Author: James O’Sullivan • Fact checked by: Gainful Registered Dietitians • Aug. 26, 2022
Athletes who want to improve their athletic performance have many different supplements available that promise great results, but BCAAs offer a host of important benefits. If you’re wondering when to take BCAAs for maximal muscle growth, muscle recovery, and overall support, you’re not alone.
Our Gainful Personalized Pre-Workout may contain BCAAs as an ingredient in your personalized blend — but what exactly do BCAAs do, who should take BCAAs, and why do we consider them a star ingredient? Read on as we explore.
BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are essential amino acids that your body needs to carry out important daily functions. They also serve as the building blocks of protein. Amino acids are molecules that combine to form proteins.
Your body needs protein to build your muscles, brain, and organs. There are 20 types of amino acids. Amino acids are classified as “essential” and “nonessential.” Essential means that our bodies cannot produce them on their own, so we must consume them in food. Nonessential amino acids are produced by the body in some quantity.
Nine different amino acids are considered essential, three of which are considered BCAAs. These three BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are most commonly found in animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. Each has its own specific role in potentially improving an athlete’s fitness.
If you are certain your diet is optimal, but you are still seeking an extra edge, BCAA supplementation may be worth considering.
From recovery, to energy, to muscle growth and protein synthesis - BCAAs are highly effective at supporting athletic performance and muscle repair.
Studies of BCAA supplementation have not shown any adverse side effects when supplementation is taken in appropriate amounts and according to instructions. That said, if you have any concerns or hesitations about BCAA supplementation, you should consult your doctor or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (like your personal Gainful RD) for guidance.
It is always best to speak with your healthcare provider before adding new supplements to your routine, especially if you have certain health conditions.
There are many different reasons why people choose to use BCAAs in their routine. Here are five evidence-based benefits of adding BCAAs to your supplement regimen.
One of the most common reasons people take BCAAs is to increase their lean muscle mass. Leucine signals the process of muscle protein synthesis. Consuming additional leucine is thought to stimulate the pathways in the body that are known to be instrumental in building muscle.
One study conducted on 10 young men showed that consuming BCAAs post-workout led to higher levels of specific amino acids in the bloodstream that stimulate muscle-protein-synthesis pathways which may provide more material to build muscle fibers.
However, it’s important to ensure that you take in enough of the other essential amino acids to help maximize the amount of muscle you gain following a workout.
Pushing yourself at the gym often leads to feelings of soreness and tightness after a challenging workout. While delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can indicate that you worked different muscles (or pushed them to a progressive overload state), it can also hinder your ability to continue to push hard in the following days.
People who suffer from muscle soreness after a workout could benefit from taking BCAAs post-exercise. It’s believed that muscle soreness occurs due to tiny tears in the muscle that result from a workout. Including BCAAs can help rebuild these torn muscle fibers, support proper muscle repair, and build new muscle mass.
Of course, the body also requires carbohydrates to energize that process. If we do not eat enough carbohydrates, we risk using amino acids as fuel instead of their intended purpose to rebuild.
This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study done on 12 males looked at levels of creatine kinase, a substance that indicates muscle damage, in the blood. Six men received the BCAA supplement before and after the training event, and six did not.
The study revealed that men in the BCAA group had lower creatine kinase levels and less muscle soreness.
At some point during a workout, fatigue sets in. BCAAs, however, may be able to extend the amount of time it takes before you to feel fatigued, allowing you to continue to work out for longer.
During a workout, your muscles rely on BCAAs as a fuel source, causing levels of BCAAs in the blood to drop. This triggers your body to start increasing the levels of another essential amino acid, tryptophan, in the brain. Inside the brain, tryptophan converts into serotonin which could contribute to feelings of fatigue.
Several studies indicate a link between consuming BCAAs and lower fatigue during exercise. By consuming BCAAs, the levels of these amino acids in the muscles may stay higher for longer, slowing the buildup of tryptophan in the brain.
Whether you engage in body weight endurance exercise, resistance training, or other muscle-building activities, BCAAs can help you perform at your best. Depending on your indicated fitness goals, your Gainful Personalized Pre-Workout blend may contain BCAAs to support muscle growth and recovery.
Gainful Pre-Workout includes a list of powerful ingredients that can benefit performance, such as Caffeine to reduce fatigue, L-Theanine to increase focus, and Creatine for increased strength. We also offer Caffeine-free and Creatine-free options.
Our bodies are constantly building up and breaking down muscle proteins, which contribute to lean muscle mass. If you break down more muscle proteins than you can build, you’ll experience a condition known as muscle wasting or muscle breakdown.
Muscle breakdown can signify disease, malnutrition, or natural aging. BCAA supplements could help ward off muscle breakdown by supporting lean muscle mass and recovery. An estimated 35 percent of the amino acids found in the muscles are BCAAs, so replacing them can help potentially minimize muscle wasting.
With so many purported benefits for athletes, many people wonder when to take BCAAs for maximal effect. Several studies tested whether BCAAs are most effective when taken before, during, or after exercise.
These studies examined the effects associated with taking BCAAs before and after exercise. One BCAA study found that men who took BCAAs before a strengthening exercise experienced reduced muscle soreness and fewer signs of muscle damage than those who took BCAAs after training.
Another study found that men who took BCAAs right before a workout experienced the same changes in body composition and muscular strength compared with those who took BCAAs after the workout.
Unfortunately, the findings of whether BCAAs are better taken before or after exercise are largely inconclusive.
Researchers do know that the levels of BCAAs in your blood peak approximately 30 minutes after consumption. While there has not been a determination on the ideal timing for muscle composition and strength, those looking to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue may benefit from taking BCAAs about 30 minutes before a workout.
Researchers have also examined the benefits of taking BCAAs during a workout. However, studies show that taking BCAAs during a workout did not offer any physical performance benefit for men participating in endurance sports.
Some evidence suggests that taking BCAAs during a workout may help minimize mental fatigue; however, more research is needed.
BCAAs have benefits that include the potential to increase lean muscle mass, reduce muscle soreness, minimize fatigue during exercise, prevent muscle breakdown, and support liver function.
The purported benefits for athletic performance make BCAA supplementation particularly popular with athletes and those wanting to improve their fitness.
Preliminary evidence shows that taking BCAAs about 30 minutes before a workout may help boost performance, reduce fatigue, and minimize muscle soreness. Here at Gainful, we recommend taking your Personalized Pre-Workout blend before your workout for the best results.
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