Today’s market is composed of a wide variety of dietary supplements claiming to improve strength, increase endurance and achieve performance more quickly. Although it’s quite difficult to pin down one supplement that can help you hit the most common sports goals, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are popular supplements among athletes.
BCAA supplementation has been advocated for a myriad of purposes, and that includes boosting exercise performance and recovery. But before taking them, it would be best to understand why they matter and how to incorporate them into your diet and training goals.
Read on to discover how BCAA supplements could be the best supplement to take for improved sports performance.
What Are BCAA Supplements?
BCAAs are essential amino acids that your body cannot produce, meaning you can only obtain them from the food you eat. Since they constitute more than one-third of the muscle proteins in the human body, it is essential to make sure you get them from your diet.
The following are some of the top natural sources of BCAA:
- meat, poultry, and fish
- dairy products
- beans, lentils, and nuts
- fish products like salmon and tuna
However, BCAA supplements are widely available nowadays and often used within the context of sports nutrition. If you’re looking to take your sports performance to the next level, maintaining high BCAA levels is vital. But taking these essential amino acids supplements would be a convenient option if you don’t get enough of them from your diet.
How Can BCAA Supplements Help Improve Sports Performance?
BCAAs bring a lot of potential health benefits. But they have been found to play a significant role in succeeding during intense workouts and recovering quickly from long-duration exercise.
To help you decide whether BCAA supplements are worth adding to your diet, here’s how they can help improve sports performance.
Provide Continuous Energy Supply
Glycogen is your muscles’ main energy source during periods of physical activity, and low levels contribute to fatigue. The good news is, BCAA supplements can provide continuous energy supply when the muscle glycogen levels become low. They can keep you energized, particularly in moderate to high-intensity sports and activities.
BCAA supplements can also help burn more fats quickly, which provides another source of fuel for muscles. With spared glycogen in your body, you can get moving for longer periods and most likely enhance sports performance.
Decrease Muscle Soreness
When you’re lifting heavy weights or using your muscles continuously on a run or any sport, you could strain your muscles, which can cause the formation of tiny tears in the tissues. You can heal those tears in the recovery process. However, adding BCAAs to your diet and routine can reduce muscle damage and preserve muscle tissues.
With a damage reduction, your muscles can beat back soreness and allow you to perform stronger and longer in intense physical activity.
Since BCAAs aid in decreasing muscle damage, they may also help reduce the length and severity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This painful sensation lasts for several days after a challenging workout. However, supplementing your diet with BCAAs before intense training can help you increase recovery time and bounce back faster.
Fortify Immune System
Intense training can result in immunosuppression, or the state wherein your immune system is not functioning as well as it should. It can also lead to overtraining if you don’t recover adequately between training periods. This is why many athletes often report increased illness during intense training.
But BCAA supplementation can be used as a fuel source for the immune system to regenerate itself more efficiently and protect against harmful pathogens.
Promote Healthy Weight
As an athlete, you’ve probably been under a lot of pressure of maintaining a certain weight. Such pressure often causes many athletes to lose weight in unhealthy ways. Also, losing too much weight too quickly doesn’t only hurt your performance but may also result in some health problems.
Fortunately, BCAA supplements promote healthy weight. Taking them can help you reduce body fat and, at the same time, maintain lean body mass, which is essential for strength and power development.
What Are The Best Ways To Take BCAA Supplements?
BCAA supplementation can help you improve your sports performance. But to get the optimal results, it’s essential to know how many BCAAs you need to take and when is the ideal time to take them.
Below, we’ve highlighted how to use BCAA supplements to their maximum effect and help you get the best gains in your training.
Recommended Dosage of BCAAs
BCAAs are made up of leucine, isoleucine and valine. It’s critical not only to get the ample amount of BCAAs but to take the three components in the proper ratio. Although the exact dosage and ratio of these BCAAs are still a matter of debate, a range of 4-20 grams per day split into multiple doses is often recommended.
But if you want to increase performance alone, roughly 4 grams will be enough before your training. A dosage of at least 7 grams will be needed if you’re looking to improve performance and recovery.
Timing of BCAA consumption
You can use BCAA any time but timing your consumption is important if you want to enhance your sports performance. The best time to take BCAA supplements is before your workout or training. Doing so can increase performance, muscle growth and reduce muscle. But taking it after training is least likely to boost performance or recovery to the same effect.
The enzyme activity needed to break down BCAAs increases in response to habitable intake. That’s why maintaining consistency is essential if you want to get the best results.
It’s also worth noting that gains are not free whether you’re working out or training. While taking BCAA supplements, you’re going to need to constantly push yourself in training to improve sports performance.
Other Things To Consider Before Taking BCAA Supplements
Not all BCAA supplements are created equal. Each contains different ingredients that may not be beneficial for everyone. Besides that, many companies claim benefits of BCAA supplementation that are too good to be true. Note that safety should be at the top of your priorities when taking any supplement.
To ensure that you’re getting a safe and efficient product, here are some of the things you need to consider:
Be Mindful Of The Ingredients
Some supplements have fillers and additional ingredients to boost their supposedly beneficial contents. However, they usually only contain 10% of what is required to be effective. Remember that getting something with more ingredients doesn’t mean better results and value for money.
Always check the label of the BCAA supplements you’re getting. Make sure that they are not filled with tons of unnecessary sweeteners and artificial flavors. If it’s impossible to eliminate all of them, 10 to 15 grams in your BCAA product is acceptable.
Choose A Trusted Brand
Since BCAA supplements are generally considered dietary supplements, they are not technically regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, their manufacturers and distributors are accountable for ensuring the products are safe before they reach the market. That’s why it’s crucial to check the reputation of the company before making any purchase.
Be mindful of product claims that are too good to be true. As much as possible, don’t rely on the information the sellers give you. Take time to search the product on the internet and use noncommercial sites. Make sure that the brand you choose has transparent labels and has gone through testing and proper certification.
Be Aware Of The Potential Side Effects
BCAA supplements are generally safe if you take them appropriately. In fact, daily supplementation of BCAA increases effectiveness, according to many experts. However, when consumed in large amounts, some potential side effects may occur, such as fatigue, nausea, loss of coordination, and increased insulin resistance.
You can minimize the side effects by decreasing the dosage of the BCAA product you’re taking. However, stop taking the supplement if you experience any serious side effects, and make sure to speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, it is always best to take them with caution, especially if you’re performing activities that require motor coordination, like driving. Since BCAAs can affect blood sugar levels, anyone who will be undergoing surgery should also avoid taking them for a while before and after the procedure.
Consult With Your Doctor
Although BCAA supplements are harmless for the most part, you still don’t know precisely how they interact with your body. Note that they are contraindicated for people taking some medications and with certain health conditions. That’s why it’s always worth speaking to your doctor before taking any BCAA supplements.
Remember that safety should be your top priority. It wouldn’t hurt to seek medical advice to ensure that the supplement you’re taking is suitable for your specific needs and goals. Doing so can prevent you from experiencing unnecessary potential side effects that may worsen your condition.
BCAA supplements are beneficial for athletes. But while they can significantly make a difference in your performance, taking sufficient amounts at the right time is crucial. Remember that they are useful if you have restrictive diets, but they should by no means replace your whole food sources.