BCAA’s are probably something you have come across in an advert for a protein powder or a recovery supplement, but it’s not immediately clear what BCAA stands for, what it is or why you should or should not be adding it to your diet.
Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAA’s, form the building blocks of protein. Certain proteins are synthesised by our bodies, the rest must come from our diet. BCAA’s represent a third of the proteins which we have to get from an external source.
BCAA’s can be found in food, you can get essential amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine and valine from foods such as red meats and milk. BCAA's are also available in various quantities in different off-the-shelf supplements and shakes on the market, which are ideal substitutes for those who do not consume animal products.
How do you know how many BCAA’s your body needs to properly fuel itself, and what do they do?
Until you know how your body converts proteins and vitamins at a genetic level, you cannot really know what your body needs. The off the shelf nutrition or meal replacement brand you may be using could be falling well short of the amount of BCAA’s you need to properly function and perform at the gym.
What do BCAA’s do? There is a growing body of research that suggests that BCAA's improve muscle synthesis, which means that they boost muscle growth. There have also been studies that show that BCAA’s can reduce muscle soreness and fatigue after a workout - as a result you will be able to train harder and for a longer period.
You can take your BCAA supplement or food(s) before or after your workout, whatever suits you best.
In a nutshell, if you are trying to get stronger and bigger muscles, ensuring that you get BCAA’s in your diet - whether from a supplement or a food source - is important. Once you have completed a DNA test, you will have a better understanding of what your body really needs and can therefore fuel yourself correctly.