A Complete Bodybuilding Guide Into BCAA Supplements

You’ve heard all about them, but what is so special about BCAAs Supplements?

Branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs, have long sat on shelves at stores as a popular supplement for athletes of all levels to really boost performance, see muscle growth, and aid in recovery. But much debate has been had on these supplements and just how effective they truly are. The back and forth flip-flop of this debate may have steered you in the other direction when it came to trying BCAAs, but they are something that could ultimately work to boost your performance to new heights.

Knowing about them and what they are about is the majority of the battle we face with BCAAs. Too often we just don’t know what they are, what the benefits are, or when to take them. With so many questions, we turn off and continue on our own making do with what we do understand. But don’t let naivety and a lack of understanding hurt your bodybuilding goals. BCAAs are something that can seriously help you see those goals become a reality so dive in with us as we breakdown the important aspects of BCAA supplements and what they can do for you.

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What Are BCAAs?

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are three essential amino acids (EAAs), yet they differ in their chemical structures. Let’s begin with amino acids. Amino acids are organic compounds that are the foundation of protein, and as we all know, protein is the building blocks of muscle. 20 amino acids make up protein, but of those 20, only 9 are considered essential amino acids. They are essential because the body cannot produce them and must be obtained through food or supplements. The nine essential amino acids include: histidine, isoleucine, lysine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, threonine, and valine.

For our purposes of BCAAs, the three essential amino acids that are also considered branched chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. What separates BCAAs from EAAs is that their side chain branches out allowing for a different metabolic rate. You can find BCAAs in food with large amounts of protein and this will help with protein synthesis but also recovery. Since your body turns to glycogen stores for energy and fuel during a workout, BCAAs can prevent fatigue and offer that boost so your body doesn’t take from your muscle for that much needed fuel.

Role Of Each BCAA

Let’s break down the role of each of our three branched-chain amino acids because each offers a specific role to really enhance your overall growth and recovery.

Leucine

Leucine is the main essential amino acid that begins the process of combining amino acids to muscle protein. This will help with protein synthesis which leads to muscle growth (1). It enhances protein synthesis further by boosting insulin levels which are an anabolic hormone. It also boosts growth hormone which promotes muscle growth and is needed to support a healthy muscle since it also reduces cortisol which can break muscle down.

Isoleucine

Isoleucine tackles some of the fat burning properties on BCAAs so that desired change in body composition starts to come full circle. It activates receptors knows as PPAR which start to move stored fat and increase the fat burning process for energy. Using this stored fat for fuel will really see a shed in that unwanted and stubborn body fat (2).

Valine

Valine works against another essential amino acid called tryptophan which produces serotonin in the brain. Tryptophan wants to signal to the brain that the body is fatigued, but valine works to stop it in order to delay that fatigue so you cognitively work harder throughout your workout (3).

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Benefits of BCAAs

The benefits of BCAAs are important for your overall growth and performance and should definitely not be overlooked when it comes to these supplements.

  • Muscle growth: Activates certain pathways in the body to fuel protein synthesis and see that desired growth.
  • Decrease soreness: Protecting muscles and stopping breakdown, they decrease the amount of time you actually feel sore (4).
  • Reduce fatigue: Stop tryptophan from getting to your brain to settle and induce a feeling of fatigue (5).
  • Stop muscle wasting: Restore lost amino acids to muscles to keep them primed and ready to go.

While the benefits are highly debated among many, it is important to remember that everyone is different and no one supplement fits all. While BCAAs are crucial for your overall development whether you take a supplement or not, it should be noted that can really help you with growth and performance and that is exactly what you need out of your bodybuilding goals.

When To Take BCAAs

It is important to know when to take BCAAs in order to get their maximum benefit, but thankfully you can take BCAAs at all stages of your workout to really feel effects.

Before A Workout: If taken before, it can help release fat which can be used for energy as well as preventing muscle breakdown if in a fasted state.

During A Workout: For an intra-workout boost, BCAAs can supply constant energy to your body by stopping fatigue from setting in and improving your focus to keep you alert and moving forward.

Post-Workout: For after your workout, BCAAs can help with muscle repair and recovery and will help speed up protein synthesis to help your muscles heal much faster.

Recommended BCAA Supplement

While there are many great BCAA supplements on the market, one in particular stands out as a great option for your bodybuilding goals. National Bodybuilding Co. Pro Contest BCAA is a solid supplement to optimize recovery, growth, and strength. Naturally sourced ingredients and a side effect guarantee ensures this formula will work for you to build muscle, promote recovery, prevent muscle breakdown, and boost athletic performance. Pro Contest BCAA won for Best Post-Workout in the GI Supplement Awards and for good reason. This BCAA is a great option for you to enhance all of your bodybuilding goals.

Check out National Bodybuilding Pro Contest BCAA and the other finalists for Best Post-Workout in the GI Supplement Awards here!

Wrap Up

Using a good quality BCAA supplement can really enhance all of your bodybuilding goals when it comes to muscle building, recovery, and high functioning cognitive abilities. Finding the right BCAA can be challenging but we have great options for you so all of your goals can be met as safely and effectively as possible. Keep seeing great gains and let BCAAs help you toward success with your health and fitness goals.

Check out our list of the 10 Best BCAA Supplements here!

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato

References

  1. Blomstrand, Eva; Eliasson, Jorgen; Karlsson, Hakan K. R.; Kohnke, Rickard (2006). “Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise”. (source)
  2. Luo, Yanhong; Zhang, Xin; Zhu, Zhengpeng; Jiao, Ning; Qiu, Kai; Yin, Jingdong (2018). “Surplus dietary isoleucine intake enhanced monounsaturated fatty acid synthesis and fat accumulation in skeletal muscle of finishing pigs”. (source)
  3. Tsuda, Yuichi; Iwasawa, Kaori; Yamaguchi, Makoto (2018). “Acute supplementation of valine reduces fatigue during swimming exercise in rats”. (source)
  4. Negro, M.; Giardina, S.; Marzani, B.; Marzatico, F. (2008). ” Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system”. (source)
  5. Blomstrand, Eva (2006). “A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue”. (source)
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Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.