You’ve probably heard that protein is the building blocks of muscle. Your muscles are basically a big pile of stored proteins in your body. So when you train your muscles (workout) you break them down and create damage within the muscle itself. When it repairs itself, it grows and gets bigger and stronger. Yay, that’s what we do it for!
Nutritionally, you need to ensure you have enough protein coming in to replenish and rebuild that muscle. Dietary protein is made up of amino acids (20 of them to be exact). Although they are all important, there are three in particular that are like the magic sweet sauce to muscle repair.
These three are the branched-chain amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine (named that for the branched molecular structure). These are the most crucial ones responsible for helping our muscles repair and grow after tough workouts. And out of the three, leucine is the real superpower – so most BCAA supplements will have a ratio of 2-1-1 (leucine being the highest).
BCAAs are made from foods like meat, dairy, and legumes, but they can also be synthesized in a laboratory. Athletes will use these supplements pre or post workout to ensure they have sufficient amounts to achieve optimal recovery.
The BCAAs in supplements are typically derived from animal sources, such as [brace yourself, it sounds kinda gross] chicken feathers, animal fur, or animal hooves. These sources are then processed and purified [take comfort in this word!] to create a powder or capsule form that can be easily consumed as a dietary supplement.
It’s important to note that the quality and purity of BCAA supplements can vary depending on the manufacturer and the source of the amino acids. Therefore, it’s important to choose a reputable brand and consult with a qualified sports nutritionist if you’re unsure.
BCAA supplements do contain calories. However, the amount is insignificant. In fact, you won’t even find a caloric nutrition label on most BCAAs. A typical serving of a BCAA powder supplement may contain around 5-10 calories, while a capsule supplement may contain only a few calories.
They’re also not typically measured in terms of grams of dietary protein per serving. Instead, they are measured in terms of the amount of each individual amino acid they contain. A typical serving of a BCAA powder supplement may contain around 5 grams of leucine, 2.5 grams of isoleucine, and 2.5 grams of valine.
Like all products, look for supplements that have the manufacturing process, and third-party testing and certification. Good manufacturing processes (GMPs) are essential to ensure the quality, purity, and safety of the product. Here are some key components of good manufacturing processes for BCAA supplements:
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The timing of BCAA supplement intake hasn’t been extensively researched, but most people chose to take them around the time of a workout to give the body the materials it needs when it needs it the most for recovery. Alternatively, using between meals can also be helpful.
There you go, my friend 👊🏼 I hope we’ve helped you understand the what, why, and how of BCAAs supplementation. Couple last thoughts to take away –
BCAAs are a very heavily researched sports supplement product and is considered safe and effective. That is, it actually does what it claims. So this one gets a ✓ in our books.
Lastly, as always when sourcing products, look for those sweetened with stevia or monk fruit instead of sucralose or sugar alcohols. They tend to be easier to digest and have less known potentially negative impacts to inflammatory and immune processes in the body (another article to dive into one day!)
Click here for our BCAA Slushy recipe!
“BCAAs: Everything You Need to Know About These Muscle-Building Amino Acids.” Healthline, 20 July 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bcaa.
“Best BCAA Supplements – Top 10 Brands Ranked for 2021.” Bodybuilding.com, 23 Apr. 2021, https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/best-bcaa-supplements.html.
“Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Guidelines/Inspection Checklist.” US Food and Drug Administration, 11 Aug. 2020, https://www.fda.gov/media/116736/download.
Ra, S. G., Miyazaki, T., Ishikura, K., Nagayama, H., Suzuki, T., & Maeda, S. (2013). Additional effects of taurine on the benefits of BCAA intake for the delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 1-8.
Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G., … & Mawatari, K. (2004). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 14(6), 684-696.
The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Build Holistic Nutrition. Please note that Build Nutrition is not a dietitian, physician, pharmacist or other licensed healthcare professional. The information on this website is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health care professional. This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. Always consult with your primary care physician or licensed healthcare provider for all diagnosis and treatment of any diseases or conditions, for medications or medical advice, as well as before changing your health care regimen.
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