By: Matt Price
What Are BCAAs?
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are essential to the body, meaning they cannot be produced internally and therefore must be consumed. The BCAAs consist of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine and form the largest pool of essential amino acids in the body (35-40%) as a large constituent of muscle tissue.
While we consume plenty of the amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine in a balanced diet, athletes and weekend warriors alike can benefit from timely supplemented BCAAs to promote performance and support recovery.
Research has shown that BCAAs are most effective when blended as a ratio with Leucine being the primary amino. The most common serving size is 5-10g with a ratio of 3:1:1. BCAAs can have a bitter after taste if taken in too high of a quantity and you will likely notice a white substance that dissolves much more slowly in your drink after mixing, those are the BCAAs. Another important note on BCAAs is the quality and source of the aminos. In the wild west of unregulated sports supplements, some cheap aminos come from very poor sources (including human hair!!!!). Choose wisely and look for trusted sources like plants, or BioSteel’s Plant Amino Power BCAA+
How do BCAAs Help?
The primary benefit of increasing the level of BCAAs available to the body is muscle tissue repair and growth. Through complex chemical signaling, Leucine is a potent trigger to tell the body it is time to make some muscle.
While the BCAAs found in whole protein sources such as Whey Protein, Plant Based Protein, and whole foods promote the same mechanism, an isolated supplement of BCAAs can expedite the delivery process while also reducing total caloric intake if that is a consideration.
In addition to muscle tissue repair and growth, timely supplementation of BCAAs can delay or prevent declines in cognitive performance during training and competition. When blood sugars begin to decline during strenuous exercise, the amino acid tryptophan can enter the brain (the famous turkey amino acid!) making you feel sluggish and unmotivated. However, by maintaining a good level of BCAAs circulating in the blood stream, you can prevent this tryptophan uptake by the brain, helping you stay sharper, more focused, and determined to finish the task at hand!
How Do I Take BCAAs?
BCAAs are extremely well studied on their efficacy, and because they are normally occurring in the food we eat, are very safe to consume. As well, they offer no calories and therefore can be taken more frequently without concerns for overconsuming calories if that is a concern. One way I like to use BCAAs with my athletes is during the periods of Pre- and During- training/competing. By consuming before a training session, we can further promote hydration and begin a “pre-covery” process by ensuring the BCAAs are available to the body as soon as training is over. As well, the circulation of the BCAAs during practice and games keeps my players mentally sharp late into games, providing a little competitive advantage!
Taking BCAAs is super simple. Just mix with your favourite beverage and enjoy. Like I mentioned earlier, they tend to take a little longer to dissolve in water so mixing a little earlier than normal will help them fully breakdown into your drink. I like to mix mine with BioSteel Mixed Berry Hydration Mix (OG flavour!) first thing in the morning and consume on my way to the gym and have a second mixed for drinking during my training.