Do You Need BCAAs? We’ve Got Your Answer
Have you been hearing a lot about BCAA supplements lately? Are you wondering what BCAAs are, how they work, and whether you should be using them?
Let’s take a look at some common questions about BCAAs and give you the answers you’re looking for.
What are BCAAs?
First of all, “BCAA” stands for “branched-chain amino acids.” These amino acids make up 35% of your muscle mass and are usually used in hopes of reducing muscle soreness, supporting muscle growth, and sustaining muscle mass. BCAAs are “essential,” which means that they must be consumed through what you eat and drink, as opposed to “non-essential,” meaning that your body can manufacture them for you with proper nutrition.
Your body needs BCAAs to sustain you, but you don’t necessarily have to get them from a supplement, especially if you don’t work out. For many people who aren’t trying to build or sustain muscle, diet alone gives them all the BCAAs they need.
What’s the difference between protein, amino acids, and BCAAs?
Let’s get some definitions down first:
Protein is a macronutrient (one of three: carbs, protein, and fat) that your body uses to build muscle mass and other body tissues. Protein is essential to all living organisms—human and non-human.
Amino Acids are the organic compounds that make up proteins. So you must have amino acids to have protein. When you consume protein, your body breaks the protein down into the amino acids that built it, and then uses those amino acids to grow and repair body tissues and accomplish many other essential tasks.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids are an essential class of amino acids. They specialize in helping your body produce insulin, which helps your body turn sugars into energy. BCAAs also carry nitrogen throughout your body, which helps you form the complex muscle tissues you need to survive, and that you want to make your body look great.
So BCAAs are a type of amino acid, and amino acids are what make up proteins, and proteins are what make up your muscle tissues!
We all know that we need plenty of protein to build and sustain muscle, but we need BCAAs for that, too.
I already take protein, so do I need BCAAs too?
Good question. If BCAAs are amino acids and amino acids make up proteins, then aren’t you getting tons of BCAAs with your protein supplement?
If you take a protein supplement, it probably does contain BCAAs, and it might even contain all the BCAAs that your body needs. But considering how beneficial BCAAs are, many athletes, fitness buffs, and regular folks chasing their ideal bodies choose to add a BCAA supplement to make sure they’ve covered all of their bases.
When you’re working out at high intensity, you’re rapidly depleting your body’s stores of nutrients like glycogen and glucose. The release of BCAAs into your body triggers your body to continue synthesizing protein instead of ceasing protein synthesis due to the stress of exercise. And protein synthesis is exactly what you want when you’re trying to build and maintain lean muscle.
Do BCAAs have calories and daily values?
While there are established daily guidelines for protein consumption, there are not established daily values for nutrients like amino acids, and certainly not for the sub-group called BCAAs. Many strength training programs and websites give their own recommendations for daily BCAA intake, but these may or may not be right for you, especially if you’re a woman!
Our trainers and nutritionists here at IdealFit recommend taking a serving of IdealLean BCAAs every day.
As for calories, BCAAs alone do not have caloric value. Many BCAA supplements include sugars and other components that give them caloric value, but other BCAAs like IdealLean BCAAs are zero calorie.