You’ve probably heard athletes, fitness YouTubers and Instagram gurus talk about ‘BCAA’S’ or amino acids. Is it some kind of energy drink? Is it simply a refreshing beverage to drink during your workout? Well, not quite. We’ve put together the top 5 most asked questions about amino acids. You asked and we answered, get ready to learn something new and bust some myths.
What Are Amino Acids?
In the world of science, amino acids are described as what make up protein. They are essentially the building blocks of all your gains, the little pieces that bind together to form protein in your body, leading to muscle growth, tissue strength, energy and recovery.
Put it this way, if an entire bracelet is the protein, the beads that make up that bracelet are the amino acids. So, you could say they are kind of important. The 3 main essential amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine, they are referred to as branch chain amino acids due to their structure (this is where the BC comes from in BCAA’s).
Do we already have amino acids, or do we need to actively consume them?
Great question. There are two main types of amino acids: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are (you guessed it) essential. We must consume them through our diet as our body does not produce them naturally. Although a lot of us don’t consciously think ‘am I getting amino acids in this meal?’ most humans consume enough to be healthy and active. However, some people decide to supplement or change their diets to make sure they're getting an adequate amount.
The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. That might just sound like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to you, so here’s something you can actually remember. Some foods that are high in amino acids are eggs, quinoa, cottage cheese, mushrooms, fish, legumes and beans. Your body can take the nutrients from these foods, break down the proteins into amino acids and then form new and improved proteins to form muscle, tissue and many other vital components that allow your body to function.
Non-essential amino acids are already produced by your body whether you eat certain foods or not. These include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid. You can relax and let your body take care of these ones.
What happens if I take amino acid supplements?
When you invest in a good quality amino acid supplement, you can expect some great results. Sipping during your workout or drinking just before, BCAA’s assist in providing energy and maintaining endurance. They support the strength and growth of muscle and tissue while aiding in normal digestion, regulating moods and maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails. On your rest days, BCAA’s can help with muscle soreness and speed up recovery.
Why should I take BCAA’s? Can I just use protein powder instead?
You might be thinking, if amino acids just form into new protein, why don’t I just use protein powder instead? That should make sense, but there’s a little more to it than that. Protein and BCAA’s are, for the most part, used to achieve the same thing but can affect the body in different ways. BCAA’s are an incomplete protein, that will promote synthesis and aid in athletic performance.
They are lightweight, easy to consume, refreshing and low in calorie. This is why many people drink BCAA’s just before or during their workout. Protein, however, is typically taken within two hours post working out. Typically heavier and denser, many proteins are used to meet macro goals and promote muscle growth, build mass or meet calorie requirements. With a similar end goal in mind, protein powders and BCAA’s can actually work together to help you meet your goals.
If your goal is to lose weight and build muscle, you might currently be in a calorie deficit. BCAA’s could be a great addition to your regime, as they are low in calorie, they promote muscle growth and aid in your recovery. If the idea of taking a calorie-dense protein shake turns you off, BCAA’s could be the right option for you.
Can I use BCAA’s and protein powder?
Yes! The combination of an amino acid supplement and a protein powder could be extremely beneficial. Both working together to achieve the same goal, these two supplements can complement each other very well. Use your BCAA’s before or during your workout and have your protein shake afterwards to solidify those gains.
A great combo is Revive by Genetix Nutrition and Gold Standard 100% Whey by Optimum Nutrition. These two supplements can work together to help you achieve your body composition goals. Meet your protein requirements, smash your workout with an abundance of energy and get back to the gym after a speedy recovery.
Amino acids are important. They allow our body to function effectivity and help us achieve our health and fitness goals both in and out of the gym.
If you’re looking to get your hands on some great amino acids today, check these out: