If you happen to be especially interested in working out, there’s a very strong chance that you will have heard numerous individuals, many of whom will have been experts, talking about the benefits of sports supplementation to help get the most out of your workouts. Once you have a solid training and nutritional plan and routine in place, sports supplements can greatly enhance your workouts, your performance, and the results you see from your workouts as a result. The sports supplement industry is highly competitive and generates billions upon billions in revenue, every single year. As far as popular and effective supplements go, BCAAs are certainly up there as they have been found to possess numerous benefits and qualities when it comes to our health, our workouts, and our recovery rates. They’re so popular and effective because they can be consumed pre, intra, and post-workout, and best of all is that the timing of each consumption of the supplements will present new and unique benefits. Here we’ll be taking a look at the benefits associated with taking BCAAs before, during, and after your workouts.
First off, what are BCAAs?
Branched Chain Amino Acids are naturally occurring compounds that are made up of three amino acids. These three amino acids are: Valine, leucine, and isoleucine. They’re called ‘branched’ chain amino acids, because their chemical structure is shaped like a jagged tree branch, hence the name “branched” chain amino acids. They are essential amino acids, which means that the body requires them but cannot synthesise them naturally. For this reason, they need to be consumed via dietary sources by us instead. Although there are over 20 amino acids required by our muscles to help promote muscle growth, BCAAs make up around a third of the aminos found within our muscle tissue, so if we’re looking to build muscle, they’re essential.
Consuming BCAAs before working out, poses a number of benefits for the human body, some of these include:
They improve glucose uptake – As BCAAs improve glucose uptake, this in turn means that the cells within the muscles are able to absorb more. This glucose sugar is a source of energy for the muscles. Consuming BCAA’s before working out, is like refuelling your muscles, except you’re able to get more fuel in than usual. More fuel means more energy, and more energy means better workouts.
They improve mental focus – BCAAs have been found to improve mental focus and stimulation within the body. This can help increase motivation and get you fired for your workouts.
Often in powdered form, BCAAs are often mixed with water, and as well as being consumed before working out, they’re also sipped on intra (during) workout too. This can have the following benefits:
Prevents muscle breakdown – When we exercise, we’re literally tearing and destroying muscle tissue. We begin rebuilding and re-growing new muscle tissue via protein synthesis. They have an anti-catabolic (muscle wasting) effect, which means that sipping them during your workout, will turn you into a muscle building machine, so your body can begin repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue almost immediately.
Improved energy and intensity – As BCAAs help to fuel our muscles, sipping on them during our workouts helps to keep our energy levels topped up. This combats fatigue and helps to increase intensity when we train. Sipping on BCAAs intra-workout can help you to break through plateaus, and can allow you to train for a number of minutes longer than previously, before you begin to see and feel the signs of fatigue.
Helps break down lactic acid – When we exercise, a by-product created by our muscles is lactic acid. Lactic acid is an acid that is responsible for muscular fatigue, and perhaps more importantly, muscle cramps too. BCAAs help to break down and reduce lactic acid levels, so we can train for longer before we experience fatigue and the first signs of painful muscle cramps.
Finally, we’ll now be taking a look at the post-workout benefits of BCAAs.
Increased protein synthesis – As mentioned, in order for our bodies to rebuild and repair themselves following a workout, protein synthesis must occur. BCAAs help to speed up protein synthesis, which means the body is able to repair and rebuild itself more impressively than usual.
Increased anabolic effects – When we train, our muscles become anabolically primed for optimum uptake of nutrients. Simply put, when we train, our muscles are able to absorb more nutrients than usual, as our cells will be so depleted. This is only temporary and lasts roughly an hour. This is known as the “anabolic window”. Consuming BCAAs post-workout, means our muscles can absorb more than usual, and so the effects and benefits will be much stronger and more potent.
Reduced muscle soreness – After exercising, we sometimes experience painful DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This can be so painful it can hinder everyday life, and any workouts we may engage in later that day, or for the next day or so. BCAAs have been found to reduce or prevent muscle soreness as exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced because of them. Less damage means less pain, and less pain means better future workouts.