What are BCAAs?

Written by Carl Lombard

If you are a fan of resistance training, you may have heard your fitness buddies talk about the importance of taking a BCAA supplement. But if you find yourself asking “what are BCAAs?” you may be wondering why they are all the rage. As it turns out, your gym buddy isn’t the only one who’s a fan of BCAAs—fitness experts and nutritionists also advocate for a healthy intake of BCAAs to help your body produce protein and protect your muscles (more on BCAA dosage).

Though you may think your muscles are made of steel, about 35% of your muscle mass protein is made up of BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids. In fact, these little essential nutrients are what fuel your body and allow for molecular growth to occur. There are three different types of BCAAs, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, and each of these essential amino acids sends a signal to the body to start producing protein and protect the muscles from breakdown.

BCAA Benefits

Not only do BCAAs increase the rate of protein synthesis, but they also help build the cellular machinery that is used to create protein in the first place. For this reason, many consider taking BCAA supplements even more important than taking pure protein by itself. You know what they say, ‘give a man a protein and it will fuel him for a day, give a man BCAAs and it will expand his cellular capacity to synthesize protein’—right?

BCAAs are especially important when you are bodybuilding, as studies have shown that taking BCAA supplements can significantly decrease muscle damage after strenuous resistance exercise. Taking your supplement right before or after your workout can help maximize these BCAA benefits. Not to mention, if you are trying to sculpt your body on a low-calorie diet, BCAAS can help prevent catabolic effects like muscle breakdown and fatigue.

BCAA Side Effects

Very few BCAA side effects have been observed despite the many studies on this supplement. Studies have shown that some users have reported symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, hypertension, and abdominal pain but no serious or long-lasting effects were documented.

BCAA Side Effects Hair Loss

One of the greatest myths about BCAAs is that they cause hair loss, when actually they can prevent excessive hair wookies from clogging your drain. It is commonly accepted that one of the leading causes of hair loss is malnutrition—and lacking protein can especially affect your hair growth. As BCAAs boost protein synthesis, taking a supplement can help prevent hair loss caused by protein deficiency. In fact, the body requires all amino acids for healthy protein synthesis, and the three BCAAs are essential—meaning they cannot be naturally produced by the body, and they must be supplemented in your diet.

For this reason, of the BCAA Side Effects hair loss is not one of them, and the reality is much the opposite.

BCAA Side Effects Stomach

As mentioned previously, some reports have indicated that of BCAA side effects stomach discomfort was reported in small percentages. However, in these studies, the discomfort could just as easily been caused by compounding variables like an increased intake of carbohydrates—a common dietary change for those who increase their physical activity. If you do experience stomach discomfort while taking BCAAs, probiotics like yogurt and digestive enzyme supplements can help alleviate this side effect.

BCAA Side Effects Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that can be influenced by many factors, including your diet. Those who suffer from acne may have a sensitivity to the BCAA leucine; this branched-chain amino acid has been reported to cause acne flare-ups in some cases when the user was already prone to the skin condition. However, acne breakouts can be prevented by balancing other aspects of your diet, like minimizing dairy and glycemic intake. Balancing your diet in this manner can lower your susceptibility to the BCAA side effects acne.

Looks for some recommendations?

Transparent Labs BCAA/Glutamine Supplement

Universal Nutrition BCAA 2000

Kaged Muscle Intra Workout (not strictly a BCAA supplement)


About the author

Carl Lombard

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