5 Shocking Benefits Of BCAAs You Need To Know Today!

Are you a gym freak?

Have you been hitting the gym daily for a long time now and

still cannot see those toned triceps, biceps, and chiseled six-pack abs?

Do you feel inferior to your gym mate who looks like a model?

We’ve got your back!

Supporting rigorous exercise regimens with suitable dietary supplements is important to build that dream body. One such supplement is branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Read on to find out why BCAAs matter.

Table Of Contents

  • What Are BCAAs?
  • How Are BCAAs Different From Other Amino Acids?
  • What Happens To BCAAs When You Exercise?
  • Other Benefits Of BCAAs
  • Top 10 BCAA Supplements Available Online

What Are BCAAs?

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) consist of three essential amino acids, namely, valine, leucine, and isoleucine.

These three amino acids belong to a group of 20 amino acids that are called the building blocks of proteins. But why are only these three grouped together?

Valine, leucine, and isoleucine share the same structural backbone with variable side chains. Take a look:

What Are BCAAs

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So what if they have structural similarities? Is that a big deal? Why are they in the limelight at all? Scroll down to know why.

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How Are BCAAs Different From Other Amino Acids?

Generally, anything that you eat reaches your stomach. The hydrochloric acid and digestive juices from the pancreas breaks everything down into proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

The small intestine break complex proteins into simple amino acid chains, while the large intestine extracts traces of nutrients and water from the digested matter. Then, the excretory system takes over.

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As a result, most amino acids are transported to the liver for their metabolism. But BCAAs have a different route.

The trio – valine, leucine, and isoleucine – are among the nine essential acids that are metabolized in the muscle and skeletal cells, not in the liver. That is why they help you build muscles.

Weird, but this is how it happens.

Step 1

The muscle cells and adipose tissues first oxidize BCAAs into keto acids.

The mitochondria of muscle cells have the machinery required to perform this reaction.

Step 2

Keto acids are then used by muscle cells to fuel the Krebs cycle for ATP production or are transported to the liver for further oxidation.

Step 3

Oxidation in the liver produces branched-chain oxo acids. These can be used by the liver for energy or metabolized in the muscle cells to give (ATP) energy.

Since muscle tissue has 60% of the enzymes needed for oxidation (burning) of BCAAs for energy, it is said that they are designed to derive energy from BCAAs.

Now, on to your next probable question – why are they essential for building body and muscle mass?

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What Happens To BCAAs When You Exercise?

During exercise, the body uses BCAAs to derive energy.

The longer and harder you workout, the more BCAAs are used by muscles for energy. It is estimated that 3% to 18% of all workout energy is provided by BCAAs (1)!

The mechanism responsible for this phenomenon is attributed to activation of the branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase (BCKDH) complex.

Fatty acids and other competitive enzymes tightly regulate the activity of the BCKDH enzyme.

Your body needs BCAAs, especially leucine, when you work out. The demand for readily available (unbound, active) leucine is at least 25 times higher than the rest of the amino acid reserve.

This is why you are asked to consume more protein – in whichever form available – if you want to improve your endurance (2).

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So, How Exactly Do BCAAs Work? Why Do You Need Supplements?

When you exercise vigorously, your muscle cells constantly utilize BCAAs for energy. BCAAs directly stimulate protein synthesis by activating insulin and cellular mechanisms.

When the BCAAs reserve starts depleting, your muscles run out of their energy source. Though they use the adipose tissues and other energy sources, they are not as effective.

This is when you do not see any muscle building in your body (also called muscle loss).

To solve such a resource crisis, you need to take BCAA supplements. These supplements prevent loss of muscle mass and promote fat degradation in your body.

Now, you might ask me, “I don’t want to build any muscles. Why should I take BCAA supplements?” Scroll down to find your answers.

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Other Benefits Of BCAAs

1. Stimulates Fat Loss

1. Stimulates Fat Loss

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It is not easy for obese individuals to lose those flabby discs around the tummy. Along with a strict exercise and diet regimen, boosting your body with necessary supplements is equally imperative.

BCAAs, especially leucine, stimulate the fat cells (adipocytes) to release energy from the stored fats.

Although there’s a need for in-depth research, short-term studies have shown that having a high-protein and high-BCAA diet aids weight loss without affecting muscle mass (1), (3).

2. Promotes Endurance And Reduces Fatigue

2. Promotes Endurance And Reduces Fatigue

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Taking BCAAs before or after exercise reduces fatigue and indirectly affects your endurance and performance.

Valine, leucine, and isoleucine lower the levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter that induces fatigue and soreness. Subsequently, the levels of muscle-damaging substances like creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) are also reduced.

Lower the fatigue, lesser the wear-and-tear of muscles. Lower the muscle damage, higher the endurance (4).

3. Useful For Athletes

3. Useful For Athletes

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Athletes and runners (especially the ones that run marathons) face the most tissue damage.

Despite having great stamina, some athletes complain of muscle loss, protein loss, and fatigue.

BCAAs come to the rescue in such cases. Supplementing the amino acid trio,  especially with 76% leucine, decreases the rate of net protein degradation and lactate dehydrogenase levels.

They also increase the blood glucose levels during exercise and improve mental and physical health (5), (6).

4. Manages Insomnia And Sleep Disorders

One of the most common post-traumatic stress symptoms that patients, particularly those with traumatic brain injury (TBI), face is insomnia or disturbed sleep pattern.

Respiratory infusions given at night or having BCAA-rich snacks late in the evening help in regulating the sleep cycle of such patients (7), (8).

Valine, leucine, and isoleucine are oxidized into precursors of neurotransmitters like ɣ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate.

BCAAs restore the levels of these chemicals, which are responsible for the normal functioning of your brain and correct insomnia and sleep apnea (9).

5. Best Source Of Strength For Vegans

It is a myth that vegans are malnourished and cannot build a body. Also, assuming that animal products are the only source of protein is a misconception.

Animal proteins are made of amino acids that are present in plant sources too. The only difference is in their concentration. To make up for this, vegans can opt for foods that are rich in BCAAs or BCAA synthetic supplements.

These amino acids will help you bulk up, even if you are a strict vegan (10)!

Isn’t that fantastic?

To experience these mind-blowing benefits of BCAAs, you have to make them a part of your diet. And how do you do that?

Just scroll through the list of foods that we have curated for you. These foods are natural and abundant sources of BCAAs.

Choose what suits you the best:

Animal Source Plant Source Dairy Products
Chicken Almonds Whole milk
Fish Lima beans Whey
Eggs Whole wheat Cheese
Beef Brown rice Yogurt
Pork Brazil nuts
Cashew nuts
Chickpeas
Pumpkin seeds
Corn
Lentils

Most of us can add a few, if not all, of these elements to our daily diet. It is recommended to consume the plant sources unprocessed.

Unprocessed meat has higher BCAA content than processed meat, but it is not recommended to have animal products that way.

As an alternative, if you want to supplement your diet externally with synthetic BCAAs, you can choose from a wide variety of powders, capsules, tablets, chewable lozenges, and drinks that are available these days.

But where can you buy them?

That’s the bonus! We’ve got that sorted for you, too. Read on!

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Top 10 BCAA Supplements Available Online

1. Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000 Powder (30 Servings, Blue Raz) 5 Grams of Premium BCAAs

1. Evlution Nutrition BCAA5000 Powder (30 Servings, Blue Raz) 5 Grams of Premium BCAAs

  • Comes as an easy-to-mix powder with different flavors to choose from
  • Has 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine:Isoleucine:Valine
  • Is sugar-free and gluten-free and has zero carbs
How To Use 

You can have this drink any time of the day.

Mix it in water for best results.

Buy it here!

2. Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA Branched Chain Essential Amino Acids Capsules

2. Optimum Nutrition Instantized BCAA Branched Chain Essential Amino Acids Capsules

  • Easy-to-swallow capsules
  • Deliver 1000 mg of BCAAs per serving
  • Have 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine:Isoleucine:Valine
How To Use
  • Have it on an empty stomach (or)
  • 30 minutes before workout (or) 30 minutes after workout.
  • Swallow 2 capsules with water, a beverage of your choice, or protein shake.

Buy it here!

3. Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy, Concord Grape, Preworkout and Essential Amino Acids with Green Tea and Green Coffee Extract

3. Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy, Concord Grape, Preworkout and Essential Amino Acids with Green Tea and Green Coffee Extract

  • Easy-to-mix energy powder
  • Each serving gives you 160mg of caffeine from green tea and coffee bean extracts

Warning: Do not consume more than 6 scoops of this powder within 4 hours. Two scoops of this powder have 100 mg of caffeine.

How To Use
  • You can have this drink any time of the day.
  • You can scale down the strength of this drink by dialing up or down the number of scoops.
  • Make this power drink in water for best results.

Buy it here!

4. Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder, Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAAs, Watermelon

4. Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder, Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAAs, Watermelon

  • With zero calories and carbs, this is a good sugar-free drink mix.
  • Each serving gives you 7 g of BCAAs.
  • It has 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine:Isoleucine:Valine.
  • Also has 2.5 g of L-Glutamine and 1 g of Citrulline Malate and
  • added hydration-inducing electrolytes.
How To Use
  • Have this drink before, during, or after your workout.
  • You can scale down the strength of this drink by dialing up or down the number of scoops.
  • Make this power drink in water for best results.

Buy it here!

5. Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder, Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAAs, Blue Raspberry

5. Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder, Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAAs, Blue Raspberry

  • With zero calories and carbs, this is a good sugar-free drink mix in Blue Raspberry flavor.
  • Each serving gives you 7 g of BCAAs in 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine:Isoleucine:Valine.
  • Also has 2.5 g of L-Glutamine and 1 g of Citrulline Malate.
How To Use
  • Have this drink before, during, or after your workout.
  • You can scale down the strength of this drink by dialing up or down the number of scoops.
  • Make this power drink in water for best results.

Buy it here!

6. Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy, Watermelon, Preworkout and Essential Amino Acids with Green Tea and Green Coffee Extract

6. Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy, Watermelon, Preworkout and Essential Amino Acids with Green Tea and Green Coffee Extract

  • This drink mix has 5-10 Calories and 0 g Sugar.
  • It also comes with 5 g of Free Form Amino Acids per serving.
  • One serving provides 100 mg of caffeine from natural sources – green tea or coffee beans.
How To Use
  • You can have this drink at any time in the day.
  • You can scale down the strength of this drink by dialing up or down the number of scoops.
  • Make this power drink in water for best results. 

Buy it here!

7. Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder, Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAAs, Mango

 7. Scivation Xtend BCAA Powder, Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAAs, Mango

  • This mango flavored drink mix has no carbs and sugar.
  • It has 2.5 g of L-Glutamine and 1 g of Citrulline Malate, along with BCAAs.
  • This drink helps you recover faster from fatigue.
How To Use
  • Have 2 servings per day in water.
  • The preferred time is before or after your workout.

Buy it here!

8. Zhou Nutrition Muscle BCAA – Branched Chain Amino Acids with Optimal 2:1:1 Ratio

8. Zhou Nutrition Muscle BCAA - Branched Chain Amino Acids with Optimal 211 Ratio

  • Has 2:1:1 ratio BCAAs in capsules.
  • It can be used by men and women to boost stamina.
How To Use
  • Take 4 capsules between meals (or) 30 minutes before your workout and/or immediately after an intense workout.
  • It is suggested to modify the dosage only under medical supervision.

Buy it here!

9. MET-Rx® BCAA 2200 Supplement

9. MET-Rx® BCAA 2200 Supplement

  • This supplement comes in the form of softgels made with NitroGel technology.
  • Has added vitamin B6 to aid the absorption and metabolism of BCAAs.
  • Specially designed for people who train heavily.
How To Use
  • Take 4 softgels immediately after an intense workout.
  • For enhanced support, you can take 4 extra softgels before your workout.
  • It is suggested to modify the dosage only under medical supervision.

Buy it here!

10. AMINO SLIM – Slimming BCAA Weight Loss Drink For Women, Vegan Amino Acids & L-Glutamine Powder for Post Workout Recovery & Fat Burning

10. AMINO SLIM - Slimming BCAA Weight Loss Drink For Women, Vegan Amino Acids & L-Glutamine Powder for Post Workout Recovery & Fat Burning

  • Specially formulated for women looking to lose some pounds.
  • 100% caffeine-free and vegan!
  • Has premium fermented BCAAs, glutamine, Ashwagandha, and saffron.
  • Suppresses hedonic hunger and sugar cravings for practical, healthy, and stress-free weight loss.
How To Use
  • Have 1 scoop of this drink mix in water.
  • Drinking it before going to bed promotes sound sleep and metabolism.

Buy it here!

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Phew! That’s a LOT of options!

I mean, who would not want to lose weight when you have such lip-smacking drink mixes in the market!

Don’t you agree?

Then, why wait? Whip up a quick brunch with some almonds, milk, lentils, meat, and brown rice.

If not, order your favorite and best-suited BCAA supplements from the listed chart-toppers right away!

But before you switch to BCAAs, beware of the risks, precautions, and side effects these building blocks could have:

  • Do not spike up or down the BCAA supplement without the consent of your dietitian or doctor.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding your baby, it is better to consult your physician or a dietitian before taking these supplements.
  • The drink mixes can cause mild nausea or diarrhea. Consult your doctor in such cases.

Despite the downside, BCAAs show incredible results – if you take them in the right dosage following medical supervision.

We’d be eager to know what changes BCAAs triggered in your body – whether you are able to lift dead weights and flaunt those biceps or not!

Use the comments section below to share your stories, honest feedback, and suggestions about BCAAs.

Happy body building!

References

  1. “A Primer On Branched Chain…” Smart Supplementation,  Huntington College of Health Sciences
  2. “Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism…” The Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine
  3. “Higher Branched-Chain Amino Acid…” The Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine
  4. “Effect of BCAA intake during endurance…” Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry, US National Library of Medicine
  5. “Leucine supplementation and…” Sports medicine, US National Library of Medicine
  6. “Branched-chain amino acids supplementation…” The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, US National Library of Medicine
  7. “Effect of an oral branched…” Hepatology Research, US National Library of Medicine
  8. “Respiratory and sleep patterns during…” Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica, US National Library of Medicine
  9. “Dietary Amino acids Relieve Sleep…” Penn Medicine News
  10. “Get the Facts: Veggies & Protein”

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