Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine1.
They play an important role in the building and repairing of muscles1.
BCAAs get their name from their chemical structure which also affects the way the body uses them1.
They are considered essential because the body cannot make them but must get them from food2.
BCAA blends are commonly taken as supplements to boost muscle growth and enhance exercise performance2.
A properly dosed BCAA blend may also help with weight loss and reducing fatigue after exercise2.
Foods that contain BCAAs include meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, dairy items such as cheese and milk, tofu and tempeh, eggs, quinoa, nuts, and seeds2.
What Are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are organic compounds that are essential for our body to function properly and are required for building proteins3.
There are 20 amino acids that our body needs to function properly, but only nine of them are considered essential4.
Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are three of the nine essential amino acids that are considered most beneficial for muscle growth4.
A protein cannot be considered complete unless it contains all nine essential amino acids3.
The 2:1:1 ratio refers to the amount of each amino acid found in BCAA powder6.
Specifically, it indicates that there is 2g of leucine, 1g of isoleucine, and 1g of valine in each serving6.
This ratio has been shown in a number of clinical studies to be the most effective blend of amino acids when looking to benefit exercise performance and muscle growth6.
Why Should I Take BCAAs?
BCAA supplements are a popular choice among athletes and those looking to build muscle. They contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are essential amino acids that our body cannot produce and must be obtained through diet or supplementation 7.
Studies show that BCAAs may increase muscle growth, reduce soreness and fatigue, prevent muscle wasting, and support liver health 7.
They have also been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue, and alleviate muscle soreness 7.
In fact, BCAA supplements have successfully been used in a hospital setting to prevent or slow muscle loss and to improve symptoms of liver disease 7.
BCAAs are found in a variety of food sources, including meat, eggs, and dairy products 8. However, some people may not get enough BCAAs through their diet alone, which is where supplementation comes in.
When Should I Take BCAAs?
According to Healthline6, taking BCAAs before or after exercise may be equally effective in providing muscle protection. Also, you may not need to time them precisely to support muscle building.
Getting an adequate dose based on your body weight is essential, as well as continuing to take them in the long term, including on non-exercise days.
MyProtein9 suggests that there are two main times to take BCAAs to have the positive benefits listed above due to their varying benefits:
- Before a workout
- During a workout
If you need an energy boost for your strength workout, it would be best to take them before your workout.
Bodybuilding.com10 suggests taking BCAAs approximately 30 minutes before workouts. They believe this to be the most critical time to get a 6-10-gram dose of BCAAs in before workouts.