Whether you're a full-time workout pro, or just getting your toes wet, there's a world of supplements out there to help maximize your fitness. And one of these is BCAA (branched-chain amino acids). Since questions like "what does BCAA energy do?", "do BCAAs give you energy?" and "do BCAAs actually work?" frequently come our way, we tapped a few experts to give you the insight.
Take a look below for everything you wanted to know about BCAA.
Vital note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.
What Are BCAAs?
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are the amino acids, L-valine, L-leucine and L-isoleucine. “These are particularly noteworthy because they comprise nearly half of the amino acids derived from the protein in your diet,” says Kelly Bay, DC, CNS, CDN. Since any fitness enthusiast knows how important protein is in fueling a workout, people love turning to BCAA to give them a boost.
Here's why: "BCAA oxidation increases at times we are exercising, meaning we are using more of them. So, the goal [of BCAA] is to increase muscle mass," says registered nutritionist, Colleen Christensen. "They can also help prevent post-gym soreness and improve muscle recovery."
That said, supplementation for BCAA is key since it "can't be produced by the body," says Bansari Acharya, RDN. "They have to be obtained from either food or supplements."
Do BCAAs give you energy?
Along with muscle recovery, BCAA can help give you energy. While this isn’t necessarily an "energy drink" type spike, the benefits of BCAA work below the surface to sustain you through your workout.
"When you exercise, BCAAs are utilized as a source of energy, helping protect existing muscle and assist in building new muscle," says Bay.
What does BCAA energy do?
"These amino acids are paramount to how your body rebuilds tissue, cells, ligaments, joints and muscle fiber. [Without them] your body wouldn't be able to maintain or increase its protein synthesis which is what preserves and builds muscle, Jamie Hickey, nutritionist and Founder of Truism Fitness, tells Lively.
While this may be a different type of energy you're familiar with, the end results are not: "BCAA have been proven to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and help with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)," Hickey adds.**
Is BCAA energy bad?
In recent news, there has been conversations around BCAA and any adverse effects. According to the Nature Metabolism Journal, author Solon-Biet found that "although BCAAs exert muscle-building benefits, excessive intake may reduce lifespan, increase appetite, lead to weight gain and have a negative impact on mood."
As with anything in life, moderation is key and, therefore, we recommend talking to your doctor about using BCAA appropriately and safely to fit with your workout regimen.
Do BCAAs actually work?
While we've established by now that this trio of amino acids are key to powering your workouts and alleviating fatigue and soreness after you're done, finding the "best" BCAAs to take for your lifestyle is important as well.**
In terms of what to look for when shopping around for BCAA supplementation, they should, of course, contain the three amino acids — L-valine, L-leucine and L-isoleucine.
According to Acharya, it may also be better to look for a formula with more leucine. "Within the three amino acids, leucine may have a greater role in enhancing athletic performance by preventing the breakdown of muscle so the ratio of 2:1:1, or two parts leucine for every one part isoleucine and valine may have greater benefits," she says. She also adds that any formulas that include artificial ingredients, colors, added sugars or added flavors should be avoided.
All that said, Vital Proteins® offers two standout products that contain BCAA to power your journey. Vital Performance™ PRE contains the ideal 3:1:1 BCAA blend (L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine) to support muscle protein synthesis, combat muscle soreness from exercise, and promote muscle recovery.** And, Vital Performance™ RECOVER uses BCAAs to support muscle protein synthesis, combat muscle soreness from exercise and promote muscle recovery.**
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary. Various studies have suggested benefits following daily consumption of collagen for several months. Refer to product labels and vitalproteins.com for recommended serving sizes and for more information. Use in conjunction with a daily exercise program and a balanced diet. Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise.