BCAA’s – everyone’s taking them, but why?

There’s no better feeling post-bulk when you’re preparing to cut and show off all that muscle that you’ve been building over the winter months. You’re planning on getting shredded, but the last thing you want is to lose any of that muscle you’ve worked. The answer? BCAA’s!

They help to protect your muscles from the catabolic effects of dieting, especially when you’re in calorie deficit. More simply, they prevent your muscles from deteriorating. BCAA’s (in particular leucine) stimulate protein synthesis and increase the cell’s capacity for protein synthesis. They also reduce the rate of protein breakdown.

Ok, ok. I put my hands up! You don’t only use them to shred fat from that post-Christmas Santa Claus looking exterior to expose your Steve Cook or Dana Linn Bailey (alternatively, enter your ideal looking idol here) muscular physique, but you can use BCAA’s to block your serotonin. ‘WHAT?’ I hear your shriek. Block serotonin? That’s right. Serotonin may be the body’s natural ‘happy’ chemical but during exercise these levels rise and increase the perception of fatigue, making your feel tired and in turn, minimise the intensity of your workout. Enter BCAA’s! They compete with amino acid tryptophan (the chemical that converts into serotonin) for entry to your wonderfully motivated little brain to block these “I’m so darn tired” feelings and let those “I’m on beast mode” feels run wild!



However, it is imperative to recognise the important of balance! If you exceed the recommended daily allowances for BCAA’s (see your pack, each brand will vary slightly), you can block the serotonin to levels of sadness. Low serotonin levels can affect mood by means of depression and negatively impact sleep (which we need for our bodies to recover and grow). Those most at risk of low serotonin levels whilst taking BCAA’s are people on low carb and high protein diet (personally, I don’t know why you would put yourself through that). This is because protein contains levels of BCAA’s, in addition to your BCAA supplements, you’re well and truly screwing yourself over. The key to success? To include carbs into your evening meal to maintain that ‘happy’ feeling. Ideal evening carb foods include beans, fruits or starchy vegetables.

BCAA’s combined with taurine can help to reduce muscle soreness after those insanely intense workouts! A dosage of 100mg/kg can help to minimise DOMS for up to 48 hours. Of course it won’t eliminate DOMS completely, but it will reduce muscle pain and damage. This combination is effective because it improves water content in the muscle fibres (leading to less muscle damage) and decreases oxidative stress (the rubbish our muscles process during training) meaning a faster recovery and less DOMS. Wahey!

So, we’ve already noted some fantastic reasons for taking BCAA’s and although it adds another expense to the list, here’s a few more reasons for you:

  1. You’re a vegetarian. A particular difficulty is getting enough leucine, which is highly powerful in stimulating protein synthesis. This can be found in BCAA’s. Boom!
  2. If you’re training fasted (notable those cutting periods of fasted cardio *sigh), it will help to prevent that deterioration of that hard earned muscle but reduce fat.
  3. You don’t have enough time to immediately eat pre or post workout.

There are going to be times in your days when you just run out of time but please, please, PLEASE do NOT use BCAA’s as a meal replacement, cut out meals or fall into a trap for convenience. BCAA’s are a supplement, which means that you ADD them to your current diet, not replace your food. A one off every now and again, but if you want those muscles to grow you have to eat!

Finally, high doses of BCAA’s can deplete vitamin B, which is vital for amino acid metabolism. A lack of vitamin B can cause issues such as anxiety and increased food cravings. If you’re cutting, this is the last thing you want as well as running around all hangry and beastly! This can be counteracted by eating foods full of vitamin B (spinach, broccoli, asparagus, oranges, papaya).

I realise that there has been some focus on the negatives, but it is important to have the knowledge to correct these issues, or at least recognise them should they arise, in order to correct them with the tips provided or reduce your BCAA intake. However, if you’re using them correctly (a serving, or two TOPS, a day) you’ll reap the benefits such as muscle retention, increased energy levels during workouts and reduce muscle soreness. Goodbye fat and tired body, hello super ripped summer body!


Victoria Goodrum

Power Moves Fitness

IG : @_moooody



Clark, S. (2017). 3 Main Reasons You Need To Use BCAA’s. Retrieved from: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/3-main-reasons-you-need-to-use-bcaas.htm

Norton, L. (2017). BCAA’s: The Many Benefits Of Branched-Chain Animo Acid Supplements. Retrieved from: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bcaas-the-many-benefits-of-amino-acids.html

Poliquin Group. (2015). The Pros & Cons of BCAA Supplements. Retrieved from: http://main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1394/The_Pros_Cons_of_BCAA_Supplements.aspx

Ra, S-G., Miyazaki, T., Ishikura, K., Nagayama, H., Komine, S., Nakata, Y., Maeda, S., Matsuzaki, Y. & Ohmori, H. (2013). Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10 (51). doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-51


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