BCAAs like Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine are essential amino acids that provide numerous benefits.
They cannot be produced by your body, but luckily they can be found in various food sources.
This article will reveal the best BCAA foods. Do you eat any of these foods? Do you need additional supplementation? [toc]
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs or Branched Chain Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein, and as such need to be consumed in ample amounts to be of any benefit.
The problem is that when you exercise, your body breaks them down. So you need to ensure you are consuming enough either through your diet or through supplementation.
If you are consuming more than 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram in body weight per day then chances are you won’t need additional supplementation.
Benefits of BCAAs
BCAAs offer numerous health benefits, here are just a few of them:
#1: An Increase in Muscle Growth
One of the biggest benefits of BCAAs is that they can help increase muscle growth.
This is because the amino acid Leucine activates a pathway within your body that stimulates the process of muscle protein synthesis .
A study found that those who consumed a drink that contained 5.6g of BCAAs post workout saw a 22% increase in muscle protein synthesis compared to those who consumed a placebo .
By increasing your intake of protein-rich foods you will increase muscle protein synthesis even further. This is why BCAAs are often found pre-mixed into whey protein supplements.
#2: Reduce DOMS
DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) often occurs after an intense workout and may last for a few days after.
While the exact cause of this soreness is unknown, it is believed to be the result of small tears in your muscle tissue caused during resistance training .
It has been shown that BCAAs can reduce DOMS by reducing protein breakdown during exercise. Studies have also shown that BCAAs can reduce the levels of Creatine Kinase within your body, which is an indicator of muscle damage .
#3: Reduce Exercise Fatigue
Not only can BCAAs helps reduce DOMS they can also reduce the fatigue you suffer while you workout.
As mentioned previously, as you exercise your body will break down the amino acids already in your system.
When this occurs your body will produce more Tryptophan, which is another amino acid that is converted into Serotonin.
It is believed that this increase in Serotonin results in fatigue being encountered .
Studies have shown that by increasing your intake of BCAAs, less fatigue will be experienced .
#4: Prevent Muscle Wastage
BCAAs have been shown to prevent muscle wastage.
This occurs when the protein breakdown exceeds muscle protein synthesis. It usually occurs when people are suffering from malnutrition, a chronic infection, cancer, during periods of fasting or as part of the natural ageing process.
Research has found that BCAAs can slow this muscle breakdown , this is because replacing lost amino acids is vital for this process.
#5: Benefits for those with Liver Disease
If you are suffering from cirrhosis, which is a chronic disease where your liver does not work as it should then BCAAs could help .
Those who suffer from this condition will develop hepatic encephalopathy. This is a loss of brain function caused when your liver is unable to remove toxins.
Research has also found that BCAA supplements could help offer protection against liver cancer in people with liver cirrhosis .
Best BCAA Foods
Your best bet to increase your intake of BCAAs is by consuming complete protein sources.
While supplementation is an option for some, consuming protein-rich foods will also provide you with vital nutrients that supplements do not provide.
The following are foods that you should eat to naturally increase the amount of BCAAs you consume: [ultimatetables 8 /]
The foods listed above are all good sources of BCAAs. I would recommend aiming to get at least 3 grams of Leucine every meal as this maximises muscle protein synthesis.
Plant-based food choices include soybeans, baked beans, lima beans, lentils, brown rice, whole wheat and corn. Nuts like almonds and cashews are also good BCAA sources.
I would recommend that you keep a food diary, and to look closely at your overall calorie intake and then break down your macros too.
By doing this you will get a better idea of your intake of BCAAs. If you are not getting enough through your diet, then you could increase your intake of these BCAA foods, or you could start to think about supplementation.
Other Methods to Increase BCAA Intake
If you are feeling tired and lethargic post workout, or find yourself struggling with DOMS long after your workout has concluded then you may be in need of additional supplementation.
BCAAs are available in different forms that include tablets, capsules and in powder form.
Before you hand over your credit card information to the first product vendor you come across it is worth doing some research beforehand. And opt for the supplement that best suits your needs.
The BCAAs sold in powder form is the most popular option. You can even buy it already mixed into whey protein. The only issue with the powder form is that often the taste is not the best.
Tablets are another popular option, but you will find that the amino acids take longer to be released.
Most BCAA supplements contain a ratio of 2:1:1, with Leucine being the amino acid with the highest dosage.
Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine are 3 BCAAs that cannot be produced by your body. This means they can only be obtained through your diet or through supplementation.
There are many benefits to be gained from increasing your amino acid intake, including an increase in muscle growth, less muscle fatigue and fewer DOMS.
For those who already consume a high protein diet additional BCAA supplementation may not be needed. However, for some, they are essential and will give those that use them an additional edge over those that do not.