Hydra Movement: Strength is just the beginning!
BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are one of the many supplements people can take to help improve their exercise performance and recovery.
What are amino acids?
Acid can sound a little intimidating, but amino acids are part of the essential makeup of your body. You may know that protein is a vital nutrient required by the body to function properly. Amino acids are the smaller building blocks that makeup protein. There are 20 different amino acids, and your body needs all of these to be able to function. Amino acids normally end in -ine such as alanine, arginine, glutamine etc.
These amino acids can be categorised into two main groups: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are not able to be produced by the body, and therefore, they are an essential part of your diet, as consuming them is the only way you can attain them. Non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body, and therefore it is not essential for you to consume them in your diet (although it wouldn’t hurt if you did!).
What contains amino acids?
Amino acids are commonly found in meats, eggs, whey protein, and other animal proteins. Animal proteins are generally considered ‘complete’ proteins as they naturally contain all 9 essential amino acids. However, you can also find amino acids in plant proteins such as chia seeds, beans, kidney beans, and peas. Generally plant proteins are lower in essential amino acids, meaning it can be a little harder (but not impossible) to consume enough essential amino acids. A diverse diet with a variety of vegetables, grains, and legumes can allow you to consume enough essential amino acids.
BCAA supplements traditionally include three essential amino acids; leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The ratios of these amino acids within the supplement can vary from brand to brand.
What benefits will BCAAs give me?
BCAAs are believed to help muscle synthesis (growth) and recovery during exercise. In fact, one study found that BCAA supplementation before a squat exercise session helped to decrease DOMS (the muscle soreness you can feel after exercise) and muscle fatigue after the session. To save you from all the scientific and technical language, essentially they believe that BCAAs may help to reduce any protein/muscle breakdown that can occur during exercise, and leucine may act to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis/growth.
Additionally, a study performed on resistance trained males found that BCAA supplementation increased muscle mass, strength, and fat loss more than groups who consumed whey or carbohydrate drinks after the workout.
Essentially it is believed that BCAAs can improve your recovery, make you stronger, leaner, and increase your muscle size.
Do I need to take BCAAs?
In summary, no you don’t need to take BCAAs. You can still improve your strength, fitness, and muscle growth without a supplement. You can also consume essential amino acids through your regular diet by eating a variety of protein sources. However, BCAA supplementation may help you to recover faster, and improve your muscle strength and growth.
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Anurag Gill is the Head Coach at HYDRA Movement in Moonee Ponds.