Behind the Ingredients: What Are BCAAs?

June 06, 2017

Behind the Ingredients: What Are BCAAs?

There are a lot of acronyms thrown around in the fitness industry, from HIIT and DOMS to PRs and AMRAP. One that you may see referenced a lot when it comes to supplements is BCAAs, a magical substance that should be taken for optimal workout power.

If that’s kind of all you know, don’t worry! You’re not alone.

Here at Black Market, we sell a variety of blended supplement powders, but also offer our RAW line, which are single-ingredient supplement powders for when you want to experiment with creating the ideal mixture for your body. The heart of our company is a love of exercise, and applying our knowledge of supplementation to our bodies to make them as powerful and fit as possible - and we want to share that passion with you. The first step? Helping you understand exactly what you’re putting in your body.

That’s why we’re going to be publishing blogs on every major ingredient we use, so you can get the low-down on why you should (or shouldn’t) take it, along with when and how to get optimal results.

BCAAs: Branched Chain Amino Acids

This popular supplement is actually three separate chains of amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They’re known for helping muscles grow, but are most widely known as helpful when you’re on a diet, as they’ll help you retain the muscle mass you already have.

Each of the three amino acids plays an important role in your body. Leucine helps your muscles synthesize protein, which helps both build new mass and retain what you have. Isoleucine helps your cells absorb glucose, which prevents it from being shunted to your fat stores, helps your muscles stay fueled for longer, and allows you to heal faster. Valine protects against the breakdown of muscle tissue by supplying the cells with extra glucose (thanks isoleucine), as well as maintaining your nervous system, which is as critical to your physical success as your muscle strength is.

BCAAs are not produced by your body, but they’re essential nutrients. Most people get adequate BCAAs from the protein in the foods they eat - namely meat products, but also dairy and legumes. They’re so important and powerful that supplementation is commonly prescribed for patients suffering many nervous system and muscle disorders, as well as those confined to prolonged bedrest or induced coma to maintain muscle mass. 

Should You Supplement BCAAs?

BCAAs are an interesting supplement to ask this question of, as there are, for most people, no side effects, so there’s not much to warn people off of. If you’re a sedentary adult that is either maintaining or undergoing only a slight calorie deficit, then we’ll be straight with you - no, it’s probably not worth your money to take BCAAs.

If you’re someone who regularly works out and wants to take your intensity to the next level, or are looking for that extra burst of energy for your next workout, match or meet, BCAAs will be helpful. This goes double for those who are trying to lean out at the same time, as they help your body prioritize burning your fat stores over your muscles stores.

Lastly, you may have been told that you shouldn’t bother with BCAAs in supplement form, because you get them through your protein powder. While this is technically true, those BCAAs are peptide-bound to other amino-acids - you have to digest it before it gets into your bloodstream, which will be well after your workout is over, and you won’t get the same amount of intensity. BCAAs supplements are free-form, which means once you drink them, they can go quickly into your bloodstream and start working fairly immediately.

BCAAs are the building blocks that every muscle uses to maintain its mass and process fuel. In supplement form, you’re essentially sending more help to your muscles shortly before you ask them to perform an extraordinary task. If you want something done right, it is best to invest in the tools needed for success.