Over the years much discussion and debate in the Fitness and Nutrition industry has revolved around the benefits of BCAA's or Branched Chain Amino Acids as a supplement. I'm not interested in debating the merits of any specific supplement really, but rather share with you my personal experiences and those of clients.
What are BCAA's?
Branched chain amino acids or BCAAs are nutrients obtained from proteins such as dairy, legumes, and meat. On a molecular level, 3 essential components leucine, isoleucine, and valine form a branched chain chemical structure.
Ummm, so what's that mean? Basically this is protein in its simplest form, and these 3 amino acids are part of a family of 9 essential amino acids which the body can not manufacture itself.
What do BCAA's do?
Historically health and fitness professionals will usually refer to BCAA's when discussing dieting and weight loss. It's commonly recommended by personal trainers or nutrition advisers as a premium supplement to assist the body in maintaining lean muscle mass when “leaving out” or trying to reduce body fat. Increasingly however, using BCAA as a supplement has become one of the hottest bodybuilding tips as well. Research has shown that BCAA supplementation is extremely important for athletes as it helps to decrease recovery time as it simultaneously increased lean body mass gains.
In a nutshell, BCAA's are amino acids absorbed into the blood stream and play an important role in protein synthesis or the production of proteins in cells from amino acids to build muscle.
Having been a Personal Trainer for years it's safe to say that I'm experienced when it comes to understanding the relationship between nutrition and fitness. The hour or so spent in the gym each day pales in comparison to the other 15 hours of the day spend warding off cookies and fast food!
Recently I added BCAA's to my pre and post workout supplement, and I've noticed dramatic and noticeable results. My body fat has decreased without an increase in workout intensity or any great change in my diet. I'm a strong believer that in order to measure change, you have to use a constant baseline from which to judge movement … either forward or back. If you're changing 2 or 3 aspects of your diet or workout how can you really know which change made the difference, right?
In my case, a fellow personal trainer was giving me some great weightlighting tips and happened to mention his use of BCAA's. Curious, I bought a container (powered BCAA not capsules) and directed to add it to my pre and post workout regemin. To my surprise I began noticing a decrease in body fat, while maintaining or increasing my lean muscle mass. Bingo !? Is not this the goal of nearly everyone in the gym?
While I'm hesitant to jump on the bandwagon of supporting a specific weightlifting supplement, I will say that given the isolated test of its effectiveness, the addition of BCAA's made a noticeable difference.