The BCAAs are a group of three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are “essential” amino acids meaning the body cannot produce it on its own so must be obtained from food. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When we eat protein, our body through the digestive process breaks down protein into smaller molecules known as amino acids. This enables the body to absorb these nutrients in their smaller state into the blood stream for thousands of uses within the body.
The name “branched chain amino acids” is derived from the structure of these compounds. Each one has a forged outcropping that looks a bit like a branch, hence the name.
It improves exercise performance and prevents your body breaking down muscle tissue to use for energy.
During intense training the BCAA’s serve as a major source of fuel for the body as exercise burns amino acids rapidly. When your internal BCAA empties, the body begins to break down precious muscle tissue. In this situation BCAA supplementation may become important for the maintenance of muscle tissue and prevention of muscle breakdown.
For best results, you need to eat foods with high BCAA content. These will naturally be in foods such as red meat, cashews, almonds, eggs, fish, chicken, chickpeas, lentils, and liver. If you are shy about supplementing with BCAAs, this is a great place to start.
A balanced diet with adequate protein provides enough BCAAs. Though BCAAs supplementation is not necessary for the average fitness enthusiast, it has some potential benefit during intense fasted training and period of low calorie intake. Taking supplemental BCAAs might not do anything except get burned for energy if the total protein in your diet is already sufficient.