All The Benefits Of BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) You Need To Know
If you’re shopping around for the best sports nutrition supplements to take to maximize your workout progress, you’ve probably seen BCAAs being mentioned again and again. Here’s everything you need to know what BCAAs are, where you can get them, and why they should be a staple in your supplement stack.
TL;DR: SHOULD I TAKE BCAAS? BCAAs are an important component for driving lean, clean muscle growth. If you want to maximize your energy, prevent muscle breakdown and soreness, and see gains from your workouts, you should definitely consider taking a supplement with BCAAs. However, you may already have BCAAs in your regimen if you're using a high quality whey protein concentrate.
What are BCAAs?
“BCAAs” stands for branched-chain amino acids, a group of essential amino acids that includes valine, leucine, and isoleucine. These three amino acids make up about 35% of the amino acids in your muscles!
You’re probably already familiar with how important protein is for building muscle and helping you recover after a workout. But you can’t talk about protein without also talking about its “building blocks,” amino acids.
The human body uses 20 different amino acids to form protein molecules, but your body doesn’t make nine of these on its own. So these 9 “essential” amino acids, including the BCAAs, need to come from your diet. BCAAs are naturally found in products like meat, poultry, fish, dairy, legumes, and nuts.
Benefits of taking a BCAA powder:
- Muscle maintenance and growth: When you work out, you’re stressing your muscle fibers, and getting enough protein is key for repairing that damage and putting on healthy muscle mass. BCAAs can help this process in a couple of ways. First, they’re quickly absorbed by your bloodstream and bypass the liver, unlike other amino acids, so your muscles can use them very quickly. In addition, the BCAAs, especially leucine, also activate enzymes that are necessary for protein synthesis (aka muscle growth!).
- Aids recovery: In a similar vein, BCAAs can also help your body fully recover after a good workout. The damage that your muscle fibers go through after they’ve been put to work can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that tight and achy feeling that comes a day or two after an intense workout, Taking a BCAA supplement can help decrease that painful muscle damage while still promoting protein synthesis. Less pain, more gains!
- Energy and focus: Taking a BCAA supplement could also help fight fatigue during your workout. A study found that subjects who took a BCAA supplement prior to their workout showed significant increases in serotonin (a “happy” brain chemical), and decreases in lactate and ammonia, two substances that indicate workout fatigue. Put together, they concluded that BCAAs could be an effective supplement for reducing fatigue during a workout! Another study came to a similar conclusion, finding that endurance-trained subjects who took BCAA supplements reported 15% less fatigue during exercise.
The difference between BCAAs and Protein
BCAAs and protein powder are similar products, and both have the end game of promoting stronger muscles. However, BCAA is an incomplete protein with only three amino acids. Protein powders contain all 20 amino acids to make a “complete” protein.
Q: If I'm taking protein powder, do I need to take BCAAs?
A: A good, high-quality whey protein concentrate will already include the three BCAAs necessary for lean muscle growth. So as long as you’re using a protein powder with a complete essential amino acid profile, you probably won’t need to take a separate BCAA supplement to reap the muscle-preserving results. However, there are some benefits to taking a separate BCAA supplement in addition to protein. If you generally wait until after your workout to drink your protein shake but want to take advantage of the energy-boosting, workout-prolonging effects of BCAAs before hitting the gym, you can take a separate BCAA supplement or a pre-workout mix that contains BCAAs to reap the rewards. Just make sure to get enough other protein sources later in the day to get a full range of complete amino acids!
The Pros of Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey, which comes from milk, is one of the more popular ingredients used in protein powders since it’s a complete protein with all the amino acids you need to support your workout. But the whey in your protein powder can come in different forms. There’s a big difference between whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate, and this matters if you’re conscious about your BCAA intake.
When making whey protein isolate, manufacturers strip away the naturally occurring amino acids to isolate the protein to get a higher protein content. However, they usually add the BCAAs back in through supplementation later.
On the other hand, whey protein concentrate is less processed and leaves the naturally occurring protein intact, giving you a better and more natural protein source. Check out the table below which shows how many milligrams of all amino acids can be found in just 29 grams of the Whey Protein Concentrate in SFH’s whey-based protein powders (BCAAs in red).
Typical Amino Acid Content from Whey Protein Concentrate
Values are milligrams of amino acid per 29g of whey protein concentrate. Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine are BCAAs naturally occurring in Whey Protein Concentrate.
Where to get your BCAAs
BCAAs can be found in several SFH Products.
PURE, FUEL, and RECOVER, SFH’s three whey protein powders, all contain protein from whey concentrate, leaving the naturally-occurring BCAAs intact to help you recover from your workout.SHOP WHEY PROTEIN
PUSH Pre-workout contains BCAAS to support your muscles, preventing breakdown and soreness the next day and giving you an edge before your workout.SHOP PRE-WORKOUT
Plant Protein is an excellent option for plant-based eaters. It has a base of pea protein, which has naturally occurring BCAAs and makes this a complete protein source!SHOP PLANT PROTEIN