If you have heard about BCAAs, chances are that you may not know exactly what they are or why you need them. As head trainer and nutritionists, I understand their importance, which is why I’ve compiled my complete guide to help you understand more about them and decide: do you need BCAAs?
What Are BCAAs?
First of all, “BCAA” stands for “branched-chain amino acids.” These amino acids make up 35% of your 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.
Do I Need BCAAs?
Everyone needs BCCAs in some quantity. 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, & BCAAs?
Protein is a macronutrient hat 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 makeup proteins. So you must have amino acids to have protein.
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.
Do I Need BCAAs If I Take Protein?
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?
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.