BCAA's is a workout supplement that is often overlooked because of other popular supplements like pre-workout. But this is a supplement you might want to consider taking after reading how it can help with your training..
So today we’re tackling BCAA’s: What are they? What do they do? How do you take them? When do you take them? All of it!
Let’s jump right in.
What does BCAA even mean?
BCAA’s is actually an acronym; it stands for Branched-Chain Amino Acids. Amino Acids are the building blocks for protein that your body needs. In fact there are 20 different amino acids, but 9 of them are Essential Amino Acids. These 9 are called essential because your body doesn’t make them on it’s own, so you need to be sure to put them into your body!
BCAA’s are made up of 3 of the essential amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
So what do BCAA’s do?
Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are an important trio because they help maintain important muscle mass. This trio of amino acids help preserve muscle glycogen stores. - your muscles primary fuel used for energy production. The main two things BCAA supplementation helps with are: minimize muscle protein breakdown and give your body a reliable energy source that you can use while working out.
BCAA’s are a good source for sustained energy. Think of it this way: energy drinks and pre-workout are like a firework, where it’s one big blast of energy and then you burn out. BCAA’s are a campfire, steady and long-lasting.
For those strength or resistance training, BCAA's are a must-have workout supplement. It will give you more energy to perform more reps which leads to effective muscle building.
Benefits of BCAA's
We know that BCAA's give you sustainable energy and minimize muscle breakdown, but what are the other benefits?
Reduce muscle soreness
Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is the pain and stiffness one feels after tackling a difficult workout. Sometimes it's a good feeling, but sometimes the soreness can be unbearable! Luckily, BCAA's can help you with post-workout recovery!
A study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition found that taking the right amount of BCAA's can help reduce the effects of DOMS. The study compared two groups, one supplemented with BCAA's, the other didn't. They found that the group that supplemented had a decrease in muscle soreness. 
Can help increase muscle mass
Remember Leucine, one of the essential amino acids found in BCAAs? Well that amino acid activates a certain pathway in the body that triggers muscle protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is the process of making muscle. So BCAA's can help promote muscle growth!
This doesn't mean you can just supplement with BCAA's and expect gains right away. As always, a well rounded diet and consistent exercise is still needed to grow muscles. Plus, all the essential amino acid's can be found in whole foods! So prioritize a high protein diet with minimal processed foods in order to reap the benefits of BCAA's.
Can help enhance fat loss
BCAA's can actually help promote fat loss! They help fight the battle against fat-gain by keeping your insulin and cortisol (two hormones that store fat like crazy) leveled instead of spiking.
They are also known to help you with weight loss, in that they cure hunger by tricking your body into thinking that you’re taking in lots of calories. This makes it so you can go a little longer before you feel hungry. Now you may be thinking that this is your golden ticket to leaving behind the extra softness that you have always hated. But I want you to know that the weight will only stay off if you pair it with a good diet and fat burning exercises.
How do I take BCAA’s?
The most common sources of BCAA’s are protein powders, supplemental pills, powders, and most whole foods! There is BCAA powder and pills, but most whey protein drinks already provide the three important aminos. To get the best results, we suggest combining a whey protein (if needed) or a BCAA powder with a balanced diet.
Here is a list of foods high in BCAA's:
- Chicken breast
- Brown rice or whole-wheat food
- Cottage cheese
- Tofu and tempeh
Try to get your essential aminos mostly from natural protein sources. It can be difficult to do that, so if you're having trouble meeting your daily intake then use a protein powder, BCAA pill, or powder to help! Some high-quality pre-workouts also contain BCAA, so that is another way to get a few grams in before your training!
How much do I need?
How much BCAA you need really depends on your goals. According to Healthline, healthy female adults should aim to consume a minimum of 9 grams of BCAA's per day. Healthy male adults should aim to consume a minimum of 12 grams a day. 
Most people who eat a protein-rich diet will have no trouble hitting this minimum. But if your goals is to gain muscle and you do heavy resistance training then a BCAA supplement can be beneficial.
When is the most effective time to take it?
To reap the amazing benefits BCAA's offer consider taking 5-7 grams right before your workout. To increase performance it is suggested to take 4 grams before training. To increase performance and reduce muscle damage and DOMS it is suggested to take 7 grams before training.
The most amazing part about BCAA’s though, has to be how quickly they get into your system! You can see the effects in as little as 3-4 minutes.
So let’s summarize
BCAA’s help with energy, muscle recovery, and burning fat. For weight loss - they work best when paired with fat-burning exercises and a healthy balanced diet. You can get it from protein powder, most meats, or as a supplemental powder/pill.
Hope this helps next time you try one of Fit With Iulia's workouts. The first workout of every goal is available for everyone to try for free 😉