BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) is a type of sports nutrition that is ground white powder. BCAAs are 3 essential amino acids (leucine, valine, isoleucine) that are not synthesized in our body and must be supplied with food. BCAAs are produced in various forms, it can be powder or its forms such as capsules or tablets. Also BCAAs are produced in already dissolved form in the form of a ready-made drink. The pure powder is bitter and unpleasant in taste, so manufacturers add various flavors to improve the taste of the product.
The key benefits of BCAAs
BCAAs are one of the most popular sports supplements on the sports nutrition market today. Manufacturers claim many benefits of taking BCAAs, namely:
1) Protect muscles from destruction.
2) Help to recover faster.
3) Perform an energetic function.
4) Increase lean muscle mass.
5) Have a fat burning effect.
6) Increase power performance.
7) Stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Today, there is a large number of researches proving all these positive effects of consuming BCAAs. Here is a list of the most famous scientific works on the topic (with a title by author):
1) Yoshiharu Shimomura. Result: BCAAs are essential during exercise. Taking BCAAs before and after training reduces muscle fiber breakdown and also increases muscle protein synthesis.
2) Elisabet Borsheim. Result: BCAAs increase muscle protein synthesis.
3) Jim Stoppani. Result: Taking BCAAs for 8 weeks of strength training led to a decrease in body fat percentage, increased lean muscle mass and increased strength performance.
However, there are heated debates around these studies. Some people believe that the researches have faults and inaccuracies. There are also reverse studies that prove that BCAAs do not affect either the increase in strength and muscle mass, or the fact that they have a fat burning effect.
It’s all marketing. Believe it or not, you can only determine experimentally. Judging by myself, I can say for sure that training (with the same correct daily calorie intake and protein / fats / carbs ratio) with BCAAs is easier than without them. The intensity of training with BCAAs is much higher than without them, and you recover with BCAAs after workout faster. Therefore, I believe that effects such as the fulfillment of the energy function and accelerated recovery are true.
How to consume BCAAs correctly for muscle growth
There is also a lot of disagreement about this. Some people advise taking excess doses, up to 40-100 grams of BCAAs per day. In my opinion, such a recommendation as taking 5-15 grams (depending on the weight of the athlete) before or during training is the most correct. For an athlete who weighs approximately 80-85 kg I would recommend 10-gram portion of BCAAs.
You can also take BCAAs during both periods such as mass gaining and fat burning. During the period of mass gain, BCAAs will help to increase the intensity of training, which means that there will be more preconditions for hypertrophy of muscle fibers. They will also help you recover faster after exercise. During losing weight period, BCAAs will help keep the muscles from breaking down. The duration of the BCAAs intake is unlimited, no breaks are required.
How to choose BCAAs
The ratio of essential amino acids in a BCAA jar can vary. It can be 2:1:1 (leucine, valine, isoleucine), 3:1:2, 4:1:1, 8:1:1, or even 16:1:1. The most appropriate choice would be BCAAs with a 2:1:1 ratio. Amino acids are absorbed in the intestines, they have special channels through which absorption occurs. So there is competition for these channels among amino acids, and an excess of one amino acid can interfere with the absorption of another. The ratio of 2:1:1 is physiologically the most correct and natural, from this point of view.
It is also important to look at the composition of the BCAA jar. These 3 essential amino acids in the product must be in the L-form. That is, L-Leucine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine. Amino acids come in 2 forms: L-form and D-form. So, the composition of proteins includes L-form amino acids, therefore only this form of amino acids is absorbed by our body.
The check of BCAAs on fake
At the moment, it is rare to find pure BCAA powder without flavor. Almost all BCAAs that manufacturers now produce have flavorings and emulsifiers. Therefore, such a test as adding BCAAs to a glass of water, on which they should form a cover and dissolve poorly, can only be used on pure BCAA, without flavorings and emulsifiers.
The same goes for testing BCAAs for taste. Pure BCAAs without flavorings or emulsifiers taste bitter and nasty. BCAAs with flavors and emulsifiers can only be tested in the laboratory. Not the most affordable method. Of the methods available to you, whether BCAAs work or not can only be determined by how you feel. Moreover, you should compare BCAAs of different companies under the same conditions. There is no need to mark BCAAs of certain manufacturers as fake just because today you have not slept or eaten well.