I wanted to take a few minutes this week to explain about BCAAs.  This is a very frequent question, and seems to be coming my way more and more often.  BCAAs refer to Branched-Chain Amino Acids.  I won’t bore you with tons of detail, but just the basics to give you a sense of what they are and why people are using them.

Proteins are made of Amino Acids.  There are 20 different Amino Acids.  Proteins that are considered ‘complete’ contain all 20.  The easiest examples are animal proteins.  Incomplete proteins, such as those found in plants, contain less than all 20.

Of the 20 amino acids, 9 are considered essential.  Not because they’re more important necessarily, but rather because they can not be made by your body; they need to be consumed through your food choices.

Of those 9 essential amino acids, 3 are Branched-Chain.  This is simply in reference to their chemical structure.  They are found in our greatest sources of complete proteins, such as eggs, meat and dairy.

The three Banched Chain Amino Acids are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.

The use of these three BCAAs is not new.  Endurance supplement companies have been using them for years.  Many endurance gels contain all three, for example, as they’ve been shown to hinder the central governor mechanism in your brain (the little voice that tells you to slow down because you’re tired).  That mechanism is a lot more chemical (has to do with tryptophan and serontoin) more than my ‘little voice’ example suggests but I told you I wouldn’t bore you, so that’s all you get on that.

The rest of the exercise world was a little slower on the uptake, but recently we’ve been seeing huge numbers of people taking post workout supplements containing BCAAs, as well as pre-workouts of pure BCAAs all on their own.  There are a couple of great benefits and reasons to do this.
1.  Already mentioned – you won’t get as tired during exercise.  BCAAs aid in preventing exercise fatigue.
2.  Helps to reduce muscle soreness after workouts
3.  Helps build muscle in response to exercise
4. Help to prevent muscle wasting, which can be a natural side affect of aging, poor nutrition, too little exercise recovery, or too little protein in your diet to compensate for your workouts.

BCAA supplements can be found pretty much anywhere.  I’d highly encourage you to find one that doesn’t contain high amounts of artificial sweeteners, flavours and colours.  But certainly go check them out, try a few different brands, and see how your workouts feel when you apply a healthy dose of BCAAs to your routine.

Enjoy!