Maximize your muscle gains and minimize muscle breakdown with an all-natural BCAA stack.
Protein, creatine, and N.O. boosters—these are the big-name workout supplements preferred by bodybuilding newcomers and veterans alike, and they have remained a staple of bodybuilding supplementation for decades now.
However, one class of supplements that distinguishes the professionals from the amateurs: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).
Generally, amino acids are micronutrients required to build protein, which, in turn, helps build muscle tissue. Specifically, branched-chain amino acids are comprised of three essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that are particularly conducive to muscle growth, development, and repair.
Taken during (intra) exercise or post-workout, BCAA supplementation can significantly boost both acute performance and long-term anabolic growth.
Unlike standard protein powder supplements, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) rapidly digest and absorb into muscle tissue, offering acute “intra-workout” performance benefits in the here-and-now—as well as the now-and-later.
Briefly, the reasons to take a BCAA supplement include boosting:
- Muscle Growth and Recovery
- Strength and Endurance
- Insulin-Activated Amino Uptake
- Immune Defenses Against Gym Pathogens
- Protection Against Muscle Breakdown and Soreness
Below, we will get into greater detail on the performance advantages and health benefits of taking branched-chain amino acids. But before we do, let’s read a full analysis on the Performance Lab® SPORT BCAA, the Best BCAA Supplement for bodybuilding:
Best BCAA for Bodybuilding:
Performance Lab® BCAA
Performance Lab® BCAA is an ultramodern BCAA stack delivered in unique, clean, green NutriCaps® capsules for rapid delivery and absorption in exercising muscle tissue. Whereas many standard BCAA supplements fail to efficiently absorb—and often come in improper ratio forms— Performance Lab® BCAA’s Ajipure® and NutriGenesis® amino acids are optimized for enhanced potency and bioavailability.
Performance Lab® BCAA works by:
- Accelerating muscle growth and slowing down muscle catabolism (breakdown) for maximum anabolic muscle capacity.
- Energizing athletic endurance by inhibiting fatigue-inducing brain chemicals during exercise for increased training duration.
- Combating muscle soreness and fatigue by reloading exercising muscle tissue with anabolic amino acids for quicker, healthier recovery.
- Bolstering healthy immune defenses against heightened athletic exertion and gym-related pathogens.
Taken post-workout or intra-workout (during exercise), Performance Lab® BCAA acutely nourishes and protects muscle tissue, reorienting your muscle metabolism towards growth rather than breakdown.
Performance Lab® BCAA Formula Analysis
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) 2:2:1 Ratio of:
- L-Leucine+ (Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®), 1500 mg
- L-Isoleucine+ (Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®), 750 mg
- L-Valine+ (Ajipure® and NutriGenesis®), 750 mg
Performance Lab® BCAA supplies a muscle-optimized 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine as easy-to-absorb Ajipure® and bio-enhanced NutriGenesis® amino acids.
Two mistakes many BCAA supplements make: (1) they often supply low-grade BCAA forms that fail to fully and efficiently absorb, and (2) they supply their BCAAs at skewed ratios unbacked by clinical research.
Muscle tissue is naturally comprised of a 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine; however, because L-leucine is the most anabolic of the BCAAs, many supplements overdo it by ratioing their formulas at 4:1:1 and even 10:1:1 composites in favor of L-leucine.
Instead, designed for rapid delivery and performance, Performance Lab® BCAA supplies a research-backed 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine in a blend of two advanced ingredient forms:
- Ajipure®: manufactured by Ajinomoto, a world leader in amino acid supplementation, Ajipure® offers pure, bioavailable BCAAs made from non-GMO, gluten-free vegetable carbs using patented Ferment-A-Pure technology.
- NutriGenesis®: nature-identical BCAAs complexed with natural cofactors, such as probiotics, fibers, enzymes, and antioxidants, that promote nutrient absorption for optimal BCAA bioavailability.
As a mix of pure BCAAs and a lab-grown BCAAs complex, Performance Lab® BCAA’s Ajipure® + NutriGenesis® combo has set the new high standard of clean, yet powerful BCAA muscle enhancement.
Uniquely, Performance Lab® BCAA comes in capsule delivery form instead of powder, encapsulating its formula in clean, additive-free NutriCaps®, a patented, prebiotic-infused capsule constructed out of fermented tapioca (pullulan). The use of artificial additives is another mistake many BCAA supplements make, considering how synthetics can disrupt gut health and nutrient absorption.
Inside and out, Performance Lab® BCAA is a potent, powerful, plant-based muscle booster formula optimized for maximum bodybuilding strength, development, and performance.
Stack with Performance Lab® Protein
Performance Lab® Protein supplies Oryzatein®, the only certified organic brown rice protein patented for athletic performance, with Himalayan pink salt for post-exercise electrolyte replenishment and natural additives for a delicious, natural, chocolatey taste.
Bio-engineered for maximum absorption and muscle growth, Performance Lab® Protein’s Oryzatein® outperforms popular whey protein in several key ways:
- Oryzatein® Leucine, the most anabolic of the three BCAAs, has been clinically demonstrated to absorb 30% faster than whey leucine.
- Oryzatein® absorbs at a rate intermediate between fast whey and slow casein, the two popular milk-based proteins for bodybuilding.
- Performance Lab® Protein augments Oryzatein®’s heightened absorption properties with Bacillus coagulans, a probiotic that further improves protein absorption and utilization.
Compared to animal proteins, which require extensive chemical processing before sale, Oryzatein® is not only a cleaner plant-based recovery stack but a more potent and effective protein powder altogether.
Similar to Performance Lab® BCAA’s enhanced NutriCaps® delivery system, Protein suspends its formula in only all-natural, eco-friendly additives. Altogether, Protein is naturally flavored, naturally sweetened, and naturally thickened with the likes of organic cocoa, vanilla bean, Ceylon cinnamon, yacon root, monk fruit, coconut water powder, and more.
Paired with the rapid-absorbing BCAAs, Performance Lab® SPORT Protein completes the essential amino acid profile for comprehensive post-workout recovery, repair, and growth—an altogether awesome amino + protein duo for bodybuilders pursuing both fitness and health.
SUPPLEMENT FACTS: Protein (from Oryzatein® – Certified Organic Brown Rice [Oryza sativa] Protein Concentrate), Himalayan Pink Salt, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Manganese
To learn more about why you should take a BCAA supplement, the bodybuilding benefits of taking BCAAs, and other frequently asked questions about BCAA supplementation, keep reading our guide on the Best BCAA for Bodybuilding.
The Beginner’s Guide on Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) for Bodybuilders
Though we almost exclusively discuss them in the context of exercise enhancement, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are fundamentally important to your metabolic and muscular health, whether you exercise or not.
To illustrate the importance of BCAAs, here are a few figures to chew over:
- BCAAs account for 35-40% of the dietary essential amino acids (EAA), meaning the aminos consumed via diet, in body protein.
- BCAAs comprise 14-18% of the total aminos in muscle protein.
- Roughly 40% of body weight is comprised of muscle mass.
Given the predominance of muscle mass in total weight, as well as how much of muscle mass is comprised of BCAAs, the total amount of BCAAs in the body is not an insignificant amount. Because they’re essential amino acids, BCAAs must be consumed to maintain sufficient, healthy levels. It’s for this reason that BCAA supplementation is not only key to sustaining athletic growth but general metabolic health as well.
However, to better understand the role of BCAAs, it’s perhaps important to note here the differences between protein, amino acids, and branched-chain amino acids:
- Protein: composed of amino acids, protein is a macronutrient required to build and develop muscle mass, as well as enzymes and other body tissues.
- Amino Acids: the micronutrient substructures of protein that not only help compose various protein structures but also possess their own vital bioactivities.
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids: a distinct class of amino acids that specialize in the synthesis of protein and the production of insulin.
Okay, but What Exactly Are BCAAs?
Altogether, your body requires 20 different amino acids to grow, develop, and function properly. Of those 20 amino acids, only 9 are classified as essential, meaning that you have to acquire them through your diet. And of those 9 essential amino acids, only 3 are classified as Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), a subset of essential amino acids identified by having unique protein-synthesizing properties.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are comprised of three amino acids—L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine—and their respective bioactivities include:
- L-Leucine: the most anabolic—and, thus, most important—BCAA for bodybuilding, L-leucine assists with protein synthesis, muscle growth, and post-exercise repair. Leucine promotes growth hormone while combating catabolism (breakdown).
- L-Isoleucine: assisting with oxygen utilization, L-isoleucine enables red blood cells to transport oxygen to exercising muscle tissues; additionally, isoleucine promotes tissue healing, energy production, and immunity.
- L-Valine: working as a key source of muscle energy, L-valine also serves protein formation, muscle tissue growth, and repair.
Though L-leucine is viewed as the most anabolic BCAA, all three BCAAs contribute to muscular health, development, and performance.
Their anabolic effects on lean muscle mass and, as sandiegohealth.org mentions, ability to provide a source of energy during exercise make BCAAs incredibly effective tools – at promoting lean muscle mass and several other aspects of athletic health and fitness.
The Bodybuilding Benefits of Taking BCAAs
Around the time that bodybuilders start to drag their asses due to muscle soreness and fatigue is typically around the same time that their interest in BCAA supplements takes off. However, you don’t have to wait until the soreness kicks in to start supplementing BCAAs.
Essentially, the earlier you take BCAAs in your workout regimen, the earlier you can enjoy those gain-boosting benefits. Specifically, BCAA supplements can help you maximize your muscle and strength gains by improving:
1) Post-Exercise Muscle Growth
Anabolic muscle growth occurs after the gym, not during exercise. And much of post-exercise muscle growth is facilitated by the stimulation of protein synthesis during the body’s rest and repair phase, a phase greatly aided by BCAA supplementation.
Demonstrating the post-exercise anabolic potential of BCAAs, one placebo-controlled study found BCAA supplementation among resistance trained athletes to be effective at boosting:
- Myofibrillar-MPS, or muscle protein synthesis (MPS) within myofibril, the elongated contractile threads that compose striated muscle tissue.
- Phosphorylation Status of mTORC1 Signaling Proteins, which is basically a lab measurement of one of the steps that regulates protein synthesis.
Even among endurance athletes, BCAAs have been shown to possess significant ergogenic and metabolic potential, as in one small study which suggested that “BCAAs may be the primary rate-limiting amino acids in the greater daily protein requirement of endurance trained men.”
These studies highlight the particular importance of BCAAs—even as part of a protein powder supplement—to the post-exercise growth and development of muscle tissue.
2) Muscle Damage and Soreness
Delayed onset muscle soreness, or the DOMS, refer to the muscle soreness that peaks roughly 24 to 72 hours after exercise. Typically, unless you had a totally killer workout, you rarely feel the painful consequences of exercise the day of the workout. The pain and stiffness incurred by leg-day isn’t fully felt until chest-day—or whichever day comes after your leg-day.
And, of course, if you’re feeling the painful consequences of leg-day on chest-day, you’re not going to enjoy chest-day as much as you’d prefer.
Fortunately, BCAA supplementation can help. On the effects of BCAAs on muscle damage and soreness, two studies stand out:
- Study 1 – in one small crossover double-blind study, BCAAs were administered before leg squat exercise to determine the benefits of BCAAs on squat-exercise-induced delayed-onset muscle soreness. The researchers’ conclusion: “muscle damage may be suppressed by BCAA supplementation.”
- Study 2 – in this systematic review, a couple researchers compiled data from 11 studies to determine whether or not BCAA supplementation is an efficient nutritional strategy to alleviate skeletal muscle damage. Their results suggested that BCAA supplementation can be efficacious in deterring exercise-induced muscle damage, and that it’s “especially effective if taken prior to the damaging exercise.”
This second study suggests improvements on muscle damage and soreness given the timing of BCAA supplementation, which is something we address below in the “Other Frequently Asked Questions” section.
3) Cognitive Fatigue During Exercise
Unlike DOMS, exercise-induced cognitive fatigue more immediately affects exercise performance via pathways that are more acutely responsive to physical activity. With regards to exercise-induced fatigue, the key neurotransmitters of interest are serotonin and dopamine.
Respectively, each neurochemical relates to performance in the following ways:
- Increased serotonin negatively impacts physical performance.
- Increased dopamine is associated with increased performance.
However, higher levels of BCAAs have been associated with lower activity of L-tryptophan, the “sleepy” precursor to serotonin. This limiting effect on the entry of tryptophan into the brain may help ward of exercise-induced fatigue, contributing to greater exercise stamina and performance.
4) Intra-Workout Energy and Endurance
Though glucose acts as our body’s primary source of ATP-fueling energy, glucose doesn’t have a total monopoly on our body’s energy reserves.
As Open Health Tools mentions, Ketones encourage the body to use stored fat as a source of energy. And, likewise, BCAAs may also be used as an energy fuel source, especially when your muscle glycogen (glucose) levels are depleted.
Under conditions of heightened physical activity and stress (i.e., during exercise), BCAAs serve as both a key energy source and as a precursor for the synthesis of protein and other amino acids. The combination of these effects, as supplied by additional BCAAs via BCAA supplementation, may significantly improve your intra-workout energy and endurance.
This also partly explains how BCAAs minimize muscle damage and soreness: by substituting your muscular BCAAs as a readily available source of BCAA energy fuel. In fact, BCAA supplementation may decrease whole-body proteolysis (protein breakdown) even in tissues other than skeletal muscle.
5) Exercise-Related Immunity
In the long run, exercise can help bolster your immunity. However, strenuous exercise may also acutely impair your immunity, potentially due to the exercise-related depletion of glutamine, an amino acid associated with immune health.
BCAA supplementation may help boost exercise-related immunity by optimizing:[14,15]
- Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cell (PBMC) Activity
- Plasma Glutamine Concentration
- Cytokine Production
- mTOR Signaling Pathway
- And more…
With that in mind, it’s worthwhile to consider BCAAs as a useful sports nutritional tool for both post-exercise muscle recovery and immune regulation.
Which is Better: Amino Acids vs. Protein Powder?
If you’re already taking a protein powder, do you really need to add a BCAA supplement to your workout stack? After all, don’t protein powder supplements already supply a decent amount of BCAAs?
Yes, an effective, comprehensive protein powder should supply all the essential amino acids, including branched-chain amino acids. However, unlike straight BCAAs, protein powder takes longer to fully absorb, missing your intra-workout window of opportunity to acutely mitigate muscle breakdown and promote protein synthesis.
Ideally, you should take both protein powder and BCAAs for the following bodybuilding purposes:
- Protein – to supply your muscle tissue with a hefty supply of post-workout protein with which to grow new muscle tissue.
- BCAAs – to lessen the negative consequences of exercise, namely muscle fatigue and soreness, while maximizing the anabolic capacity of your post-workout muscle metabolism.
Together, protein powder and BCAAs may work synergistically to boost your muscle and strength gains, as well as your endurance, motivation, immunity, and general fitness.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to take BCAA supplements during (intra) or after (post) working out?
Or, for that matter, is it best to take BCAAs before exercise, as some bodybuilders do? Really, given the lack of conclusive clinical research, it’s difficult to say. Regarding the advantages of taking BCAAs before or after exercise, one small preliminary study did observe that “repreated BCAA supplementation before exercise had a more beneficial effect in attenuating [delayed onset muscle soreness] and [exercise-induced muscle damage] induced by eccentric exercise than repeated supplementation after exercise.”
This study, combined with common practice (and, frankly, common sense), suggests that taking BCAAs earlier in the workout, if not before the workout, is the best way to go, especially if you’re looking to take advantage of the intra-workout performance advantages of BCAAs.
Will BCAAs break my fast (or kick me out of ketosis)?
This is a common question among intermittent fasters, or those who train on an empty stomach (fasted training) to encourage their body’s use of stored fat for energy during exercise. Considering that BCAAs do have a spiking effect on insulin—and that BCAAs are associated with protein, which, as a macronutrient, is a no-go while fasting—intermittent fasters are naturally cautious with their use of BCAAs.
However, some research suggests that BCAAs may actually act synergistically with a ketogenic diet. Again, we’re dealing with a small preliminary study here, yet the findings of this small study on the effects of BCAA in conjunction with the ketogenic diet suggested that “branched chain amino acids may increase the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet and the diet could be more easily tolerated by the patients because of the change in the ratio of fat to protein.”
Speaking of the fat-to-protein ratio, if fat loss is your ultimate goal, taking BCAAs will ultimately help you on that end more than not, considering that most long-term fat loss occurs as a result of increased lean muscle mass more so than acute exercise-related calorie-burning. Given BCAAs’ pro-anabolic, anti-catabolic effects on lean muscle growth, they’re likely to help with your lean body composition goals either way.
Why is the 2:1:1 BCAA ratio considered as “muscle optimized”?
The 2:1:1 BCAA ratio of L-leucine to L-isoleucine to L-valine is often referred to as the “muscle optimized” BCAA ratio because it roughly matches the natural BCAA ratio of skeletal muscle tissue. This is ideal in terms of balanced BCAA delivery, as it supplies all the diverse muscle benefits of all three BCAAs at their natural ratioed bioactivities.
Because L-leucine is generally considered to be the most anabolic of the three BCAAs, many BCAA supplement manufacturers tend to overemphasize their L-leucine content with ratios of 4:1:1 upwards to even 10:1:1. However, the problem with this is that as BCAA ratios go up, research and safety data goes down, as the 2:1:1 ratio isn’t only naturally “muscle optimized” but also the most evidence-backed BCAA ratio available.
Do BCAAs have any side effects?
Generally, no—BCAAs encompass one of the safest types of workout supplements available. Yet, of course, as with any supplement you take, there are potential risks. This is particularly true if you’re taking a BCAA “hybrid” formula.
Essentially, because many people tend to take their BCAA formulas during exercise, many supplement manufacturers offer BCAA “hybrid” formulas that come stacked with other non-BCAA intra-workout ingredients, namely stimulants (such as caffeine). With a smartly formulated BCAA “hybrid” stack, you may potentially achieve greater results than you would with a vanilla BCAA formula; however, the greater the ingredient count, the more difficulty your body will have in rapidly absorbing BCAAs.
In general, it’s best to take a BCAA supplement that only supplies BCAAs, so as to lower your risk of negative ingredient interactions and poor BCAA absorption.
Which is better: BCAA pills vs BCAA powders?
Of primary concern is the quality of your BCAAs. After that, how your BCAAs are delivered—whether by, say, pill, capsules or powder—should take secondary concern.
With that in mind, the respective advantages of BCAA pills vs. powders are:
- BCAA Pills: purity, convenience, cleanliness—capsules tend not to come stuffed with gut-demolishing artificial sweeteners and additives common to powder supplements, and, as such, BCAA pills tend to absorb more fully and efficiently than BCAA powders.
- BCAA Powders: dosage and taste—no doubt, those artificial sweeteners are …well, they’re sweet, and that’s not a totally trivial advantage; plus, with powdered scoops, you can ramp up the BCAA dosage, which compensates for the potential absorption issues attendant upon BCAA powder’s reliance on unnatural flavors, sweeteners, thickeners, preservatives, etc.
Each delivery system has its Pros and Cons. For a quick, clean shot of BCAAs, taking an all-natural BCAA pill is superior to guzzling down additive-heavy BCAA powders. However, if you’re looking for a super fat dose of BCAAs, the powder might have more of what you’re looking for.
Who, other than bodybuilders, should take BCAAs?
In this article, we’re primarily covering the sports nutrition advantages of BCAAs for bodybuilders. However, virtually all athletes and exercisers of all types may benefit by adding a BCAA supplement to their daily workout supplement stack – it can definitely be considered as one of the best health supplements in the UK, US and around the world.
Whether active or not, everyone needs BCAAs in some quantity. Because dairy and red meats contain the highest amounts of dietary BCAAs, vegans and vegetarians in particular should focus on upping their BCAA intake. And this is especially true for vegans/vegetarians whose exercise routines are frequently hindered by muscle fatigue and soreness.
In short, everyone should focus on their BCAA intake, and everyone who works out should consider adding a BCAA supplement to their workout routine.
High-intensity resistance training breaks muscle, and high-intensity resistance training builds muscle.
However, with Performance Lab® BCAA, you can expect less muscle breakdown and greater muscle building with your weight-training.
No doubt, one of the most frustrating things about working out is feeling like you’ve hit a plateau—or worse: that your physique is actually worsening, despite how much time and effort you feel like you’re putting into the gym.
Perhaps, truth be told, you’re not hitting the weights as hard or as fast or as long as you used to, and, in the back of your mind, you know that you could be working harder. Exercise is as much a mental game as it is a physical one, which is why revamping your exercise with an intra-workout performance enhancer like Performance Lab® BCAA not only feels great on the body but on the mind as well.
With an all-natural, muscle-optimized 2:1:1 ratio of pure, nature-identical BCAAs, Performance Lab® SPORT BCAA’s formula may help bodybuilding newcomers hit the ground running and bodybuilding veterans bound over mid-routine barriers and plateaus.
The goal of taking BCAAs isn’t solely to get those muscle and strength gains (although, that is the key prize we’re eyeing here) but to also feel good while getting them. After all, if you’re spending a significant amount of your time—your precious grains of sand from the proverbial hourglass of the sands of time—in the gym, you owe it to yourself to make that experience as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible.
Granted, a BCAA stack won’t do that entirely on its own, but it’ll definitely help, especially with a powerful, all-natural BCAA stack like Performance Lab® BCAA.
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