Updated: Apr 16
No doubt you've come across an influencer guzzling down some BCAA's on Instragram, and slipping in a personalised discount code. But what are BCAA's, and should we be taking these alongside our workout routines?
BCAA's, or branch chain amino acids, have been super popular in the workout community online. BCAA's refers to a trio of amino acids that cannot be made by the body so therefore must be consumed from food (otherwise referred to as essential amino acids). These amino acids (building blocks of protein) are call isoleucine, leucine and valine. These amino acids are different to other essential amino acids as they can metabolised in skeletal muscle.
So why are these amino acids more popular than their other counterparts?
BCAA's are often praised for their proposed ability to improve muscle protein synthesis, prevent muscle protein breakdown, reduce muscle damage associated with exercise and act as fuel for muscles.
For most people, who go to the gym or workout at home, supplementing your intake with BCAA's is unlikely to give you any additional benefit such as those above. The benefits mentioned can be achieved by simply getting enough protein in your diet. By getting enough protein from dietary sources you will also get the added benefit of having additional nutrients such as a mixture of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fibre (plant sources such as beans, pulses, nuts etc).
So you will be much better off assessing your current total protein intake and comparing this to your current protein needs. This will save you money, washing up and faff. Remember the lower limit of protein recommended for adults is 0.75g per kg of body weight, which can go up to 1.6g per kg of weight if you are performing higher levels of physical activity.
However, for those training at athlete level then BCAA's may be helpful if you are also on a calorie restriction - as you may be less likely to meet your protein needs. Though most athletes will have a dietitian or nutritionist who can advise them further on this.
This article has been written for educational purposes, and is not considered bespoke nutrition advice. If you are thinking about changing your diet or lifestyle routine, then you should consult your GP, registered dietitian or nutritionist, or healthcare professional.