What are BCAAs?

Ever see people at the gym with some kool aid looking drink in their shaker bottle and wonder what the heck it is? Or do you see people on Instagram posting selfies with their BCAAs and wonder if it's just an attempt to look cool or more "hardcore"? While we can't vouch for every shaker bottle's content, we can speak to the potential benefits of incorporating a BCAA supplement into your workout routine.

(Especially if you have troubles consuming enough protein!)

BCAAs, or branch chain amino acids, are a group of three essential amino acids (called branch chains because of their unique structure): leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Along with 17 other amino acids, they are the building blocks for protein in the body. BCAAs must be consumed through diet as the body cannot produce them naturally. They also play a vital role in protein synthesis and energy production.

So what does that mean and why should you potentially add them to your fitness routine?

Here are 3 great reasons. 


1. BCAAs can help you build lean muscle. Now when we say BCAAs here, we don't just mean the pink powder (or whatever color), we mean BCAAs in general, from food or supplements. You need them in order to stimulate protein synthesis, which is a process critical for developing new muscle. The levels of amino acids in your blood stream determine how much protein synthesis takes place, especially during exercise. (i.e. if you want to tone up, you need this process to happen because can't tone fat, you gotta build muscle.) If you are not eating enough protein, even if you are working out a ton, you may not be getting the results you want, and this could be a reason why. So the first step is eat protein with every meal (the best natural BCAA sources are from meat, chicken, fish, eggs, lentils, and nuts). As a second step, take BCAAs with you to the gym to make sure you are fueling your body properly. 

2. Leucine can help you burn fat while preserving muscle. Leucine is the most widely studied of the 3 branch chain amino acids. This particular super star of the BCAAs trio will activate mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), which will help up-regulate protein synthesis (basically it acts like a switch that turns the process on). This matters because it will help you preserve the muscles you just worked so hard to build during your session at the gym. Said another way, the body will burn fat after a workout while preserving muscle mass. 

3. BCAAs can help prevent (or lesson) muscle soreness from an intense workout. It's not a magic potion, so it won't completely negate soreness when you go hard at the gym, but because of the boosted protein synthesis process at work (compliments of proper levels of BCAAs available during and immediately after your workout), you may experience less muscle damage and improved recovery (i.e. not as sore). When you aren't super sore, you are less likely to skip a workout the next day. And consistency is what yields results.

Following why this is beneficial here? 

Hopefully, you can now see the importance of BCAAs as it relates to muscle growth (or toning), preservation of this hard earned muscle, and soreness prevention so that you can keep a more consistent workout schedule. Do you need to take a supplement to get the the positive effects? No, you don't, you can absolutely this this from diet alone. In fact, there is also evidence that high protein diets do not benefit from BCAA supplementation.

So whether or not you start supplementing with BCAAs during your workouts is up to you, but remember, the important thing is to consume a proper amount of protein in your diet to help fuel your muscles and burn unwanted fat! 

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