water being poured into a glass for an athlete to hydrate

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are three of the essential amino acids that cannot be made by our bodies and must be obtained through diet or supplementation. The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. “Branched-chain” refers to their chemical structure, which is found in foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy products. BCAAs are widely consumed via their powder form in supplementation. A supplement, however, is used in addition to a good diet. What is not recommended, is avoiding real food and grabbing the powder version instead. Real food can keep you fuller and more satisfied while providing numerous additional vitamins and minerals. Below are some of the most well-known benefits of BCAAs.

Reduce Muscle Soreness

Some people who exercise might experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This soreness can last from 24 to 72 hours and is thought to occur from the tiny tears in your muscle fibers when you perform an exercise. There are numerous studies that show BCAAs reduce the length of soreness. BCAAs also have been shown in some studies to reduce muscle breakdown in exercise. All of this is beneficial if you are trying to get back in the gym quickly and perform at a high level without being debilitated by soreness.

Reduce Exercise Fatigue

Part of working out is getting fatigued and exhausted from your effort. BCAAs may be able to lessen the amount you are fatigued, according to some studies. When BCAA levels decrease during exercise, your body produces another essential amino acid named Tryptophan, which converts to serotonin, a brain chemical that positively contributes to the development of fatigue. Less fatigue can allow you to have a more enjoyable workout and recover faster afterward.

Increase Muscle Growth

BCAAs have also been studied to increase muscle because of the essential amino acid leucine. Although more studies are needed, leucine is thought to act like the switch that turns on more proteins to promote muscle growth and repair. BCAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis, but they can’t do it without the other essential amino acids, such as those found in whey protein or other complete protein sources like eggs, meat, and dairy.

Reduce Muscle Wasting

Muscle wasting can happen to anybody who is on a diet, bed-bound because of illness, or recovering from surgery. Muscle is constantly being broken down and rebuilt. When the rate of breakdown exceeds rebuilding of the tissue, you have muscle wasting. BCAAs count for 40 percent of all the amino acids in our bodies. Because amino acids are needed to rebuild tissue, including them throughout the day will help prevent muscle wasting.

There really is no need to take BCAAs in supplement form if you are following a well-rounded diet that includes meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. If you are following a strict diet that excludes all of these foods, then a supplement might be best for you. Consult with your dietitian to see whether you would benefit from a BCAA supplement.