group.
3. BCAA supplements are not recommended for those with ALS:
BCAAs should not be consumed by those who have ALS, according to the American Lung Association. Furthermore, those who suffer from a rare congenital condition known as maple syrup urine disease should restrict their intake of BCAAs since their systems cannot absorb them properly.
4. BCAAs can cause potential stomach problems mimicking IBS:
It is possible that taking BCAA supplements may cause stomach issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach bloating. However, this will depend on the person taking them as well as any sensitivities they may have. Branched-chain amino acids elevate blood pressure, headaches, and skin whitening in very uncommon circumstances.
Taken daily before and/or after exercise, 9 grams of BCAAs are the most effective and safest dose for female athletes. People who want to gain muscle mass, on the other hand, take BCAA supplements first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night. Your desired outcome and body weight also determine the appropriate dose of BCAAs. According to a World Health Organization study report, a daily dosage of 15 mg of BCAA per pound of body weight is acceptable. It follows that those who already consume protein-rich meals regularly do not need to be concerned about supplementing their diets with BCAAs. However, the need for BCAAs may be greater in physically active women, making the use of BCAA supplements both necessary and advantageous. People suffering from ALS or maple syrup urine illness are recommended to restrict their consumption of BCAAs to a bare minimum.
BCAA Frequently Asked Questions
Are BCAAs good for weight loss?
BCAAs can help with weight loss if you take them between meals and before and after every workout to keep your body in a constant fat-burning state. However, they do not work like magic and take their time.
When is the best time to consume BCAA’s?
The best time to take BCAAs is on an empty stomach pre and post-workout by adding 5-10 grams of it to your protein shake to help energize your body and repair your muscles.
Is BCAA powder or capsules better?
This is a personal preference mainly and has no effects.
Is it safe to take BCAAs?
Yes, toxicity is nearly impossible.
Do BCAAs interact with any drugs or prescription medications?
No, there are no drug interactions.
Can BCAAs cause hair loss?
No, they do not.
Why do BCAAs give me tingles?
Beta-alanine is a common ingredient in pre-workout meals and BCAA that give the tingles and not the BCAA itself. However, these tingles are temporary and tend to subside in a couple of hours.
How many times should you take BCAAs per day?
There is no such restriction.
I’m a woman; will BCAAs make me freakishly big and muscular like a man?
No, most men are muscular, or at least all have the potential because of their higher level of anabolic hormone testosterone present in their veins. Hence, even if a woman worked out every day and increased her BCAA dose by 100%, she would never even go near to men’s potential.
Do BCAA’s keep you going for longer?
BCAA supplements can reduce tiredness and fatigue by decreasing tryptophan levels in your body, an amino acid used in the biosynthesis of proteins, which helps increase serotonin production and thus reduces fatigue. This will also affect how hard you work to get the push you need to work harder and longer to achieve your desired results.
Can you take BCAAs on an empty stomach?
Yes, in fact, an empty stomach may provide an advantage as digestion will be better. However, people who get an upset stomach from doing so should avoid taking BCAAs on an empty stomach.
Do I need BCAAs for cardio?
No, BCAA consumption is not necessary for cardio. However, it may protect you from any muscle loss or at least keep it to a minimum. This is particularly important when performing fasted cardio.
Is it okay to take BCAAs on non-training days?
Yes, BCAAs can be taken on non-training days and may actually help speed up recovery on off days.
How much BCAA do men and women require each day?
The daily requirements can be as high as 65 mg/lb (144 mg/kg) of body weight. Based on recent studies, healthy adult women should aim to consume a minimum of 9 grams of BCAAs per day, and men should strive to consume a minimum of 12 grams of BCAAs per day.
Is glutamine a BCAA?
No, L-glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid. It is often added to BCAA mixtures to help recover from exercise-induced muscle damage, but it is not a BCAA itself.
What are the best food sources for BCAAs?
The best food sources for BCAA are milk, fish, eggs, meat, poultry, beans, cheese, and different seeds and nuts.
Which is the best BCAA?
Out of the three BCAAs, Leucine is the most popular for bringing in the most muscle and strength supporting benefits.
Does BCAA raise blood sugar?
No, BCAAs do not raise blood sugar or insulin, even though many different dieters are often concerned about this.
Can’t you take whey protein as that is full of amino acids?
This is actually a powerful query that requires a thorough explanation. The BCAAs in your typical whey protein powder are peptide-bound to other amino acids and need to be liberated through digestion and absorbed into the bloodstream to raise BCAA levels in your body, especially during a workout session. Even though whey protein is digested fairly quickly, it still requires several hours for all the amino acids to break down and absorb your plasma. However, branched-chain amino acids in supplement form do not require time for digestion and are, thus, rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. This means you can supply your body with the amino acids needed for repair and recovery while training.
Are BCAAs bad for kidneys?
In dialysis patients, BCAA supplementation can help improve their appetite and nutritional status. During chronic renal failure, the purpose of nutritional interventions is to avoid malnutrition, minimize uremic toxicity and delay the progression of kidney disease.
Are BCAAs safe for the liver?
Yes, BCAAs have never shown any sign of liver toxicity.
Can BCAA cause liver damage?
No, but high levels of BCAA in the body can be linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and injury.
Do BCAAs give you energy?
BCAAs preserve glycogen levels in your body that act as a primary fuel your muscles need for energy production and fuel your skeletal muscles during training, which allows you to have the edge you need to push your boundaries.
Are BCAAs essential?
BCAAs are essential amino acids that the body needs but cannot make on its own. Therefore, they need to be taken in from their diet or as supplements. Research suggests that taking BCAA supplements can help improve your muscle mass and performance and minimize muscle damage from training.
Do BCAAs make you pee?
There is no evidence to support that, but if you consume BCAAs with a lot of water, you may increase your bladder excretion.
Are BCAAs useless?
If you have a protein-rich diet, then BCAA supplementation might be useless for the most part.
Do BCAAs help hair growth?
BCAAs do not cause hair growth or loss. However, hair loss results from deficiencies in the potassium ion channels of the hair follicles, and BCAA supplements help boost potassium ions, thus, increasing the effectiveness of hair loss medications.
Are BCAAs made from hair?
Animal-based BCAAs are made from human hair, duck feathers, or pig fur. BCAAs made from pig fur or duck feathers are rich in keratin. Plant-based BCAAs are mainly from corn or soy.
Can BCAAs harm you?
BCAAs may put you at an increased risk if you have chronic alcoholism or branched-chain ketoaciduria and can interfere with your blood glucose levels during and after your surgery. Moreover, it is best to avoid using BCAAs if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have ALS or maple syrup urine disease.
Do BCAAs keep you awake?
As you exercise, the levels of BCAAs in your blood decrease and cause tryptophan, a chemical that induces sleep and fatigue, to increase. BCAA supplementing before and during a workout raise serotonin levels in your body and help keep your mind and body awake during the workout session.
Is BCAAs vegan?
This mainly depends on the manufacturer, but most BCAAs are vegan.
Do BCAAs break down protein?
No, they do not, but some studies have shown that BCAAs decrease muscle protein synthesis and protein breakdown, meaning a decrease in muscle protein turnover.
Will BCAAs break my fast?
Yes, BCAAs do technically break a fast but do not affect its potential health benefits.
Are EAAs better than BCAAs?
Research shows EAAs outperform BCAAs as the best amino acid supplement, and their benefits go beyond building muscle. EAAs are a nutritional powerhouse because they can optimize your training and recovery and help with your sleep, mood, and a lot more. However, finding a quality EAA supplement can prove to be a real challenge.
Do BCAAs make you sleepy?
No, BCAAs have not been shown to induce fatigue but rather help fight it off.
Are BCAAs broken down in the liver?
BCAAs are not broken down in the liver but mostly in the muscle, providing significant evidence that BCAAs play an important role in energy production during exercise. Based on their role in the muscle tissue, BCAAs may also regulate your blood sugar levels by sparing glucose from the liver and the muscles. It can even increase sugar uptake in muscle cells to lower your blood sugar when needed. BCAAs may also improve fat loss, fight disease, boost recovery and improve lifespan.
How we ranked
To help you choose the best BCAA supplement for yourself, we have come up with a list for you. But before you take a look at the list, you need to understand the basis of rankings behind this list. The BCAA comprises three amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, that operate individually and collectively to maximize benefits to your body. Our rankings included the optimum ratio for amino acids in our rankings in 2:1:1 of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Ideally, they be pure blends and free of sugar, dairy, gluten, soy, yeast, and additives. All of our choices contain these characteristics, such a Scivia Xtend, and some even go beyond this, such as Battle Ready BCAA Powder that contains a dose of 4:1:1.
The list of BCAA supplements was carefully drafted based on their individual structure and effectiveness. Companies, such as MyProtein and USN that used filler ingredients added sugar, and harmful additives were dropped. Attention was paid to market-leading brands on how they dose the amino acids and any additional benefits they could provide to make your workout more effective.
Extra Attention to Detail
We also paid careful attention to the other elements in the BCAA blend to give your body an edge and an extra energy boost. For instance, we tried to ensure the blends contain L-Glutamine too for energy production. For example, Optimum Nutrition includes Vitamin C for supporting the immune system and magnesium to regulate muscle function, an ideal combination with strict training sessions. AlaniNu, on the other hand, contains turmeric root extracts that help with muscle soreness and recovery due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
BSN Amino X contains Vitamin B6 that reduces fatigue, and supports your metabolism. Genius BCAA goes steps ahead for supporting performance through the inclusion of Rhodiola Rosea, Taurine, and Cognizin® Citicoline in its blend that helps improve focus and reduce stress. The eAlpha Amino BCAA formula contains electrolytes that keep your body hydrated and prepared for challenges. Finally, our number one pick, Performance Lab® Sports BCAA includes not just the optimal ratio of branch-chained amino acids. Still, it is also fermented naturally from Sunflower Lecithin for easy digestion and high bioavailability.
Performance Lab® Sport BCAA
Performance Lab Sports BCAA provides branched-chain amino acids in the ideal ratio of 2:1:1 of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. The blend elevates endurance and performance, supports healthy immune defenses against high athletic demands, blocks muscle soreness, and optimizes muscle growth and recovery since they are naturally fermented from sunflower lecithin for easy digestion and high bioavailability and contain 100% plant-based, prebiotic-infused Plantcaps from fermented tapioca. They are not just a great choice for vegetarians but our top pick as well.
Bulk Supplements Pure BCAA 2:1:1
Bulk Supplement BCAAs are crafted from corn and contain an ideal ratio of 2:1:1 of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. It is free of sugar, soy, dairy, yeast, gluten, and additives. This BCAA formula helps with muscle recovery and endurance; and helps maintain weight, muscle strength;, and blood sugar levels while also supporting the liver. This is why it is one of our top picks for you.
Battle Ready Fuel BCAA Powder
Battle Ready Fuel BCAA Powder fuels even the most intense workouts; due to its unique combination of BCAAs in the ratio 4:1:1 of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. The formula contains 5 grams per serving and reduces muscle soreness, and provides faster muscle glycogen recovery.
Optimum Nutrition BCAA powder
Optimum Nutrition BCAA Powder not only provides 5 grams of essential amino acids in every serving;, but it is also the first BCAA powder-based supplement to have its formula instantized to allow for easy mixing. Moreover, it includes Vitamin C, Rhodiola Rosea;, Wellmune and supporting electrolytes to support your immune system and keep your body hydrated; and magnesium to fuel muscles and decrease fatigue. This is particularly important to those indulging in strict training and workouts.
Alani Nu came up with a BCAA muscle recovery powder available in a refreshing range of flavors;, such as sour peach rings, candy apple, strawberry kiwi, etc.;, to help you get back in the gym quicker and also satisfy your taste buds. The formula contains an ideal ratio of branch-chained amino acids, including L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine, and L-Glutamine. AlaniNU also contains turmeric root extract in its BCAA powder that helps deal with muscle soreness; and recovery due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Scivation Xtend BCAA
The unique formula of XTEND includes the optimal ratio of 2:1:1 of branched-chain amino acids; and includes glutamine and citrulline malate, which makes it an all-inclusive amino acid drink. Moreover, it also includes a proprietary blend of electrolytes that help support your immune system and keep you hydrated. It is especially during intense training. It is free of sugar and carbs and provides fuel to your body during workout sessions. Finally, it is also available in various delicious flavors.
It offers a unique amino acid blend in the ratio 3:1:2 of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine to support your body in all phases of muscle development and maintenance. MusclePharm BCAA not only reduces muscle breakdown and minimizes muscle damage but also supports lean body mass and its growth and improves protein synthesis.
Genius BCAA is crafted using the best quality BCAAs, from InstAminos® Vegan amino acids made through a fermentation process. Including Rhodiola Rosea, Taurine, and Cognizin®, Citicoline also helps support performance through enhanced focus and reduced stress levels. It is designed to nourish your physical and mental capacity that can help you reach your full potential, boost your cognitive function, reach and maintain peak performance and increase rapid muscle recovery.
BSN Amino X
AMINO X by BSN is a unique amino acid supplement that delivers your body’s important branched chain and other important amino acids, L-Alanine, Taurine, and L-Citrulline. It offers a complete range of BCAAs in the ideal ratio of 2:1:1 in every 10 grams of serving. The formula also contains Vitamin B6 that reduces your post-workout fatigue, and helps support energy-yielding metabolism. It is available in five different flavors to support your nutritional requirements for every type of workout regime.
Cellucor Alpha Amino
Alpha Amino includes the optimal ratio of 2:1:1 of BCAAs and 11 additional essential amino acids for reaching desired performance levels. The formula also contains electrolytes to keep your body hydrated and BetaPower to protect your cells against stress during intense training and boost your physical performance, muscle endurance, strength, and power.
Branched-chain amino acid supplements show clear and strong effects in helping to increase muscle growth, strength, recovery, and endurance and boosting physical performance. Most protein sources today already include a significant amount of BCAAs in them, and you may not have to take them separately if you are already consuming a protein-rich diet. However, if you are not, it is important to take BCAA supplements as the body cannot produce them. Competitive athletes might need to add that nutritional edge that will boost their muscle building, recovery, and performance.