BCAAs: What you need to know about Branched Chain Amino Acids

BCAAs: What you need to know about Branched Chain Amino Acids

I’m sure many of you have read various articles over the top 10 supplements you need to be taking. I’m also sure that many of you are wondering “What the heck are BCAAs?”, well in this article I will be covering not only what they are, but various, popular questions that get asked over the topic.

What are BCAAs?

First we should start with what BCAAs actually are; BCAAs stand for Branched Chain Amino Acids and are 3 of the 9 essential amino acids in the body. Essential amino acids are aminos that the body needs but doesn’t create naturally. The 3 essential amino acids that BCAAs consist of are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.  These are often considered the foundational building blocks of the muscles in your body.

How do BCAAs work?

As stated before the three Amino Acids are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. These aminos are metabolized differently than the rest of the amino acids. Most amino acids are metabolized in the liver, but BCAAs are oxidized in the muscles during exercise for additional energy. BCAAs can also aid with protein synthesis. It also increases the synthesis on a cellular level, which means it can also increase the cells capacity for protein synthesis. Additionally, they can aid with preventing the breakdown of valuable muscle during exercise. Increasing synthesis and preventing muscle breakdown equals to an increased muscle mass. This is especially true if you are on a lower carbohydrate diet. Not having enough glycogen stores (carbs) can lead to the body breaking down muscle for energy. So adding BCAAs to your regimen when you are at a lower caloric intake can be extremely beneficial. Another HUGE benefit to supplementing with BCAAs is that it can aid with your workout intensity. Branched Chains compete with tryptophan for entry into the brain. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin, a key brain neurotransmitter affecting mood and sleep. Increased levels of serotonin bring about the feelings of fatigue and stress. With BCAAs essentially regulating serotonin, you can have longer, more rewarding, and more intense workouts.

 When to take BCAAs

Whenever you exercise or participate in any type of physical activity your BCAA breakdown increases. Also, after these strenuous activities your BCAA levels in your muscle tissue decrease significantly. These rapid declines can cause a lack of strength, energy, and performance. With this being said, the optimal time for BCAA intake would be before, during or after your workouts. If you are already supplementing with a whey protein for after your workouts taking additional BCAAs will not be necessary. If your goal is to build mass, you might want to consider taking BCAAs right upon waking to prevent the muscle breakdown that comes from lack of eating while you sleep.

Where BCAAs come from

Branched Chain Amino Acids come from a variety of sources. Mostly anywhere you can get a significant source of protein you will get your BCAAs. Some examples include: meats, such as chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products. You can also find them in foods like soybeans, baked beans, lima beans, lentils, brown rice, whole wheat, corn and nuts. Out of all the non-meat foods, beans contain the highest amount of BCAAs.

Which BCAAs should I take

Now that you have all the knowledge over BCAAs, now is the time to figure out what kind of BCAAs you should purchase. You’re going to find a wide variety of blends and forms. I’ll start off by breaking down the difference between pill and powder form. If you are taking the pills, you are going to have to do them on a much more regulated schedule than a powder. The reason for this is the absorption rate. Solids naturally digest slower than liquid. So if you are looking to get BCAAs into your system more quickly, such as ingesting them 30 minutes before a workout then a powder is going to be your best bet. Taking the pills, you will have to take them very regularly and on a schedule in order to keep the BCAAs in your system.  Some good examples of pill form BCAAs are CTD Sports BCAA 3750 or Optimum Nutrition’s BCAA capsules. There are a lot of blends out there with different powder forms that include other aminos to make it more multipurpose. Amino Energy by Optimum Nutrition is a great example. It is more focused on natural energy, so they include natural caffeine sources from green tea extract and green coffee bean extract. They also include things like glutamine to aid with recovery.


With all of the attributes listed above, it’s easy to see why BCAAs are constantly ranked as one of the top supplements that you must have in your routine. It’s great for maintaining muscle (which will help if you are trying to put on size or trim up), and extending your workouts. Remember, I’ve only covered the main and most popular attributes of the aminos. There are many more benefits that I haven’t listed here. If you have any more questions, or want to know which BCAA product you should invest in, please feel free to contact us either by email or social media. Our knowledgeable staff will answer any questions that you might have.


John “Obie” Oberkircher is the Marketing Director for Advantage Supplements. Obie has gained a thorough amount of knowledge throughout his years in the fitness industry. His vision and passion for helping others achieve their health and fitness goals is his primary objective for Advantage Supplements as a company, and the direction he wants to continue to take.


Howatson, Glyn, Michael Hoad, Stuart Goodall, Jamie Tallent, Philip G. Bell, and Duncan N. French. "Exercise-induced Muscle Damage Is Reduced in Resistance-trained Males by Branched Chain Amino Acids: A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo Controlled Study." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Howatson, 08 May 2012. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

Adolpho, Thomas B., Patrícia Lopes Campos, Bruno Gualano, Josilene Carla Gomes, Fernanda Baeza Scagliusi, Guilherme Gianini Artioli, and Antonio Herbert Lancha. "Influence Of Branched-chain Aminoacids (BCAA) Supplementation On Free Fatty Acids Oxidation During Endurance Exercise After Muscle Glycogen Depletion." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 37.Supplement (2005): n. pag. Web.

Shimomura*4, Yoshiharu, Yuko Yamamoto*, Gustavo Bajotto*, Juichi Sato†, Taro Murakami**, Noriko Shimomura‡, and And Hisamine Kobayashi††. "Yoshiharu Shimomura." Nutraceutical Effects of Branched-Chain Amino Acids on Skeletal Muscle. The Journal of Nutrition, 01 Feb. 2006. Web. 16 Jan. 2017.

Williams, Melvin. "Dietary Supplements and Sports Performance: Amino Acids." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2.2 (2005): 63. Web.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Back to the top