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What Is BCAA Powder Good For? (What Are BCAAs & Their Benefits?)

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Updated December 28, 2020

When it comes to burning fat and improving athletic performance, most men and women will tell you that the field of supplementation is inundated with solutions. In fact, it can feel overwhelming. Protein, Creatine, Whey Protein, MCT supplements are just the start of the onslaught of advertising that seeks to entice us to buy. And all of that is important if you are an athlete or you are someone looking to burn some fat. But a common question I get from people who are searching for ways to obtain an athletic edge is, what is BCAA?

BCAA, this enigmatic four letter acronym, is planted all over signs and labels at every supplement store we visit, but let’s break BCAA down into a more digestible format and then decipher why it is so important to athletic performance.

BCAAs Meaning: What Is The Definition Of This Acronym?

BCAAs are amino acids. And amino acids are super important. If you avoid protein, you simply can’t grow any muscle. And if you can’t grow muscle, you are going to have a more difficult time burning fat.

Building muscle is actually the best way to put the body into fat burning mode. Now everyone relax for a second, I’m about to get all science up in here. Protein is made up of 20 different amino acids. Amino acids have three various groups.

These groups are located on both ends of the amino acid, and the middle. Good grief, this feels confusing, so let’s make it even more confusing. One amino group is (NH3). Carboxyl acid is another. And the C-H group is the final one. Amino acids are all structured in various ways which give uniqueness to the proteins they create.

Now, some amino acids are naturally produced by the body. And some amino acids are not produced naturally by the body. The ones that are not naturally produced by the body are known as “essential amino acids.” You’ve likely heard the term but possibly didn’t understand exactly what it means.

The reason we call them essential is that people need to get them from their diet. In other words, the body isn’t going to help. Thereby, they are essential to ingest in some form. There are eight that are essential. Let’s have a look at the list:

  • tryptophan
  • threonine
  • valine
  • isoleuceine
  • methionine
  • leucine
  • lysine
  • phenylalanine

For the average person reading that list, tryptophan is probably the most familiar. We hear this amino acid mentioned a great deal around Thanksgiving. So if you want to get those amino acids, you need to either eat them or use a supplement that contains them.

BCAA Studies

what is bcaaBCAAs were first popularized by athletes who wanted to increase their performance on the field (or court, or gym), and as we said, they are also important to people who want to gain lean muscle. And this makes them important to those who want to burn fat.

There are some scientific studies that claim that BCAAs do what is called “break the blood brain barrier.” The brain doesn’t allow supplements to commonly enhance it, however, many believe that BCAAs do just that. In the case of BCAAs, they are linked to increasing serotonin in the brain which would increase mental energy and stave off depression.

On a similar note, some studies show it to lower serotonin. That same linked study also notes that a BCAA supplement user can add in tyrosine to balance such potential deficit. Many of our Top 10 Best Protein Powders contain tyrosine for that very reason. I don’t think I’d get too caught up in this aspect of things, however.

BCAAs are also known as “nitrogen carriers.” In essence, they can help muscles spawn more aminos, which helps to further stimulate muscle growth. BCAAs also fire up our insulin hormone. This is an important function of BCAAs because the hormone insulin is what helps our muscles make use of carbohydrates for the purposes of energy conversion. Insulin also allows the muscles to utilize more amino acids. BCAAs are anti-catabolic and what’s known as “anabolic.” This is because they turn on the human body’s protein synthesis switch.

Catabolism, which is the action of muscles breaking down, is known to reduce in athletes who use BCAAs. This is mainly a component of athletes who compete in endurance sports such as long distance running where catabolism is very common.

HIIT training, such as weightlifting, can certainly prompt its fair share of catabolism as well. In both cases, these athletes are recommended to ingest BCAA supplementation. The reduction of catabolism is essential to anyone who wants to gain muscle. Catabolism is literally the enemy of muscle growth and muscle maintenance. The supplementation of BCAAs would provide an essential platform for any athlete. This is why BCAAs are so popular.

How To Get More BCAAs

Now that we’ve removed the enigma from BCAAs, let’s talk about how you’d go about obtaining them. BCAA supplements are found in supplement stores such as GNC. You can also use Amazon to find standard BCAA supplements…BUT, the best way to make sure you’re getting enough BCAAs (especially if you’re looking to build muscle) is by utilizing a high quality protein powder.

Our Top 10 Best Protein Powders all contain BCAAs, plus many other amazing ingredients that can help you burn fat and gain muscle.

In fact, our #1 ranked protein powder naturally contains over 6 grams of BCAAs in every serving due to its use of an extremely high quality, ultra pure whey protein hydrolysate blend.

I’d definitely make sure to review any BCAAs before you purchase them. Look for user reviews. BodyBuilding.com has lots of reviews and of course, we have our protein drink reviews. There is a ton of information out there to help you along.

But don’t just blindly purchase them and hope for the best. We live in a day and age where the free exchange of information is crucial. It can save you a lot of money and a lot of wasted time. Supplementation is essential, particularly as we age and our bodies decide to not cooperate with our goals.

What is BCAA Powder Good For? Here Are 6 BCAA Benefits

Fatigue Reducer

Studies have shown BCAA supplements can help decrease fatigue during and after high-intensity sporting activities. For instance, cyclists under heat stress who consumed a BCAA drink cycled for 12% longer than those who had a placebo drink. A direct link to enhanced performance hasn’t been conclusively found, but there is well-documented evidence that BCAAs can reduce exhaustion levels.

Better Glucose Levels

When you’re working out, BCAAs are released to your skeletal muscles that help regulate blood sugar levels. The resulting glucose balance allows your cells to build muscle tissue, enhance muscle repair and keep post-workout soreness at bay. This is especially important if you’re on a restricted diet or fasting before or after a strenuous workout.

Muscle Building

If your BCAA supplement contains more leucine than valine or isoleucine, it could help build muscle mass. That’s because BCAAs help with the release of particular enzymes that aid muscle building. The foremost reason for gym rats consuming BCAA is to build a larger body. But keep in mind that it only works when you complement it with a nutritious diet.

Weight Reduction

There is some evidence that proves BCAAs can help with weight problems. In research conducted among middle-aged adults, those who consumed 15 grams of BCAA as part of their diet were less likely to have obesity issues.

In one study, some wrestlers were given 14 grams of BCAA and others 28 grams of whey protein. The results? Participants in the first group were able to lose 1% more weight than the latter over eight weeks. Also, the BCAA group gained 4.4 pounds of extra muscle.

View our top protein supplement recommendations here: Top Protein Powders Comparison.

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Joe Costello
Nutrition & Wellness Consultant
Joe Costello is a Nutrition & Wellness Consultant, certified by the American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA), author, and internet blogger. Joe has more than 9 years of experience in the sports nutrition industry and over 3 years of experience as a supplement and nutrition blogger. As a certified NWC who specializes in dietary supplements, Joe strives to deliver accurate, comprehensive, and research-backed information to his readers.

You can find more of Joe’s work including his E-Books about fitness and nutrition at his official website joecostellonwc.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, or YouTube. Joe Costello is one of the founders of TheSupplementReviews.org and years after the creation of the site, partnered with TEK Naturals, a nutritional supplement company.