Should I drink BCAA’s?
I would like this to be something I am asked frequently but sadly it’s not. This isn’t surprising when you look around at a local gym and see that almost all the people there are drinking or taking some sort of BCAA supplement.
Now there is nothing wrong with this but like everything in life, it helps to think a little before taking action, especially when it comes to what supplements to take.
The way I see it, everything you eat or drink should serve a purpose. That purpose might be simply that it tastes good, or perhaps something more usful like it’s providing my body with energy. So when I see so many people drinking BCAA’s I think to myself what is the purpose they are taking them for.
Typically BCAA’s are marketed to give a number of benefits such as muscle sparing, increased energy, improved recovery and a whole load more!
Obviously though these are from the people selling the products so they have a vested interest in making them sound useful.
I like to take it back to basics and think about what a BCAA is. There are 22 amino acids that exist but only 3 of them have branched chains, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. These 3 are important as they are the only amino acids to be synthesised in the muscle, not in the liver. They are used for two main purposes, firstly as a source of energy via gluconeogenesis (this is where the muscle sparing comes from as they will be sued before muscle is broken down then there is no other glycoden available) and secondly as building blocks for muscle protein synthesis.
Now based on this, I think we would all agree that BCAA’s are not just useful, but absolutly necessary for any healthy, active & fit person.
So what’s the problem with BCAA supplementation?
Well the problem is that BCAA’s are present in a lot of foods. Almost all animal proteins contain the three BCAA’s. An single egg in fact contains 1.3g of BCAA’s and chicken breast over 6g. Then there is whey protein powder, this is typically about 25% BCAA. Even soy protein contains a decent ammount.
Now for any healthy, active person, they will be including at least one, if not all of these foods in their diet and therefore getting all the BCAA’s their body needs. In which case, why do so many people feel the need to take supplements?
Well firstly let’s remember that everyone is different and everyone has different goals. Some extreme athlete, on very restricted diets, with low body fat may need to supplement their BCAA intake, likewise those athletes that perform long duration activities over about 2 hours.
For the rest however, I am convinced it’s simply a lack of understanding or a willingness to think for themselves.
I urge you to think before you spend your hard earned cash on BCAA’s, or any other supplement to ensure that you know why you are taking them and that you do need to.