BCAA’s are a set of amino acids well known to gymnasts, and are one of the supplements that you will find in any sports nutrition store.
These are three essential amino acids, they are: Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.
These three amino acids are present in practically all protein-rich foods, such as meat, fish or eggs, so if you eat a protein-rich diet, you probably already have a reasonable intake of BCAA’s.
Does this mean that it is not worth using this supplement?
Maybe yes maybe not.
Supplementation of BCAA’s in a diet rich in proteins of high biological value is not essential, but it can be beneficial, especially Leucine.
During exercise, there is a decline in these amino acids which leads, for example, to the occurrence of fatigue.
To better understand the benefits of BCAA’s, let’s isolate them, and talk a little about each one.
- Although much of the information in this article can be applied to all types of sports activities, it is focused above all on the world of gym and weight training.
Leucine is considered the most important amino acid in this group, and we can even say that it is the most important amino acid of all amino acids when it comes to the gym!
Because Leucine is the most potent amino acid of all to stimulate protein synthesis, which will lead to anabolism and consequent muscle growth.
The main mechanism of action of Leucine, is through the activation of a protein called mTOR.
This protein has an important role in the regulation of protein synthesis, and consequently in muscle growth.
Now, this does not mean that you just take a daily shower of Leucine and you will have muscle gains!
In addition to activating mTOR, Leucine stimulates the secretion of insulin, an extremely anabolic hormone and one of the metabolites of Leucine is HMB, known for its anti-catabolic action.
If it were only possible to choose one of the three amino acids, Leucine would be the best choice if your goal is to gain muscle mass, and you can easily find it for sale as a supplement in isolation.
After Leucine, the most important amino acid in this set is Isoleucine.
While Leucine plays an anabolic and muscle growth role above all, Isoleucine works more as an anti-catabolic and performance enhancer and maintenance.
Isoleucine promotes the consumption and storage of glucose within muscle cells, leading to more efficient use of energy.
In addition, it also induces protein synthesis, albeit less significantly than Leucine.
Therefore, with Isoleucine supplementation, it is possible that it takes longer to achieve fatigue and to stop exercise.
Finally, we have Valine, which is the least studied of the three amino acids in isolation, and also the one that theoretically provides the least benefits.
Valine shares some of the benefits of the other two amino acids, but it is less effective than both, and so far has no exclusive benefit as with the other two.
It is still an essential amino acid and with important functions in the body, it is only weaker when compared to both Leucine and Isoleucine when the objective is to improve body composition.
Now that we have talked a little about each of the amino acids, you already know what to expect minimally from supplementation with BCAA’s.
The synergy between the three amino acids can bring benefits such as:
- Greater muscle growth
- More performance
- Fatigue reduction
- Less muscle pain
The most notable benefits are in terms of reduced fatigue and muscle recovery.
Now, is it worth supplementing with BCAA’s?
Those who already use a whey protein before and after training, will notice few benefits with BCAA’s, since whey protein is naturally rich in these three amino acids, and each dose (of a good whey) brings on average 4g to 5g of BCAA’s.
This does not mean that it is useless, it is just far from essential.
Supplementation with BCAA’s makes sense at specific times, such as before, during and after training. This is where BCAA supplementation comes in, and it is very common to see these three amino acids in pre-workout supplements.
This is because it will promote an anabolic environment, mitigate fatigue and improve performance during training, which can lead to better results.
Who will benefit from BCAA’s?
- Anyone looking to increase muscle mass, increase in protein synthesis and greater glucose storage in muscle cells will help.
- Whoever wants to lose fat mass will benefit from the anti-catabolic action of BCAA’s.
- Those who practice resistance sports to BCAA’s supplementation will delay the action of fatigue, helping to maintain performance.
- Who trains in fast or with very little food, when waking up for example.
How much and when should I use BCAA’s?
The best time to use BCAA supplementation is before, during and after training.
You must use at least 5g, and you can use up to 15g to 20g, in a split way.
I’m undecided between powder or tablet BCAA’s, help me!
Powdered BCAA’s are usually cheaper and easier to dose, but they taste bad if you use the tasteless version.
Now in pills, in addition to paying more, you will probably have to fill yourself with pills to reach the ideal dose.
Yes, it’s true, we prefer powdered BCAAs.
The most common division is 2: 1: 1, meaning the dose of leucine is usually twice the amount of isoleucine and valine, and if you read the article, you know why! There are also formulas that go further, and use concentrations of leucine that are triple or quadruple compared to their other two companions.
Conclusion and opinion
BCAA’s are an interesting supplement, as long as you don’t expect miracles.
They help you to recover faster and spend less time complaining about the muscle pain of leg training, in addition to that in weight loss diets they can give a good help in maintaining muscle mass.
Now, if you already use a diet high in quality protein and are in excess of calories, the benefit will only exist if you use BCAA’s at the right times.
It is important to mention that most of the benefits of these amino acids happen not only through supplementation, but also through food, so a diet high in quality proteins is also high in BCAA’s.
However, the use of BCAA’s before, during and after training has benefits that only with supplementation are possible to achieve, such as reducing fatigue and creating a more anabolic environment around the training. Unless you’re thinking about eating a steak in the middle of training, of course.
If you already use whey in the before and after training, supplementation with BCAA’s from 0 to 5, would probably be a 2, reducing fatigue during training mainly. If you do not use whey, but follow a diet rich in proteins of high biological value, it would be a 3, and if that diet is not yet very finely tuned in terms of protein, the BCAA’s would probably take a 3.5.
In our opinion, it is a supplement that lags behind whey protein or creatine for example, but it is more advantageous than supplements such as glutamine or arginine.
If you have already used it, leave your opinion in the comments and tell us what you noticed and whether or not they are worth it.