What kind of amino acid supplements should you get? One of the main types to consider is something called essential amino acids (EAAs). These are aminos that we absolutely must get from food/supplements. That’s because our bodies don’t produce them like non-essential aminos. Some of the most important ones are the best branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These are three EAAs including the “general” known as Leucine. While they’re only one-third of the EAAs they’re critical for different functions like building muscle and workout recovery. Fun Fact: The global dietary supplement market is worth nearly $133 billion (2018) and is projected to sky-rocket during the next decade.
One thing to keep in mind is that while BCAAs have been trending in recent years they’re not the only EAAs you need. If you’re not getting enough of all 20 aminos then it will be tough to build lean muscle mass. On the other hand, Leucine, in particular, is critical for factors like muscle building and repairing. This is why you should consider adding more BCAAs to your diet as well as other EAAs. You can get them from different sources like real food, protein powders, and tablets/capsules. These are outstanding sources for the aminos.
What in the World Are BCAAs?
You might have heard of something called BCAAs and wondered what exactly they are. These are three of the nine “essential” amino acids. The other main kinds or non-essential. The names don’t mean that one is critical and the other isn’t.
The main difference is the aminos’ source. EAAs must come from food and supplements since the human body cannot make there are any acids. This differs from NEAAs that the body produces naturally. All 20 of the aminos are “essential” in that your body cannot function properly without them.
However, in most cases, you generally shouldn’t have problems making enough NEAAs if you’re eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, don’t have certain health conditions, and aren’t a senior. These are risk factors for people not producing enough NEAAs.
Let’s get to brass tacks about BCAAs. These are three aminos: 1) Leucine, 2) Isoleucine, and 3) Valine. As the name suggests they branch over to one side. This is why they’re grouped in one group of EAAs. Like other amino acids, these are so-called building blocks of proteins.
Proteins themselves are one of the three macronutrients humans need. The others are carbs and fats. All of these “macros” provide the body with energy. However, they do this in different ways. What’s most important is that we need a certain amount of all three macros in our daily diet.
The best way to get your EAAs including BCAAs is through food. This includes “complete proteins” that include all 9 EAAs. The most well-known ones are animal-sourced foods like chicken, fish, eggs, milk, and soybeans.
You can also add amino acid supplements to your diet. They include protein powders, tablets/capsules, and even liquid aminos. If you want to easily add more aminos including BCAAs to your diet then these are some of the options you have.
Best Branched-Chain Amino Acids
How can you find the best BCAAs? Here are some key features to consider when picking a supplement:
There are different forms like liquid aminos, protein powders, and tablets/capsules. These all provide pros and cons. For example, if you take liquid aminos you’ll probably get more carbs. However, the flavor will also be better than other options like protein powders in particular. Such supplements usually have added ingredients like colors, flavors, and preservatives.
Companies like Optimum Nutrition and MuscleTech have been around. So, you’ll likely have a better experience if you go with those companies versus generic brands, for example. You’ll also end up with better overall quality and customer service. These are major issues for getting the best product for your money. If you go with an off-brand it’s going to be a big gamble and not in a good way.
Make sure to check out much of each amino you’re getting. For example, the daily recommended amount of Leucine for people is about 40mg. this is actually the highest figure of all EAAs. You’ll need less of the other two aminos. Check to see how much is contained in a particular product so you’ll know whether or not you’re getting a good amount of the three aminos.
Watch out for additives/fillers in products. This is especially true of protein powders. They don’t really have a pleasant taste. The bad news is there is often added sugar in these products, which can offset some of the health benefits you get from the protein powders.
If you want top-notch quality then go with branded products. You should also consider organic ones that don’t contain any synthetic chemicals. Make sure to read some online reviews about different products so you’ll get the consensus about whether a product is good, bad, or in the mushy middle.
Top Health Benefits of BCAAs
1. Muscle Damage
Various studies including one in 2017 studied that BCAA supplements might help to lower damage to muscle tissue that takes place during high-intensity workouts. The study’s researchers pointed out that the study included a small group of participants.
A small 2013 study also showed that males that took amino supplements (BCAAs) during workouts experienced had less stuff in their blood that shows muscle damage. This was versus people who took a fake pill.
2. Liver Disease
This might be a surprising one since it’s not related to muscle building/repair. However, a 2017 study revealed that taking BCAAs seemed to help a group of liver disease patients versus those who didn’t take daily BCAA supplements.
The researchers reported that more research is needed. However, other studies also show that BCAAs seem to help patients with liver cirrhosis. One study showed that it improved their muscle strength.
3. Muscle Breakdown
Some studies show that BCAAs might help to preserve muscle mass during serious illnesses. For example, one 2012 study review focused on diseases that reduce muscle mass and body protein. The study’s authors reported that a diet that’s high-protein with extra Leucine helps to save muscle mass in people with serious diseases like cancer.
4. Muscle Mass
If you want to build lean muscle mass then you should consider BCAAs. Several studies show that they can build new muscle and reduce fat. These are both common goals for weightlifters, bodybuilders, and athletes.
For example, one study tested the effects of BCAAs on males doing weight-resistance training for 2+ years. The research found that the BCAA group had more new muscle mass and less body fat versus the other groups including the whey protein and sports drink group. These studies show the importance of picking the best-branched chain amino acids.