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When to take BCAA? 3 Answers for 3 Goals

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About

Amino acids are nutrients that our body uses to manufacture and replenish proteins and obtain energy. These are highly valued nutrients in the world of sports since one of their main functions is to protect the muscles by preventing the body from consuming the reserves it can obtain from them, as occurs with overheating, when we force the body to work beyond its possibilities.

BCAA or branched chain amino acids are one of the main sports supplements made up of three different types of amino acids (Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine) that the human body does not synthesize autonomously. Below, we explain everything you need to know about what BCAA are, the ideal time to decide when to take BCAAs, and how to take BCAA so that their function is more effective in our body.

What are BCAA?

There are twenty essential amino acids that the human body needs for functioning and overall well-being. Essential amino acids, further constitute the stated three branched-chain amino acids. Their chemical structure consists of Carbon-Carbon branched chain. Now, exactly what is BCAA, when to take BCAA, and what are its functions and benefits?

Along with Whey protein and creatine, branched-chain amino acids are one of the most used supplements by athletes, especially those who perform resistance or muscle training. BCAA are important for them because they are involved in obtaining energy by the body, specifically in the Kreb’s Cycle. Likewise, they are responsible for inhibiting the degradation of muscle protein (muscle catabolism), since they prevent the body itself from resorting to these and opting for those that synthesize the ingested amino acids. And it is that, when we perform muscle training, a degradation of the protein known as catabolism occurs. Amino acids favor protein synthesis (muscle anabolism) and prevent catabolism. This has been repeatedly confirmed by several research articles. 

BCAA: Branched Chain Amino Acids
BCAA/: Branched-Chain Amino Acids.

Other benefits of BCAA are,

  • Limiting the production of Serotonin.
  • A delay in the onset of fatigue after a bout of prolonged exercise.
  • Help reduce muscular pain.
  • Support the immune system through the endogenous production of Glutamine.
  • Help the thickening of the intestinal mucosa.
  • Increase the amount of DNA.
  • Reduce bacterial translocation.

When to take BCAA?

We have just seen what BCAAs are, and now the next thing we need to consider is when to take BCAA. As you know, the intake of sports supplements is closely related to the time they are taken and their effectiveness, so, for example, in the case of muscle training, different sports supplements are taken before, during, and at the end of the day.

In the case of BCAA consumption, you must bear in mind that these nutrients serve to provide energy to the body by releasing insulin in the blood. Therefore, they function differently depending on when we take them and the exercise we do. So, when to take BCCA?

When to take BCAA
When to take BCAA for different goals?

When to Take BCAA to Tone-up?

In this case, it is recommended that you take BCAA supplements right before training, especially, when long-term training is carried out with resistance sessions of more than 60 minutes. They can also be taken during training as well, although some experts do not agree with it. Its use before is advisable in fitness and cardio workouts to tone up or in fasted workouts, first thing in the morning. Its importance lies in the fact that it prevents the destruction of muscle tissue during stages of definition and weight loss.

When to Take BCAA to Gain Strength and Muscle Mass?

It is recommended to take BCAA right after the training to gain muscle mass. In this way, what is achieved is, after applying the necessary stimuli for muscle growth, muscle mass is increased more quickly. BCAA are primarily metabolized in skeletal muscle. For the skeletal muscles, it is easier for the muscle tissues to use BCAA as an energy source since it contributes to the production of the amino acids glutamine and alanine. This complex of amino acids also helps other body tissues obtain energy. Athletes who want to avoid soreness can also take it after training sessions.

To Lose Fat: 

In this case, to answer the question of when to take BCAA, the best time is around 30 minutes before training. The study published in 1997 (Mourier et al.) demonstrated the effectiveness of this supplement to eliminate fat in greater quantities combined with a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet.

How to take BCAA?

Some research suggests that total BCAA intake during endurance activities should be at least 295 mg leucine/hr, 105 mg isoleucine/hr, and 150 mg valine/hr.

However, how and when to take BCAA depends on the goals we want to achieve, as well as the diet. If our idea is to lose fat, then it is best to ingest an amount of 4 to 8 grams of BCAAs half an hour before training.

It is also possible to take it before and after training to protect the muscle mass. It would also avoid fatigue, before and after the workout. It would also facilitate protein synthesis and recovery, afterward. In that case, you should avoid consuming any other supplements except whey protein. Recommended amounts are 5 grams of BCCA powder before and 5 grams after the training.

However, if your diet already provides a sufficient amount of protein, between 1.5 and 2.5 grams per kilo of body weight, the consumption of BCAAs is usually not necessary.

As a reference, you should keep in mind that the doses of BCAA supplements sold are distributed in a 2:1:1 ratio or 4:1:1 ratio. Leucine is always the one that is available in the largest quantities in the supplements. 

BCAA: Tablet and Powder Form
BCAA: Tablet and Powder form.

Summary

When to take BCAA or even, if to take BCAA, is a common question that comes to every athlete’s mind. Although both endurance and resistance trainers know the importance of it, many do not know when to take BCAA

As a suggestion, BCAA alone would not be beneficial if other essential amino acids are missing from the diet. On the other hand, if you are taking enough amount of essential amino acids, it would just be useless to waste money on BCAA. In our opinion, BCAA supplement should only be taken by athletes who train at advanced levels and have large amino acid body requirements. 

BCAA supplement is available in powdered or capsule form, and it depends upon the consumer what he or she prefers. The powder form is relatively easy to digest and therefore can readily be available for action, whereas, capsules are easy to consume. 

Natural sources of BCAA are milk and dairy products, grains, soy milk and other plant-based sources. When to take BCAA in natural foods depends upon the digestion time of the food itself. 

Can anyone use the BCAA supplement?

It is generally safe to use BCAA supplements by everyone. BCAA are naturally occurring essential amino acids and are present in a number of dairy natural foods.

When to take BCAA for Muscle Mass Gain?

The best time to use BCAA for muscle mass gain is right after the resistance training.

When to take BCAA for Body Toning?

The best time to use BCAA for body toning is slightly before the workout.

Is it worth using BCAA?

If you are having a protein-rich diet, you do not need to spend extra money on buying the expensive BCAA.

What are the available forms of BCAA supplements in the market?

In the market, BCAA is available in capsule, tablet, and powder forms.

Which form of BCAA supplement is better?

It depends upon your goals. If you want an immediate effect, then the powdered form is better as it gets digested readily.

Which one is better: BCAA or Whey Protein?

Whey protein is far superior to BCAA. Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids, including the BCAA. Taking BCAA alone won’t take you anywhere.

Please let us know your experience with BCAA in the comments section. Also please tell us what you think about when to take BCAA.

Published by Dr. Humayun Ajaz

Hi, I am Humayun, I hold MS and PhD degrees in Chemical Sciences from Germany. Currently I am working as faculty at the Department of Chemistry, Food Science and Technology, at a Public Sector University. I have immense interest in the fields of Food Science and Sports Nutrition.

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