Author: Greg Yau
BCAAs, short for branched-chain amino acids, have been a controversial supplement in the market.
What is it? How does it work?
Branched-chain amino acids are made up of three essential amino acids, namely leucine, isoleucine, and valine. In scientific terms, they are amino acids having an aliphatic side-chain with a branch. They belong to a group of amino acids considered "essential," and that is because the body cannot produce those acids by itself, and you can only get it through food. BCAAs are known to be the building blocks of protein, and hence they can be found in protein supplements and protein-rich foods. That said, BCAAs can effectively support muscle growth as leucine activates a distinct pathway in the body to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS) (1). They have also been shown to preserve muscle mass under severe catabolic conditions characterized by muscle wasting and protein breakdown (2). BCAAs also help with fatigue after heavy workouts and alleviating delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), as they work to minimize muscle damages and protein breakdown during exercise.
My opinion: Is it worth the money?
As I have mentioned above, BCAAs can be found in protein sources. That said, if you are already hitting your daily protein intake (~0.8-1g per pound of body weight), or are already supplementing your diet with protein powder to hit that protein intake, there is no need to supplement your diet with BCAAs. In fact, you can achieve the 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine with only half a scoop of protein powder (compared to 10g of BCAAs) and get even more protein (3). If you still feel the need to supplement your diet with BCAAs, below are some recommendations.
- MyProtein THE Amino+
- Optimum Nutrition PRO BCAA
- Muscle Pharm Essentials BCAA