6 Benefits of Buying BCAA Powder / Capsules + 2 Cons

BCAA products have been promoted and used for muscle recovery and the prevention of muscle breakdown for decades. This makes it a popular supplement among bodybuilders and (strength) athletes. But is the popularity of this supplement well deserved?

Are BCAA supplements worth considering or a waste of money? In this article, I'll tell you everything you need to know about BCAAs.

What you will discover in this article includes:

  • Whether BCAA supplements are worth it for muscle recovery
  • How many grams of BCAA do you need daily
  • When is the best time to take BCAAs
  • Various Health Benefits of BCAAs
  • The Best Foods Containing High Amounts of BCAA
  • For which group of people BCAA use can be dangerous
  • And much, much more.

What is BCAA

BCAA, what is it? BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids or branched chain of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

Proteins that enter the body through food can be broken down into 22 amino acids. Of these 22 amino acids, 8 are essential.

BCAA Powder Benefits

That is, essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body itself and must be produced through a healthy diet.

The BCAAs makeup 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle tissue and are essential for molecular growth and development.

The BCAAs are a group of three of the eight essential amino acids:

  • L-leucine
  • L-isoleucine
  • L-valine

These three amino acids are called the BCAAs because they are the only three essential amino acids that branch out from the moiety.

Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs do not have to be broken down by the liver first, but they enter the bloodstream directly ( source ).

In addition to building cells and repairing tissue, they are involved in the production of antibodies, hormones, and enzymes. Amino acids are also important in the supply of oxygen and blood flow throughout the body.

BCAA effect

BCAAs represent about 35-40% of all the essential amino acids present in your body and 14-18% of the amount found in your muscles.

During intense weight training, your body is in a catabolic state. In fact, you are in a breaking phase for a while. At that point, glycogen stores are quickly depleted and the liver must synthesize glucose by converting L-alanine.

BCAAs are also involved in other important processes in the human body:

  • First, your body uses them as building blocks for proteins and muscles ( source )
  • BCAAs are involved in maintaining blood sugar levels and stimulate body cells to absorb sugar from the bloodstream ( source )
  • BCAAs can reduce the fatigue you feel during exercise by lowering the production of serotonin in the brain ( source )

Of the three essential amino acids called BCAAs, L-leucine has the greatest muscle-building effect. It prevents the breakdown of muscle tissue and stimulates the build-up of muscle proteins ( source ).

L-isoleucine and valine, on the other hand, are more effective at producing energy and regulating blood sugar levels ( source, source ).

In summary: The human body can use BCAAs to prevent muscle breakdown, build muscle proteins and produce energy. They also have a beneficial effect on your brain to reduce fatigue during exercise.

How much BCAAs per day (dose)

If you want to start taking BCAA supplements, it is wise to know how many grams of BCAA you should take per day.

The amount of BCAA depends on your individual needs and goals.

A 1985 report by the World Health Organization states that an adult needs at least 34 mg of BCAA per pound of body weight per day ( source ).

A recent study even goes up to 144 mg per kilogram of body weight per day ( source ).

Based on these newer studies, we arrive at the following dose:

  • Men: at least 12 grams of BCAAs per day
  • Women: at least 9 grams of BCAAs per day

People who have enough protein-rich foods in their diets probably don't need supplements.

Most studies that have examined the benefits of BCAA powder have used supplemental doses ranging from 10 to 20 grams of BCAA per day.

When to take BCAA?

The best time to take BCAA supplements is 5 grams of BCAA before and 5 grams of BCAA after training. Many bodybuilders also take BCAAs in the morning and right before going to bed.

Unfortunately, the exact timing of taking BCAA supplements has not (yet) been well researched.

Which BCAA do I use and recommend myself

I myself use BCAA purely from vitamin sports. A pure BCAA powder without sweeteners or flavors from a good and reliable health brand.

Food Sources With BCAA

In addition to supplements, BCAAs are also found in protein-rich foods. There are several foods that contain BCAAs.

Then think about:

  • Meat, poultry, and fish: 3-4.5 grams per 84 grams
  • Beans and lentils: 2.5-3 grams per cup
  • Tofu in tempĂ©: 0.9 all 2.3 grams by 84 grams
  • Kaas: 1,4 gram per 28 gram
  • Eggs: 1.3 grams per large egg
  • Pumpkin seeds: about 1 gram per 28 grams
  • Quinoa: 1 gram per beaker
  • Notes: 0.7-1 gram per 28 grams

Adding these foods to your diet can help you get your daily BCAA requirement.

Benefit #1: Reduces muscle soreness and accelerates muscle recovery

Okay, enough theory. Let me start by listing the benefits of BCAA supplements.

For starters, you can reduce muscle soreness after an intense workout with BCAA capsules.

The biggest advantage of BCAAs over whey shakes is the extremely fast absorption. BCAAs are quickly absorbed into the blood. With a whey shake, it can take hours for the leucine in your body to break down.

They do this by lowering the concentration of the enzymes creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase (abbreviated to LDH) in the blood, which is involved in muscle damage. This can protect against muscle damage and even improve recovery ( source ).

Above you see the concentration of creatine kinase before and up to 96 hours after training.

In several studies, participants were asked to rate their muscle soreness after performing strength exercises. Participants who received BCAA supplements had up to 33% less muscle pain than participants who took a placebo pill ( source, source ).

In some cases, a 20% improvement in performance was even observed when the participants repeated the same strength tests 24-48 hours later ( source ).

However, the positive effects of BCAA supplementation can vary based on your gender and the amount of protein in your diet ( source ).

Significantly reduce muscle pain with BCAA? Then take 5 grams of BCAA before training, 5 grams during the exercises, and 5 grams after training.

Benefit #2: can stimulate fat burning

Do you want to lose body fat or stay slim?

Then I have good news for you because using BCAA can help speed up weight loss.

Multiple studies have shown that participants who consume an average of 15 grams of BCAAs from their daily diet have up to a 30% lower risk of becoming obese than people who consume an average of 12 grams per day ( source, source ).

It should be noted that the people who consumed less BCAAs also ate an average of 20 grams of protein per day less, which may have significantly influenced the results.

If you want to lose weight, BCAAs can help you get rid of excess pounds. Professional wrestlers who followed a high-protein, calorie-restricted diet for 19 days lost 1.6 kg more in body weight than the wrestlers who received a supplement of soy protein ( source ).

The BCAA group also lost 0.6% more body fat than the soy protein group, despite consuming the same amount of calories per day.

In another 8-week study, weightlifters with 14 grams of BCAAs per day lost 1% more body fat than the group who received 28 grams of whey protein per day. The BCAA group had also gained 2 kilos more in muscle mass ( source ).

The only caveat to these studies is that they reveal little information about the composition of the BCAA supplement and the diet followed, which could influence the results of the studies.

In other words, BCAA supplementation can help with weight loss, but additional research is needed to determine whether BCAA supplements provide additional benefits than a high-protein diet.

Benefit #3: Helps Lower Blood Sugar Levels

BCAA supplements can help normalize blood sugar levels.

L-leucine and isoleucine are known to increase the secretion of insulin and cause your muscles to absorb more sugar from your blood, lowering your blood sugar level ( source ).

Unfortunately, other BCAA studies show less favorable results ( source ). Some studies even report possible increases in blood sugar depending on the diet the participants had to follow. When BCAAs in supplement form is combined with a high-fat diet, this can potentially lead to insulin resistance ( source ).

That said, many of these studies were done on animals, meaning the results don't automatically apply to humans. So you don't have to worry (yet). If you do strength training and fitness, it is wiser to follow a protein-rich diet instead of a high-fat diet.

BCAAs may help lower blood sugar, but more new studies are needed to confirm the positive effects.

Benefit #4: Promotes muscle growth

Most bodybuilders and athletes who buy BCAA supplements do so because they want to build more muscle mass and faster.

It has been scientifically confirmed that BCAA activates certain enzymes that are responsible for building muscle tissue ( source ).

Some studies also show that BCAA supplements may be effective at increasing muscle mass, especially if they contain a higher percentage of leucine than L-isoleucine and valine ( source ).

However, it is still unclear whether BCAA supplementation works better than whey proteins for building muscle mass. In some cases, taking whole protein (whey) supplements have been shown to be better for muscle growth than supplementing with individual essential amino acids ( source ).

In any case, it is agreed that BCAA capsules are useful for muscle building. You get them by eating high-quality protein-rich food or by taking supplements.

Benefit #5: Reduces fatigue during training

Do you sometimes yawn between sets? Lifting weights requires a lot of energy.

But now it appears that the use of BCAA powder can help to combat physical and mental fatigue.

Studies with human participants report up to 15% less fatigue when BCAAs are taken during training (source).

In another study, participants experienced so-called 'heat stress' during a bicycle test. This is the time when your body temperature is raised by physical exertion.

The participants had to drink a drink containing BCAAs or a placebo. Those who drank the BCAA drink managed to cycle on average 12% longer than the placebo group ( source ).

In addition, research shows that BCAAs work even better for untrained individuals than trained individuals at reducing exercise fatigue ( source ).

Benefit #6: Helps people with liver problems

BCAAs can help reduce complications related to liver disease.

One complication that can occur in people with liver problems is hepatic encephalopathy (HE), which can lead to confusion, loss of consciousness, and even coma.

A recent study concluded that people with liver disease benefit more from BCAA supplements than other supplements to reduce the severity of HE ( source ).

Another review study (that's a study that looks at several studies on a particular topic) reported that BCAA-fortified foods help improve liver function, reduce the risk of complications, and shorten hospital stays ( source ).

BCAA supplements may also be effective in combating fatigue and muscle cramps and improving sleep quality in people with liver disease ( source ).

BCAA Cons and Side Effects

Taking BCAA supplements is generally safe and without side effects for most people. However, there are some minor drawbacks and possible side effects that I will briefly mention.

Disadvantage #1: BCAA supplements are probably unnecessary

Studies indicate that a total BCAA intake of 15 to 35 grams per day is safe for humans. However, that does not mean that you should immediately go to the first best supplement store.

There is a good chance that you already get this amount of BCAAs from your diet. That makes BCAA supplements unnecessary for most athletes.

It is mainly leucine that leads to muscle growth, which you can really only get from animal products. Are you a vegan and want to gain muscle? Then I advise you to take BCAA supplements.

Disadvantage #2: dangerous in combination with certain diseases

The use of BCAA supplements is not recommended for people who suffer from the neuromuscular disease ALS or the hereditary metabolic disease MSUD ( source, source ).

ALS is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases worldwide and has received particular attention in the Netherlands by a former football player and ALS patient Fernando Ricksen. This terrible disease kills the nerve cells that control the muscles.

People with the rare congenital disorder MSUD are also advised to limit their intake of BCAAs because their bodies are not able to break down amino acids properly.

Conclusion: BCAAs yes or no?

BCAAs, or Branches Chain Amino Acids, can provide benefits under certain circumstances, especially when it comes to muscle growth and physical performance.

Do I recommend taking BCAA supplements? If you are not sure whether you are getting the recommended daily amount, you could consider BCAA capsules or powder. But BCAAs can also be found in protein-rich foods.

Do you have a protein-rich diet, supplemented with high-quality protein supplements? Then ordering BCAA supplements is not really necessary in my opinion. It can be beneficial for avid athletes to use BCAA supplements.

If it doesn't help, then it doesn't hurt. You can at least give it a try and see what it does to you.

What is your opinion on BCAA supplements? Let me know in a comment below!

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