Tuesday Tip: Are BCAAs worth it? 🥤
This week’s tip may seem a bit specialist but I’ve had lots of people asking me about these. BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), the supposedly vital pre-workout supplement (usually taken as a drink) which helps muscle recovery and building – are they actually worth taking?
In general – No. Why not?
#1 They don’t build muscle
BCAAs contain leucine, valine and isoleucine, 3 of the 9 essential amino acids for muscle growth/repair. You need all of them, not just those 3. There are also recent studies showing they can actually inhibit muscle growth. Taking them on their own creates competition with other amino acids for absorption, making it harder for the body to use the other “building blocks” to form new muscle tissue.
But “I read that BCAAs increased muscle protein synthesis!” Maybe, but most of these studies have serious limitations, including being conducted by the companies that make them! They’re often compared to water in these studies which isn’t a fair comparison. When compared with other protein sources BCAAs show no benefits.
#3 They don’t reduce muscle soreness.
A recent study showed no reduction in muscle soreness by taking BCAAs which is one of the many benefits proponents of them claim.
#4 They’re empty calories
They’re not zero calories. Think about it – how can they be no calories if they’re amino acids and used for muscle synthesis? Of course they have calories (check the packet!). So you’re taking on extra calories for zero benefit.
#5 They can make you eat more
Recent studies have found BCAAs actually increase your appetite and make you eat more. They also have no impact on fatigue or tiredness. Many reports of this are anecdotal – in most actual studies they have no impact at all.
BCAAs have no nutritional benefits. Unless your diet is devoid of protein, BCAAs will do nothing to help you look better, feel better or perform better. So rather than wasting money and calories on BCAAs just because someone at the gym or on Instagram said they’re ‘vital’ simply have a balanced diet, with normal amounts of protein instead.
Happy Tuesday 🤗