Although BCAA powder often appears to be just another giant tub of powder among many on a frequent gym-goer’s shelf, it might just be the most important giant tub of powder you can have. Here’s why.
There are 20 amino acids in the human body. The human body uses amino acids to make proteins to help the body break down food, repair tissue, grow, and perform numerous other body functions.
Of the 20, nine are considered essential amino acids. This means that they cannot be made by your body. Instead, they must be obtained through your diet.
Three of the nine essential amino acids are the branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
BCAAs are found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy products. But if you don’t have enough of these foods in your diet, you may want to try to get your BCAAs through the newly popular supplement of BCAA powder.
Keep reading if you’re interested in:
- A BCAA powder breakdown
- The benefits of BCAAs explained
- Whether or not you should be taking BCAA powder
BCAA Powder Breakdown
BCAA powder contains the branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine in powder form.
BCAAs possess an extremely bitter taste profile, leucine, which is considered to be the most effective of the three BCAAs at stimulating muscle protein synthesis, being the most bitter. As a result, the higher the concentration of leucine, the more bitter the BCAA powder.
However, masking agents are often used to subvert BCAA powder’s unpleasant taste. Some common masking agents are sweeteners and acids such as sucralose, stevia, and citric acid.
Flavor is also added to BCAA powder so that it’s more enjoyable to consume. The flavors are usually fruity, ranging from strawberry and peach to fruit punch, like this supplement from Dr. Emil Nutrition, and sour candy flavored. But unflavored BCAA powder is not hard to find if that’s what you prefer.
BCAA powder can be mixed with water, sports drinks, or even added to your favorite smoothie.
The Benefits of BCAAs
BCAAs can have numerous positive effects on your body. We’ve narrowed it down to what we believe are the top three.
1. Decreased Muscle Soreness
BCAAs can contribute to decreased muscle soreness.
Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, affects many people after exercise. It develops 12 to 24 hours after exercise and can last up to 72 hours. Researchers believe DOMS is caused by tiny tears in the muscle after exercise, but BCAAs have been proven to decrease muscle damage.
In one study, people who consumed BCAAs before a squat exercise experienced reduced DOMS and muscle fatigue compared to the placebo group.
So eating a snack high in BCAAs, such as cottage cheese, or using a BCAA powder supplement before you exercise may decrease your muscle soreness and speed up your recovery time.
2. Increased Muscle Growth
BCAAs can also increase muscle growth.
The BCAA leucine activates a pathway in the body that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, or, the process of making muscle.
But keep in mind that you need all of the essential amino acids in order to build muscle. BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, but not without the other essential amino acids.
3. Reduced Exercise-Induced Fatigue
BCAAs can also reduce exercise-induced fatigue.
Everyone, at some point, experiences fatigue from exercise. How quickly or how often one experiences this depends on factors such as intensity, duration, and fitness level.
BCAAs contribute to the increase in levels of the essential amino acid tryptophan in your brain. Tryptophan is then converted to serotonin, which is the chemical in your brain that is thought to contribute to the development of fatigue during exercise.
Should I Be Taking BCAA Powder?
Now to answer the question of whether or not you should be taking BCAA powder, you have to take a look into your diet.
Are you getting enough BCAAs by eating foods high in BCAAs such as beef, chicken, whey or soy protein powder, canned tuna, salmon, eggs, and greek yogurt?
If the answer is yes, you probably don’t need a BCAA supplement like BCAA powder. You’re actually better off getting BCAAs from complete protein sources such as these because they contain all the essential amino acids. In addition, consuming protein-rich foods will also provide you with other important nutrients that BCAA supplements lack.
Nick Mitchell, CEO and founder of Ultimate Performance, put it best:
"You can get all the amino acids that you need from real food and you will not suffer if you do not take supplements.”
However, there are many reasons why someone might not be able to get enough BCAAs from food.
If you are vegan or vegetarian and can’t have many of these complete protein sources, you may not be getting enough BCAAs from your food. You may want to look into a BCAA supplement like BCAA powder in order to get enough BCAAs to reap the benefits of what BCAAs can do for your body.
BCAAs stands for branched-chain amino acids. The BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
These are three of the nine essential amino acids, essential amino acids meaning they cannot be made by your body and instead must be obtained through your diet.
The top three benefits of BCAAs are decreased muscle soreness, increased muscle growth, and reduced exercise-induced fatigue.
You can get BCAAs from a diet full of protein-rich food like chicken, eggs, and salmon. You’re actually better off getting BCAAs from complete protein sources such as these because they contain all the essential amino acids.
However, if you don’t get enough BCAAs from your diet, you may want to look into a BCAA supplement such as BCAA powder so your body can still get all of the benefits of BCAAs.