Branched-chain amino acids are often touted as the “building blocks of muscle” and for good reason. Since the 1980’s there have been a lot of interest in BCAA supplement programs and how they affect both sports performance and muscle growth. So should you be taking them and if so when and how much?
Branched-chain amino acids are essential amino acids that can be oxidized within skeletal muscle. This occurs during exercise of all types including sports activities. The BCAA‘s must be present for growth and development within the muscle, forming antibodies, carrying oxygen throughout the body and many other functions in the hormonal and enzyme systems.
Why you need them
The beneficial effects from using a BCAA supplement is to help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage and promote muscle-protein synthesis. That muscle damage then develops into the delayed muscle soreness that hits you anywhere from 24 to 48 hours after an intense workout or activity.
Overall the biggest proven effects for utilizing a BCAA supplement is to enhance muscle recovery along with providing better immune regulation during sporting events or long-distance exercising. The body needs amino acids for certain repair processes and if they aren’t available they body doesn’t sit back and wait. Instead they utilize muscle proteins for fuel. By having BCAA’s available it has a net result of increased protein synthesis which means more muscle for you because the body spares the muscle proteins.
Additionally there is a lot of speculation in the industry of additional effects from using a BCAA supplement that include stimulating fat loss and increased endurance due to available glucose after glycogen stores have been depleted.
If you work out or engage in any sort of athletic pursuit you absolutely should be taking them because they are a natural way to enhance recovery, go longer, and protect your body by giving it the nutrients it needs to offset the level of work you expect.
When you need them
A good BCAA supplement should be taken twice on a workout day. Ideally you will want to ingest 5 to 8 grams about 30 to 45 minutes before a workout. Many serious athletes utilize a pre-workout drink that includes the BCAA’s so that your body has an available supply as soon as muscle breakdown begins mid-workout.
Then right after your workout you should take another 5 to 8 grams. Some people think a regular protein shake or a meal is sufficient, but the effect will not be the same. The food or shake then has to digest and the protein needs to be broken down to their individual components. Utilizing a BCAA supplement saves steps and time which is critical right after a workout to ensure the fastest recovery.
Of course the faster your body recovers, the sooner you can attack it gain to force it to grow and develop.
What should I take?
There are a lot of great BCAA supplement options on the market these days. Most of the good pre-workout powders such as Cellucor C4 Extreme, MusclePharm Assault and others include a dose of BCAA’s. Post-workout it can be simple to utilize tablets with water such as Optimum BCAA 1000 Caps or other products. That way they are going to work while you are leaving the gym, helping you recover and grow.
Remember, muscle growth doesn’t take place in the gym; it takes place during recovery.