Should I drink BCAAs during my workout?
What are BCAAs?
Branch-chained amino acids also known as BCAAs are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. These BCAAs make up approximately 35% of your body’s muscle protein and can be viewed as the “building blocks” of protein. They’re “essential” because your body doesn't make them on its own-- aka you need to get them from food or supplements.
What do BCAAs do?
BCAAs can preserve muscle glycogen storage units that fuel your muscles and minimize protein breakdown during exercise. What does this mean for you? BCAAs can help you prevent muscle breakdown to maximize gains!
Benefits of BCAA Supplementation
BCAA supplementation before your workout can increase rates of protein synthesis, suppress muscle protein breakdown, reduce markers of muscle damage, and lessen the symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness.
Increased Energy and Delayed Fatigue
Physical activity promotes BCAA breakdown to liberate energy stores in the body. Under regular and normal circumstances, the presence of BCAAs in the bloodstream aids in regulation of tryptophan, an amino acid, that influences serotonin concentration in the brain. When BCAAs are low, a subsequent decrease in serotonin concentrations in the brain may ensue and contribute to fatigue during exercise.
Valine plays a key role in providing energy for workouts. During exercise, tryptophan is taken up by the brain in large amounts. Tryptophan is used by the brain to make serotonin. Valine, however, competes with tryptophan for entry into the brain and typically wins out. The result? Less tryptophan gets converted to serotonin, which allows your muscles to contract with more force for a longer time before becoming fatigued.
The more intense and the longer the workout, the more branched-chain amino acids will be used for fuel. Supplementing with them means you'll be able to train more intensely and for a longer period of time, which is critical for drastic improvements in body composition. This effect is especially powerful if you work out in a fasted state.
Keep in mind that if you drink BCAAs during fasted training, you're technically no longer in a fasted state. But since they help you hold onto your lean muscle, it's still a win for your metabolism at the end of the day.
BCAAs or possibly just leucine by itself, may help you lose body weight, especially while dieting. Studies suggest that they may help regulate satiety, leptin (a hormone that makes you feel full), glucose, adiposity, and body weight.
One early landmark study examining competitive wrestlers found that subjects supplementing with branched-chain amino acids while following a low-calorie diet experienced a greater drop in body fat, particularly in the waist, compared to those taking a placebo.
Other studies determined that six weeks of leucine supplementation in combination with a low-calorie diet caused a large drop in body fat in rats. Researchers believe that the increase in protein synthesis stimulated by leucine increased energy expenditure so much that it helped the rats with the leucine-enriched diet burn off more body fat than the placebo group.
More recent studies have explored BCAAs and their ability to activate special receptors, known as PPARs, that increase fat burning and inhibit fat storage. PPARs work to increase the activity of genes that encourage greater fat burning in the body, while at the same time decreasing the activity of genes that increase fat storage.
This field of research is still being explored, but the literature shows promising potential for BCAA supplementation and weight loss.
When to take BCAAs?
Many fitness fanatics and body builders sip on a variety of BCAAs during their workouts. This helps maintain amino acid levels, delay fatigue and improve both mental and physical performance, and enhance fat utilization during exercise in a glycogen-depleted state. If you're following a low-carb diet, in a calorie deficit, or do fasted training, intra-workout BCAA supplementation could make a big difference! However, pre-workout and post-workout supplementation are also great options to support your fitness goals.
It can help to mix a serving of branched-chain amino acids into a sports drink using a Muscle Pound Shaker Cup. Our stainless steel shaker cup keeps your BCAA drink cold for 24 hours and is double-walled so you won’t have to worry about the condensation.
Note: Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional prior to beginning any diet or exercise program or taking any dietary supplement. The content on our website is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or to replace a relationship with a qualified healthcare professional.