BCAA supplements are often hyped amongst the bodybuilding community. That’s because they are one of the few natural supplements that are left. They aren’t chemically created or enhanced, they are simply an ingredient turned supplement.
They are also found in many different supplements, so they are recognized by most. However, not many truly know what they are, what they do, and if they’re of value as individual supplements.
What Are BCAAs?
To be specific, BCAAs (or Branch Chain Amino Acids) are essential amino acids that are recognized for their anticatabolic traits. This means that they work against catabolism, which is the primary reason for muscle loss.
There are around 500 different amino acids that have been found in our world. The human body needs a total of 20 different amino acids. Within those 20 amino acids are nine essential amino acids, which are amino acids that can only be taken in through one’s diet. All BCAAs fit in this category.
In total, there are three different BCAAs that exist.
All together, these three amino acids make up 35% of the essential amino acids for muscle proteins.
The Functions of BCAAs in the Human Body
There are countless functions of BCAAs within the human body. Mainly, what differentiates these from the other 17 amino acids that the body needs is they operate as a primary fuel source for the skeletal muscles.
To give you a better idea, here is a list of some of the more important effects of each type of BCAA.
Iso-leucine assists with enzymes and proteins. Their primary function is to regulate and control protein tertiary structuring. It also assists with other types of biochemical functions within the human body. Some of these functions are a source of energy, while others help with alertness and upper brain stimulation.
Leucine has the same effects as iso-leucine in the human body. It differs based on the enzymes that it must attach to in order to achieve these effects. The only real difference is that while iso-leucine isn’t able to, leucine can actually produce protein within muscle cells. This is an essential component of muscle growth.
Valine is responsible for dictating the 3D structuring of proteins. Valine is not as common in the bodybuilding world as it hasn’t been proven in studies to have any real anabolic benefits or anticatabolic functions.
In reality, the effects of BCAAs go a little deeper than what is listed here. However, it could be an entire book of scientific details if you get into the details. What’s more important is how each of them are applied from a bodybuilding perspective.
What Are the Weightlifting Benefits of BCAA Supplements?
So a BCAA supplement fills your body with all the BCAAs. This means that you will constantly have full BCAA stores. This also means that your body will be able to achieve maximum usage of its BCAA stores.
The results of this are pretty much the same as the effects listed above.
- You will be able to put on as much muscle as possible.
- You will be able to minimize muscle loss.
- You will be able to be more alert both inside and outside of the gym.
- You will be able to completely recover your muscles quicker after a workout.
- You will be able to perform physical activity with a higher level of stamina.
- You will be able to limit the severity and frequency of delayed onset muscle soreness.
Sure, you can get these benefits in other ways. The idea is that by getting them through BCAA supplementation you will be killing two birds with one stone. Otherwise, if you have a BCAA deficit in your diet you will be putting yourself at a disadvantage.
What Are the Side Effects of BCAA Supplements?
BCAA supplements contain BCAAs, which are completely natural and safe to the body. The specific side effects of BCAA supplements are usually based on the other ingredients that are found inside of them. So if any BCAAs aren’t needed, it will be wasted through your urine. The body can usually find other uses for it though.
The main downfall is that BCAAs effect neurotransmitters once absorbed. This study provides more insight on that.
When Should You Use BCAA Supplements?
BCAA supplements are often used religiously by bodybuilders. This means that they are a regular part of their supplement stack. Some will choose to take them only on their training days, usually before or during their workout, while others will take them on a daily basis.
During your workout is a great time to take BCAAs as the body is able to break them down better. BCAA in muscle tissues reaches its lowest point near the end of a workout. Using it as an intra-workout will help replenish what is left and provide added replenishment for post-workout recovery.
What Results Should You Expect From BCAA Supplements?
BCAA supplements are not going to work like steroids and turn you into the next Arnold. All they are going to do is make sure that the body is working at its best. In a way, they are much like multivitamins – people only take multivitamin supplements because they prevent multivitamin deficiency. The main difference is that BCAAs actually have a direct function within muscle cells, where preventing a deficiency is of the utmost importance.
Are BCAA Supplements Necessary?
If you have the money to invest in quality supplements, a BCAA supplement should definitely be high up in your list. In fact, it should be somewhere around the third spot after creatine and protein (in that order) but this is up to you.
If you plan to purchase supplements that are rich in BCAA, make sure that you research the particular product. Some brands provide higher quality supplements than others; you want to make sure that you get the real effects and functions of the BCAAs out of whatever product you buy. Reading reviews of specific products and choosing from the top-rated options is a good way to make sure you make a wise purchase.