In terms of popularity, along with whey protein and creatine, BCAA supplements are, without question, some of the most popular, beneficial, and effective supplements in the entire world.
The supplement industry is now more competitive than ever before, as business is literally booming, because it is, after all, an industry which rakes in billions of dollars in profit, every single financial year.
But why exactly are BCAAs, and indeed health, fitness, sports, and bodybuilding supplements in general, considered so popular?
Well, it seems as if people, whilst on a seemingly never-ending quest to gain muscle, can’t seem to get enough chicken, broccoli, white fish, egg whites, and whey protein.
That’s all well and good, but getting your protein, and indeed the amino acids that are the building blocks of protein molecules, from whole food sources, is not always practical, nor is it always the most effective way to go about things either.
Studies have found that in supplement form, amino acids, particularly Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are considered more beneficial than if they were consumed in whole food form.
Here we’ll be providing you with the ultimate BCAA supplements guide, to tell you absolutely everything you need to know about these amazing products.
5 Best BCAA Supplements
Contains 2:1:1 Ratio of L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine - No Artificial Sweeteners, Flavors, or Colors
Contains a massive 7g BCAAs + glutamine and citrulline malate
Cellucor Alpha Amino Gen4
Cellucor Alpha Amino Gen4
Contains 5g BCAAs + a 3.85g Taurine -Glutamine blend
Essential AmiN.O. Energy
Essential AmiN.O. Energy
Contains a 5g amino blend, 100 mg Caffeine + Zero Sugar
Contains 5g premium BCAAs + Taurine + Beta Alanine
What Are BCAA Supplements?
BCAAs are made up of three amino acids, which are: Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine.
They get the name “branched” chain amino acids, because their molecular structure is forked and shaped similarly to a tree branch.
All of the three aminos are considered essential amino acids, which means that, whilst our bodies require them, unfortunately they can’t synthesize them naturally, so they have to be consumed via dietary sources such as foods or supplements.
There are around 20 amino acids, which the human body utilizes for growth and repair, yet of these 20 or so amino acids, BCAAs make up around one third of all amino acids found naturally within our muscle tissue.
As they’re found naturally within the muscles and muscle tissue, as you might expect, they play a crucial role when it comes to muscle growth and repair.
What Are The Different Types of BCAA Supplements?
Whilst the three amino acids that comprise BCAAs remain the same, BCAA supplements in general are available in a variety of different forms. These include:
These are the most common form of BCAA supplement, which are often simply unflavored powders which can be mixed with beverages and consumed pre, intra, and post-workout.
However, as they’re now so popular, BCAA powders actually come in a number of delicious flavors, particularly fruity ones. You simply add the powder to your liquid of choice, and hey presto.
BCAA Pills And Capsules
Although not as common as BCAA powders, BCAA capsule and pills are still pretty easy to find.
They work in exactly the same way, except you swallow them in pill of capsule form instead.
The downside is that to get the correct dosage, multiple pills/capsules should be consumed, and on top of that, they may take longer to be broken down and absorbed.
Nowadays BCAA liquids are much harder to find, with the main reason being the fact that they tasted pretty disgusting, and they never really caught on.
The liquid was often concentrated and required users to mix a certain amount with water, to create the right quantity.
Despite this, it never really caught on, so don’t expect to see too many of these types of BCAA supplements in your nearest health food store.
Vital BCAAs Benefits
Bodybuilding at any level at all is incredibly difficult and involves so much more than simply lifting weights and chugging down a protein shake after protein shake in order to grow.
Bodybuilding is very much a lifestyle and as such, numerous changes have to be made if you wish to make any real progress whatsoever.
In order to help shock their bodies into new growth, some individuals will use hormones and anabolic steroids to help build muscle mass, and whilst incredibly effective when it comes to building muscle, the main issues associated with anabolic steroids is the fact that they’re so incredibly dangerous for us.
Many bodybuilders, however, will choose to do things the natural way and will stay drug-free as it were, using nothing but smart training, a balanced diet, and the right (legal) supplements depending on their goals and targets.
BCAAs, or Branch Chain Amino Acids, are extremely beneficial in natural bodybuilding, which is why we’ll be taking a look at a few BCAA benefits in natural bodybuilding right now.
In this article we’ll be looking at exactly what some of the main BCAA benefits in natural bodybuilding are, and what it is that helps make them some of the most effective and beneficial supplements on the market today.
Improved Protein Synthesis
Protein synthesis is an integral part of post-workout recovery as it is basically when our bodies will synthesize new muscle proteins to replace the old damaged ones we damaged and destroyed during our workout.
Numerous studies have revealed that BCAA supplements are incredibly beneficial at triggering protein synthesis within the body, making them ideal for packing on lean muscle mass.
These amino acids will be absorbed by the cells within the muscles to be used as a primary source of energy and will help trigger protein synthesis.
This in turn will help to persevere lean muscle mass, promote new muscle growth, and prevent catabolism and muscular atrophy.
When our bodies build and repair our muscles, they do so via a naturally occurring process known as protein synthesis.
As we train and lift weights, we break down and destroy our muscle tissue, it’s when we rest and recover that we grow, which is thanks to protein synthesis.
Studies have found that BCAAs, particularly Leucine, trigger protein synthesis and can speed it up, making it much more efficient as a result.
BCAAs Boost Immunity
Another key aspect of any healthy living program is having a strong and healthy immune system, which is another key benefit of BCAA supplements.
BCAAs have been proven to dramatically improve a person’s immune system, making them fitter and healthier as a result.
Remember, although lifting weights is beneficial, it still places the body under a lot of stress, which can then lead to other health complications if your immune system doesn’t respond accordingly.
BCAAs help to boost immunity, thus making you a much healthier and fitter individual in the process.
They’re a Fantastic Source of Energy
Another of the main BCAA benefits in natural bodybuilding is the fact that they’re a fantastic source of energy, which will benefit us in numerous different ways.
To begin with, these amino acids are able to be utilized by the body in order to help maintain ATP levels.
ATP, or Adenosine Tri Phosphate, is a primary source of energy used by cells which make up our muscles.
Keeping these ATP levels topped up means that you will have more energy, and will therefore be able to exercise harder and faster, and for a much longer period of time.
This helps to prevent glycogen stores in your muscles from depleting as quickly, allowing for more muscle contractions, and therefore more output generated by the muscles themselves.
Put simply, they give you energy which allows you to exercise for longer and therefore get a much more productive workout in.
BCAAs Enhance Fat Loss
The primary objective of a bodybuilder is to build as much lean muscle as possible, whilst getting their body fat levels as low as they possibly can.
For this reason, any supplement which helps promote muscle growth and fat loss should be embraced with open arms and it just so happens that that is exactly what BCAAs are able to do.
One amino acid which makes up BCAAs, is leucine, and it is this amino which is the key to fat loss, but only because it works in conjunction with the other amino acids (Valine and Isoleucine).
It helps to enhance fat oxidization and energy expenditure, whilst the Isoleucine actually helps to improve your glucose tolerances.
This means that when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, your metabolism will get a much needed boost and you will burn off much more fat, and convert it to more energy in the process.
Recent studies have found that individuals with increased BCAAs in their systems are far more likely to not only carry and store less body fat, but are also much more likely to burn more body fat in the process.
BCAAs encourage fat loss, they boost the metabolism, and they prevent body fat from being stored in the abdomen, instead helping to encourage the body to utilize it for energy.
DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is something which plagues all bodybuilders, especially following leg day, and in some cases leg DOMS can be so bad that they can make sitting down an extremely painful and uncomfortable ordeal.
Whilst we may like to brag about DOMS on social media, in reality, if you have especially painful DOMS, this can not only harm your everyday life, it can also harm your training because let’s face it, if you’re sore and aching from head to toe, you aren’t going to be as productive in the gym as if you were loose, limber, and pain free.
The great thing about BCAAs however, is that as they play such a key role in post-workout recovery and protein synthesis, they can greatly reduce DOMS and the amount of pain associated with DOMS as a result.
Again, it is leucine which comes out on top here, as it helps to enhance protein synthesis, promoting enhanced rates of growth and repair.
Not only that, but it has also been found to help boost insulin levels, which creates an anabolic (muscle building) environment as it helps balance and regulate hormone levels, which again speeds up the recovery process and reduces painful DOMS as a result.