Do you have any idea of the pink liquid or may be purple sometimes, all the hardcore bodybuilders carry around and keep on sipping on at the gym? There may be chances that it’s a cocktail of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and that they’ll swear by its muscle-building powers.
If you’ve heard the hype, the BCAA supplement is as fundamentally useful as whey protein and as powerful as creatine in its ability to help you build muscle and strength (or even more so if You have come across some companies).
But, same is the case of many supplements, you’re not being told the whole story. Put down simply, while BCAAs do have a valid use (which we will talk about), they’re not nearly as effective as they’re told to be.
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids (our body does not create them) that contain an aliphatic (branched) side-chain. These amino acids are the key players in the regulation of muscle mass and must be consumed through your diet. These have Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Leucine being the best among the three.
Generally, the quantity of Leucine is the highest in any BCAA supplement. It can be in 1.5:1:1 or 2:1:1 of Leucine: Isoleucine: Valine. Valine is the highest rated because it promotes protein synthesis by activating mTOR pathway.
There are many benefits stated for the God like BCAA like protein synthesis, helpful during training in the fasting state, fatigue reduction being the most important and a lot more.
So should we spend our money on BCAAs or not? Lets decide that on the basis of the following points:
1- The first point is , most people don’t realise that BCAAs are abundantly found in food. Most protein rich foods have quite a high percentage (15-25%) of BCAAs. A 25g serving of protein powder usually provides you with 5-8g of BCAAs. Now given this, the question we must ask ourselves is – “Are isolated BCAAs of any use, if you have already a high protein diet?” The answer is NO!
2- The second factor being Tryptophan which is an alpha-amino acid. It is important for working of the brain. In high protein diet, Tryptophan level is not up to the mark and thereby adding BCAA during this not gonna benefit you. Moreover it is going to reduce your happiness and performance.
3- It’s been hypothesised that around 3-4 g of Leucine per meal is required to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. What if I tell you that this fact is hidden by the companies who sell it. It is kept secret!
In fact, consuming a whole protein source will not only provide you BCAAs but also EAAs (Essential Amino Acids) and other nutrients. BCAAs + EAAs = More Benefits.
At the end, its total protein intake is the most important factor. BCAAs alone are not going to give you benefits. And the important thing we get is complete protein i.e. BCAA+EAA. Although BCAAs are helpful in the cutting cycle and working out during fasting. But what if your protein is not completed by the end of the day?
You then eat or just take in BCAA!
So the choice is yours and of course, the money too! Spend it wisely! (on whole food sources)
An article by Shubham Dhiman
Nutrition Consultant/Mentor at MnW