BCAA stands for Branched-Chain Amino Acids, a group of 3 amino acids that our bodies require for energy and muscle protein synthesis. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and leucine, isoleucine and valine form the foundations of our muscles.
hese BCAAs are 3 of the 9 essential amino acids, which means the body can’t make them, so we need to get them through our diet. Different from other amino acids because they are metabolised within the muscle tissue and used by muscle cells for energy, BCAAs constitute more than one-third of the protein found in human muscle tissue.
What are BCAAs good for?
While we do get some from our food, dietary BCAAs have to pass through the liver for processing before being absorbed and used in the body. BCAA powder bypasses digestion to go directly to the bloodstream, where it is rapidly absorbed and used as an immediate source of energy during a workout or busy day.
Not only are BCAAs an excellent supplement for supporting muscle growth and enhancing exercise performance, but they may also help with healthy weight loss, reducing fatigue, and reducing muscle soreness after exercise. BCAA powder can be taken before, during and after your workouts to provide immediate support and enhancement of the metabolic processes involved in reaching your fitness goals.
For those who want the breakdown on why BCAAs are good for you, let’s explore some of the scientifically proven BCAA benefits.
BCAAs are good for muscle growth or maintenance
When we eat well below our daily caloric needs, consume too few carbohydrates, or when glycogen stores are depleted during endurance exercise, our skeletal muscle is broken down and used as fuel. The body prefers to use protein for repairs and maintenance rather than as an energy source, but this sacrifice is necessary to access certain amino acids that can be converted into glucose.
As your brain also needs a constant, steady supply of glucose to function properly, under-eating can quickly lead to weight loss in the short term. However, you’ll lose precious muscle mass much faster than you'll lose fat. Lowering your metabolism, strength and energy levels, this kind of weight loss isn’t the healthiest option.
Suppose you’re eating in a slight caloric deficit to reach your health and fitness goals. In that case, the leucine in BCAA powder can stimulate muscle protein synthesis to help you maintain the valuable muscle mass you already have. Leucine also reduces the rate of catabolism, the process described above, in which muscle tissue is broken down for energy.
Besides helping you keep the lean muscle mass you already have, BCAAs can also help you increase your lean muscle mass if you’re working out and eating in a slight caloric surplus. In other words, BCAAs can help with muscle growth when you’re consuming enough calories and doing regular resistance training with progressive overload.
It’s essential to make sure your BCAA powder has a good leucine ratio
BCAAs are good for healthy weight loss
As building muscle and losing fat go hand in hand, using a BCAA powder may enhance your fat-burning efforts. Increasing lean muscle mass raises your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), which makes reducing your body fat percentage a much healthier and more sustainable process.
When used alongside a healthy diet and exercise plan, BCAAs are a useful tool to help you get in shape and stay in shape. However, it’s essential to make sure your BCAA powder has a good leucine ratio, as this amino acid encourages the body to use fat stores for energy.
Sipping on BCAAs also increases your protein intake, which can curb your appetite, help you feel fuller for longer, and minimise unhealthy overindulgences.
Taken before or during exercise, BCAAs inhibit the onset of both central fatigue
BCAAs reduce physical and mental fatigue
Besides stimulating protein synthesis and reducing the rate of catabolism, BCAAs can be used as fuel, providing your muscles with extra energy to support you through the more challenging workouts that lead to muscle growth and strength over time. This extra fuel is part of the reason why BCAAs reduce fatigue.
More specifically, the isoleucine and valine in your BCAA powder can be converted into glucose for the extra energy that helps combat fatigue during a workout. At the same time, the leucine in your BCAA powder converts to ATP, which is the primary source of energy that fuels muscle contraction during exercise.
Taken before or during exercise, BCAAs inhibit the onset of both central fatigue (when you get mentally tired) and peripheral fatigue (when your muscles get tired). Peripheral fatigue is delayed because BCAAs provide an additional energy source when your body has used up its glycogen stores.
Central fatigue is delayed because BCAAs prevent tryptophan from getting into the brain. Another amino acid, tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with relaxation and sleepiness. The result is that you feel more motivated, focused, and stronger for longer.
BCAAs benefit both aerobic and anaerobic performance
Studies on cyclists show that, when taken regularly, one of BCAAs benefits is that it improves your capacity for aerobic exercise, as well as your anaerobic power. In other words, BCAAs are good for your cardio endurance because they enable your body to use more oxygen during exercise, and they’re good for your power and strength because they support faster muscle adaptation.
Whether you prefer long-distance running, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, or any other type of training, you can enjoy these BCAA benefits.
BCAAs are good for keeping you hydrated
Staying hydrated every day is crucial for many reasons. You probably already know that drinking enough water improves your sleep quality, mental cognition and mood. But being well-hydrated is also essential for regulating your body temperature, lubricating your joints, preventing infections, delivering nutrients to your cells, and ensuring your organs function properly.
Not only is Tropeaka BCAA+ refined sugar-free, sweetened by nature and packed full of essential nutrients, but both delicious flavours also contain hydrating electrolytes from coconut water. In addition to the extra hydration support from magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium, the delicious natural taste of raspberry or passionfruit in your water will make it so much easier to stay super hydrated during your workouts and throughout the day.
BCAAs speed up exercise recovery
When we work out, the process of muscle protein breakdown creates tiny tears in our muscle fibres that need time to repair. Without enough rest and recovery during exercise sessions and between your workouts, you run the risk of overtraining. Another great benefit of sipping BCAAs during your workouts is that they can help reduce the damage to your muscles while accelerating the recovery process.
The result? You can safely train more frequently and at a higher intensity, which means you could reach your fitness goals faster. Tropeaka BCAA+ is even better for exercise recovery than standard BCAA powders; this advanced plant-based formula is blended with a deep-sea mineral complex that further supports rapid muscle recovery.
One of the best BCAAs benefits is that they help balance your hormones during and after intense workouts
BCAAs help balance your hormones
BCAAs can help us with much more than just gaining muscle and losing fat. One of the best BCAAs benefits is that they help balance your hormones during and after intense workouts.
When life outside of the gym gets stressful, intense exercise can exacerbate a pre-existing imbalance of cortisol, aka ‘the stress hormone.’ Despite its negative nickname, balanced cortisol levels minimise inflammation and positively impact blood sugar levels, mental clarity, memory, and metabolism.
However, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to an imbalance of testosterone and oestrogen. Both men and women produce both of these sex hormones, and their delicate balance directly affects energy, sex drive, lean tissue development, and fat storage, along with our moods and mental wellbeing.
While no supplement is a replacement for prioritising your mental health and recovery time, BCAAs can help keep your hormones in balance. Having balanced hormones means you’re less likely to experience the junk food cravings, bad moods, low energy, water retention, and weight gain that could potentially hinder your fitness journey.
Do BCAAs work?
Now that we’ve broken down the potential benefits of using BCAAs, the question is - do BCAAs work? Whether you’re a competitive athlete, training to improve your body composition, or searching for a solution to your sore muscles, yes - BCAAs do work.
However, they aren’t a magic potion that erases the impact of late nights, no exercise and terrible nutrition. BCAAs work in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle practices like getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and eating well. In other words, BCAAs enhance and support the natural processes within your body so that you can make the most of your workouts and reach your health and fitness goals sooner.
It’s also important to keep in mind that not all BCAAs powders are healthy. Always check the ingredients for chemical nasties, animal-derived ingredients, fillers and artificial sweeteners. To get fit the healthy way, choose an organic, plant-based BCAA that’s free from herbicides, pesticides, soy, and gluten.