Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential nutrients our muscles use for energy. They initiate muscle growth, reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, and prevent muscle breakdown. Sportspersons take them to improve athletic performance. There are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine, which cannot be made by the body and have to be taken through food or supplements.
When to take BCAAs: Time is not important
Studies have concluded that taking BCAAs can improve performance in sports events. However research has not been able to establish the best time to take the supplements. Taking the supplement is more important than the time.
There are mixed results on whether BCAAs should be taken before or after exercise- studies have shown benefits in both cases.
Take BCAAs before or after exercise
As per one study, BCAAs should be taken before a workout for best results. In the study, young men took BCAAs before a workout involving an arm exercise. They felt less muscle soreness after the workout and lower blood markers of muscle damage than those who were given BCAAs after the arm exercise.
Another study showed optimal results when BCAAs were taken after a workout.
In the study, athletic men took 25 g of whey isolate, providing 5.5 grams of BCAAs, either right before or right after a weightlifting workout for 10 weeks.
Both groups showed similar improvements in body composition and strength.
BCAA blood levels peak 30 minutes after consumption- one can take the supplement shortly before or after a workout for best results.
A 2018 research study by M Negro, S Giardina. B Marzani, and F Marzatico concluded that BCAA supplementation before or after exercise decreases muscle damage from exercise and boosts muscle-protein synthesis.
Take them as per your body weight for optimal results- 200 mg per kg of bodyweight is the optimal dosage. Take them every day for a longer time than just a few days for marked improvement in performance.
The ideal ratio of amino acids in BCAAs is 2:1:1- twice the amount of isoleucine is preferable since it initiates muscle protein synthesis and is especially good at preventing muscle protein breakdown.
Benefits of BCAAs:
Help increase muscle mass:
BCAAs increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis, which helps build muscle. Take them with other essential amino acids for accelerated protein synthesis and muscle growth.
Help in muscle recovery:
BCAAs help in muscle recovery by preventing muscle breakdown due to exercise. Prolonged workout can damage muscles, causing delayed onset muscle soreness, which develops 24-48 hours after intensive physical activity, and inhibits exercise performance. BCAAs can help prevent this damage to muscles.
Improve exercise performance:
BCAAs may help reduce exercise-induced fatigue, improving stamina and performance. They help lower serotonin levels, which plays a role in fatigue. BCAA supplementation enhances energy metabolism and reduces levels of creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase, which cause muscle damage.
Maintain muscle mass during illness:
Leucine in BCAAs helps maintain muscle mass in people with chronic diseases such as cancer and liver cirrhosis. BCAA supplementation improves liver function in people whose brain function is impacted by liver disease.
BCAA side effects
BCAAs may cause nausea, bloating, diarrhoea, and loss of coordination. Take them with caution before engaging in activities requiring motor coordination like driving.