What are BCAAs?

If you’ve spent any time in the supplement aisle or chatted up a buff gym goer, you’ve likely heard the term ‘BCAAs’. But do you know what they are, and more importantly, do you need them?

Kneeling muscular couple exercising with kettlebells

We’ll break down what they are, who could benefit from them, and why so you can make the decision on if you feel they are the right supplement for you. Little heads up, they likely are!

What do BCAAs Stand For?

BCAAs are short for Branched-Chain Amino Acids. It sounds like a mouthful but don’t be overwhelmed by the fancy name. It’s really just a special name for specific types of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that have a unique branching structure.

What are Essential Amino Acids?

female athlete powerlifter exercise deadlift in powerlifting competition, power sports games

Amino acids are the building blocks that form proteins in our bodies. Now, some of these we can produce on our own (non-essential), and some we have to get from our diets because our bodies can’t make them.

These are the nine different essential amino acids:

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Tryptophan
  • Threonine
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Histidine
  • Leucine
  • Lysin

Think of them as the VIPs of the amino acid world – absolutely crucial for our health and performance.

Are BCAAs Essential Amino Acids?

Yes, BCAAs are, in fact, essential amino acids. There are three different essential amino acids which include: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Their special branched structure makes them unique, and they have specific roles in our bodies, especially when it comes to muscle growth and recovery.

Why Do People Take a BCAA Supplement?


You’ve likely seen folks sipping on colorful liquids or shaking up powders into their bottles during their workouts and wondered if they’re onto something and what it is.

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It’s likely a BCAA supplement and not Kool-Aid – hoping for a boost in their performance and recovery.

Many gym goers and athletes take BCAA supplements to:

Support Muscle Growth

Muscle growth is a constant dance of breaking down and building up. After a hard workout at the gym or a tough game on the field, our muscles experience micro-tears. It’s in the healing of these tiny tears that we get muscle growth.

When you consume amino acids, like leucine – either from food or supplements – it signals your body to initiate muscle protein synthesis.

Think of it as the green light that tells your body “Hey, let’s build some muscle!” By jump starting this process, leucine makes sure that the protein you eat or drink isn’t just used for energy but it goes towards repairing and building your muscle fibers(1).

Reduce Muscle Soreness

Ever had those post-leg-day blues where you can’t even think about stairs? We’ve all been there – that feeling the day after an intense workout when our muscles scream with every movement.

This discomfort, known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), can be a real downer, especially if you’re trying to stay consistent with your fitness routine.

BCAAs could be just what you need to help reduce the severity and duration of this soreness(1).

Prevent Muscle Loss

BCAAs can help preserve your hard-earned muscle, especially during prolonged exercise or when on a calorie deficit. It’s every athlete’s and bodybuilder’s nemesis.

In situations where individuals might be consuming fewer calories than usual, BCAAs can act as a shield, slowing down the rate at which muscles degrade.

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Do We Get Adequate BCAAs From Food?

Raw salmon, fresh fish fillet at black background.

Foods rich in protein, like meat, poultry, fish, and dairy, are chock full of BCAAs. Even some plant-based sources like beans and lentils pack a great amount of BCAA. If you maintain a balanced diet, you probably get a good amount of BCAAs.

However, athletes or those on restricted diets might benefit from an extra daily boost.

Are There Risks of Side Effects From BCAAs?

As with anything, moderation is key. In typical doses, BCAAs are generally safe. However, consuming them in large amounts may lead to certain side effects like nausea or headaches.

And always – I mean, always – chat with your doctor before adding a new supplement, especially if you’re on medications or have pre-existing health conditions.

Who Can Benefit From a BCAA Supplement?

Everyone could potentially benefit from a BCAA supplement, but there are also a few groups of people who can really see a boost in performance and overall diet quality.

  • Athletes and Heavy Lifters: Those pushing their bodies to the max at the gym or on the field might find BCAAs beneficial for recovery and muscle growth.
  • People on Caloric Deficits: If you’re on a strict diet or trying to cut, BCAAs can help ensure your muscles aren’t being depleted.
  • Vegans and Vegetarians: While plant-based diets are fabulous in many ways, they might be a bit low on BCAAs, so a supplement could come in handy for a complete and optimal diet.

In a nutshell, while BCAAs can offer certain benefits, remember they aren’t magic. A balanced diet, consistent exercise regimen, and – most importantly – listening to your body are your best allies on the path to health and fitness.

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He is a Blogger, Tech Geek, SEO Expert, and Designer. Loves to buy books online, read and write about Technology, Gadgets and Gaming. you can connect with him on Facebook | Linkedin | mail: srupnar85@gmail.com

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