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BCAA refer to the 3 of the 9 "essential" amino acids. Leucine appears to stimulate muscle protein synthesis while isoleucine and valine can help to prevent muscle soreness.
Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) refer to the three “essential” amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine.
Unlike other amino acids, these three BCAAs have to be consumed via the diet – your body cannot create them by itself.
What do BCAA do?
Protein is made in our body using amino acids. Both protein and amino acids are required for the normal functioning of our bodies.
There are two types of amino acids: essential and nonessential.
Essential amino acids, including the BCAA, are not made by our bodies: we must get them via our diet.
Amino acids are especially useful in tissue repair and regrowth. This is why athletes and bodybuilders often take additional protein and amino acid supplements.
Unlike other essential amino acids, BCAA amino acids are usually processed directly in the muscles rather than in the liver.
This means that BCAA have the potential to give you that extra support when you are exercising.
They may also increase your muscle mass at a faster rate and prevent muscle wastage.
More energy means you may also find yourself feeling more energised for longer.
Additionally, some research suggests that taking amino acid supplements when you work out may reduce the likelihood of having sore muscles – a great added bonus.
When to take BCAA
BCAA protein is best to take just before, during or after workouts.
It depends on the form you take and the manufacturer’s instructions.
For example, Grenade Defend BCAA recommends dissolving its powder in water and consuming any time during the day, and especially during workouts.
This is true of many of the BCAA powders, which can be added to water or sports drinks.
As well as BCAA powders, there are several types of ready-made BCAA drink, such as Nocco BCAA, which comes in various flavours, for example, Nocco BCAA Passion.
Another great brand of BCAA drink is Nutramino HEAT BCAA Drink.
These drinks usually come super-charged with caffeine and other workout boosters, such as taurine (another amino acid) and vitamins.
BCAA supplement: BCAA powder
When it comes to the best BCAA powder, it is good to think first about your lifestyle.
Will you have time to add your supplement to home-made smoothies?
Or do you need something that you can add to a small amount of water for a quick shot?
Do you have strong flavour preferences?
There are plenty of BCAA flavoured products, such as Grenade Defend BCAA, which comes in Tropical, Apple or Strawberry & Mango.
BCAA for women
Women are specifically catered for with Women’s Best BCAA, which comes in both Blue Raspberry and Ice Tea Peach flavours.
The Women’s Best BCAA powders easily dissolve into water for a refreshing workout drink.
Women’s Best products are especially formulated for women’s workout needs and are vegan and gluten free.
Best BCAA for men
As for men, they are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing the best amino acids supplements.
Many of the top sports supplements brands makes BCAA-specific supplements, including USN and Precision Engineered.
USN BCAA includes USN BCAA Power Punch, which comes in Tangerine, Watermelon and Cherry flavour.
For anyone wanting to supplement all their essential amino acids in one shot, USN BCAA +EAA covers all your amino BCAA needs.
It comes in Apple or Blue Raspberry flavour.
What to consider before you take BCAA
As with all supplements and high-intensity exercise plans, it is a good idea to discuss with your doctor before you start, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
It is good to remember that most people will easily achieve their daily dose of BCAA through food.
It is generally only athletes or those doing intensive exercise plans that may want to support their diet with an additional supplement.
PE Nutrition from Holland & Barrett, offers a range of products to help with muscle growth, maintenance and athletic performance.
Branched chain amino acids, usually referred to as BCAAs and sometimes called BCAA amino acids, are the collective name of leucine, isoleucine and valine.
Three of the 20 amino acids that make up the different proteins in our bodies, branched chain amino acids are so called due to their chemical structure.
Popular in the body building and athletic community, BCAA powder and drinks harness the ability of amino acids to build proteins to aid workouts.
Because BCAAs are essential amino acids, meaning they are not produced inside the body, we can only get them through protein-rich food sources or by taking a protein powder or specific BCAA supplement.
BCAAs are used to help build protein and muscle. Leucine appears to stimulate muscle protein synthesis while amino acids can also help to prevent muscle soreness, a must when you are working hard at the gym.
Studies show they BCAAs could reduce fatigue although this evidence is not conclusive. The science? When you are working out the BCAA levels in your blood decline. Declining levels of BCAAs are linked to an increase in tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin, which is thought to contribute to feelings of fatigue during exercise. Up your BCAAs and those exhausting serotonin hormones might back off for just a bit longer.
There are a whole load of BCAA aminos out there and it can be pretty tough to choose between them.
A good place to start is with the format. BCAA protein powders are always popular because we are pretty familiar with protein shakes already - pop it in your shaker and you are ready to go.
Pre-mixed shakes and BCAA drinks up the convenience level, while sachets such as Xtend BCAA sport sachets are a one-shot solution, ideal for using mid-workout.
And with so many flavours to choose from (pineapple! Blue raspberry! Mojito!) finding the supplement that inspires your gym session is never boring.
Many people choose protein powders containing all nine essential amino acids, including BCAAs.
If you are enjoying a daily protein shake you do not need to add in BCAAs because you will already be getting enough.
However, because protein powders have a higher calorific content, they are not always ideal if you are trying to slim down.
BCAA-only supplements are often more popular with endurance athletes, thanks to their low-cal protein boost, while those looking to build muscle love them because they help to keep muscle protein from being burnt away during workouts.
How about both? It is generally accepted that you should take BCAAs before, during and after a workout.
Throw a ready-made BCAA drink or a handful of shot sachets into your kit bag and you are ready to power up your exercise routine on-the-spot.