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With the smoothie bar at CFJ HQ having been regularly stocked with a range of supplements I have received a lot of questions about what the products are, especially the BCAAs and glutamine. Today we’ll just talk about BCAAs. BCAAs have been widely used and discussed by athletes, coaches, and sports and fitness professionals. They are frequently used in healthcare too. This post will cover some of the frequently asked questions to give you some guidance on whether or not to include BCAAs in your diet.

What are BCAAs?

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 22 amino acids that are necessary for life. Nine of those are essential amino acids. These cannot be manufactured by the body and must therefore be obtained from dietary protein sources – whole food sources. Three of the essential amino acids are known as BCAAs. These are leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs are oxidised in muscle tissue, and exercise increases BCAA oxidation.

What Does BCAA Supplementation Do?

  • Research has found that BCAA supplementation reduces markers of muscle damage and tissue breakdown. This suggests that BCAAs reduce the amount of exercise induced muscle damage.
  • BCAA supplementation has been shown to prevent muscle breakdown by sparing other essential amino acids found in muscle tissue. This simply means recovery time is enhanced by reducing the amount of muscle damage caused during exercise. This results in the ability to more frequently train at good intensities and that means better results.
  • One of the BCAAs, leucine, initiates protein synthesis. Exercise reduces protein synthesis, but leucine has been shown to improve protein synthesis post exercise. This enables the user to either maintain or increase muscle mass, even when trying to cut body weight. Increased muscle mass results in strength gains.

Who Should Take BCAAs?

If you are eating a good amount of protein from whole food sources, and are training for general health and fitness you probably don’t need to take BCAAs. If however you are looking to lose body fat while preserving muscle mass, are training more for performance or would like to increase lean muscle mass, then you should definitely consider adding a BCAA supplement to your diet.

Are Powders or Capsules Better?

There isn’t much of a difference here anymore. Nowadays a good quality BCAA product has the same amount of BCAAs per dose as a powder. It really comes down to personal preference and convenience.

When Should You Take It?

Consume the BCAAs around your training time. Either 15-30 minutes before training or immediately after your workout. If you have a strength-based session than a BCAA drink is good to sip on during the workout.

BCAA supplementation is safe and legal too 😉

If you’d like more information on BCAA use, or any other supplements for that matter, get in touch. Next time I’ll talk about glutamine.

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