10 BCAA Benefits For Athletes (when should you take BCAAs?)
We’ve discussed branched chained amino acids (BCAAS) a lot on this website, in part because we produce the #1 selling all natural caffeine free BCAA on Amazon. The base of all the articles and the products will always be in my belief (backed by years of clinical research) in the effectiveness of BCAAs for athletes. Anyone looking to perform better and build muscle has a place for BCAA supplements in their diet.
What are the unique benefits of BCAAS for athletes?
Let’s define what BCAAS actually are. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are the three branched chain amino acids that have an extra (hence the “branched” ) chain when compared to all of the other amino acids typically found in protein sources.
BCAAS are essential amino acids which means that you must get them from your diet, they can not be produced by the body on its own. Sure, BCAAS can be found in any high protein source such as fish, beef and chicken. If it’s “high in protein” as the term goes, then it contains BCAAS.
How many BCAAS should you take a day?
Speaking purely on BCAA powder like The Physique Formula all natural BCAAS, research seems to point to a cut off of the benefits around 15-20 grams per day. This actually is a lot more than most individuals currently take. The only PROVEN ratio of BCAA is what we use in The Physique Formula brand, 2:1:1 (leucine, isoleucine, valine).
Most individuals take too little BCAAS. At minimum I’d suggest 5 grams of leucine (2 scoops) per day.
When is the best time to take BCAAS?
The benefit of BCAAS is that they can be taken in between meals to increase and maintain muscle protein synthesis. They also are fantastic as part of a keto pre workout, they can be used intra workout as well. I favor taking BCAAS during a workout to flood my working muscle with BCAAS but I also take them once or twice in between meals.
If you’re going to do some fasted training or a Crossfit interval workout then I think you should have some BCAAs before you head to train.
What are the benefits of BCAAS vs whole food?
The debate about BCAAS vs whole food is endless. While whole food sources of protein do contain BCAAS, using a BCAA powder has additional benefits to athletes.
1-BCAAS are absorbed directly on skeletal muscle.
A traditional protein source, let’s use a chicken breast for example, needs to be broken down through a variety of digestive processes before those amino acids hit your blood stream.
Even after all of that, those amino acids will go to the production of your hair, skin, nails and other daily essential tasks. Only then is whatever is left over going to muscle growth.
BCAA supplements however, act directly on muscle tissue, and are precisely used for muscle enhancement and performance.(1)
2-BCAAS are beneficial for individuals suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Often times people suffering from IBS will get bloated or have digestive discomfort after a heavy protein meal. Since BCAAs by pass the liver and go directly to muscle cells, they will not start this process. As a result, less inflammation occurs.
3 BCAAS are an instant fuel source.
During intense exercise, the body preferentially breaks down muscle tissue to sustain longer duration activity. Before the body can break down actual muscle, it needs to break down stored BCAAS first. If you supplement with BCAAs during your training, you’ll have a readily available fuel source.
Additional research has shown how BCAA delay fatigue during training. While our primary fuel source is glucose (stored carbohydrates), a lot of athletes follow low carb diets thus depleting their glycogen. BCAAS seem to act in place of glucose to allow you to further training. (2)
4 BCAAS slow muscle break down.
Not only do BCAAs start the process of muscle protein synthesis, which is increasing muscle growth but they also delay and slow down the processes involved in muscle break down. Double benefit for athletes. (3)
Go ahead and do an intense Crossfit kettlebell workout, I bet you'll wish you had BCAAS!
5 BCAAS delay mental fatigue.
Going back to point three, BCAAs can also delay neural fatigue. By blocking the amino acid tryptophan, BCAAs can delay central nervous system that essential shuts down your muscles. Every athlete knows what it’s like to push late in a workout or game, that’s largely neurally driven. BCAAs assist in that. (4)
6 BCAAs can make you run further faster.
When athletes regularly consumed BCAAS they exhibited higher VO2 mass, reduced time to hit lactate threshold (the burning sensation that causes you to fatigue) and had greater power. That’s pretty cool! (5)
Additional research on 12 grams of BCAA supplementation per day found that athletes increased their relative strength when compared to their body mass by 4%. That’s getting stronger without gaining weight. (6)
7 BCAAS save muscle tissue
Regardless if you are an endurance athlete or are following some type of low carb diet, you’re at risk for losing muscle mass. BCAAS have been shown to reduce muscle breakdown which is why we recommend BCAA use during fasted training. (1)
8: BCAAS build muscle
The main component of BCAAs is the amino acid leucine which has been shown critical for increasing muscle protein synthesis. While you can eat a large volume of protein per day, you need to hit your muscle protein synthesis target multiple times per day depending on your muscle mass and activity level. (7)
9: BCAAS improve muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness
A meta analysis of over 30 studies on BCAAs have shown that using BCAAS reduces muscle soreness and helps you recover faster. For individuals in hard training cycles or for those who train twice per day, BCAA supplements appear to be of greater benefit. (8)
10; BCAAS boost your immune system
Athletes train hard. All of that volume stresses your body which can lead to overtraining and sickness. Consistent BCAA use has been shown to increase immune system strength during intense training. While BCAAs alone have been shown to increase the thin protective lining of your gut, I’ve included additional glutamine as well. This reduces your chances to getting sick as well as improves your irritable bowel syndrome. (9)
These are the 10 top BCAA benefits for athletes. I hope you decided to include some Physique Formula BCAAS with stevia into your training program.