BCAA: Choosing the Best from a Wide Range of Supplements

In this article, we will talk about how to choose the right essential amino acidsIn this article, we will talk about how to choose the right essential amino acids

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For Whom? For What? When? How Much?

Everyone who just once visited a gym heard the magic abbreviation "BCAA". What is this wonderful supplement and what are its benefits? We are going to discuss it in detail.

The four letters stand for a combination of three branched-chain amino acids.

Why are only three of about three dozen of amino acids so important, while a portion of protein contains the full range of these compounds? The fact is that BCAAs comprise three amino acids that play a leading role in protein synthesis and muscle growth:

  1. Leucine.
  2. Isoleucine.
  3. Valine.
Muscle fibers consist of these amino acids by more than 35%, in other words, inadequate amount of amino acids in the body causes muscle starvation.

Besides, it is well-known fact that high loads during intense workouts do not promote muscle growth, but on the contrary, the muscles decrease in size as a result of abundant destruction of muscle tissue. The process of muscle growth in quantitative and qualitative terms occurs during rest, when the muscles recover after heavy exercise. The main task and function of BCAA supplements is to provide fast and effective post-workout recovery, relieve muscle fatigue, and replenish energy resources.

BCAAs are one of the most studied sports supplements. The evidence base of the benefits of taking this amino acid complex is sufficient enough to speak confidently about the following properties:

Promote active muscle growth Leucine stimulates muscle synthesis by affecting the chemical bonds and signaling cascades
Prevent muscle breakdown Among the whole range of sports supplements, this mixture has the most prominent ability to suppress catabolism due to regulation of the process of insulin production
Enhance athletic performance, when taken properly and on a regular basis Such important for every amateur and professional athlete effect has been proved by numerous studies in the field of physiology of muscular activity
Improve the effect of other supplements These amino acids enhance the effectiveness of intake of other kinds of sports supplements by 40–50%
Stimulate fat burning This effect is achieved by stimulating the production of leptin – the metabolic hormone that is “responsible” for appetite, as well as deposition of fat reserves. The supplement activates the mechanism of secretion of this hormone, thus “deceiving” the saturation centers, so the body begins to think that it receives high-calorie food, that means that the appetite decreases, the use of fat in the total mass of weight loss increases, and the muscles are reliably protected from catabolism

Most often, the supplement comes in the form of capsulesMost often, the supplement comes in the form of capsules

There are many disputes on proper dosage and timing mainly due to the manufacturers of sports supplements. The recommended serving size and the one indicated on the packaging may vary over a very wide range: from 2 to 17–20 grams per serving.

Tips to Choose the Best Option for You

Things to Note

When choosing BCAA and studying the composition of the supplement for the serving size and concentration, you should consider the following aspects:

  • The amount of capsules, tablets, powder, or liquid form per package – probably, it does not say much to you. The main thing to pay attention to is the content of BCAAs in a measuring scoop (pill, bottle, etc.) and the total number of servings in the package.
  • The optimal single dose is 4–10 grams. This is the amount that can be absorbed and used effectively by the body at a time.
  • Our body needs amino acids mostly during exercise and immediately after it. Thus, the best time to take amino acids is 15–25 minutes before a workout and before cool-down, because the supplement requires time for absorption.

This combination of amino acids has become one of the most popular products in the sports nutrition market due to the fact that wonderful properties are claimed for this product. It goes without saying that manufacturers of the industry could not but react to such a boom – the range of supplements is really huge. How to choose the right high-quality product that really "works"?

BCAA Forms

Tablets, powder, or liquid form? As a rule, all supplements in a liquid or gel-like form are absorbed faster than other forms. For example, L-carnitine in the liquid form is absorbed in 15 minutes compared to the tablets that are absorbed in 40–60 minutes, and the gel-like protein is absorbed in 7–10 minutes, while the traditional powder takes at least half an hour.

However, the fact that this rule does not apply to BCAA is not widely known. All three forms dissolve in the stomach and are absorbed very fast, and the speed of absorption of a portion is basically a marketing gimmick – actually, the difference in time is about 3–6 minutes.

Dosage

It is a crucially important selection criterion. If the manufacturer determines a portion of BCAA in 4 grams, while it consists of 8 capsules of 200 mg each, then if you need to take 8 grams, you have to swallow 16 capsules at a time! You will agree that it is truly uncomfortable. It is important to choose the product that allows you to get high BCAA content in a “convenient” portion – 1 scoop of powder or no more than 3–4 capsules, etc.

Flavors

Unflavored supplements are cheaper, however, in an effort to save money, you should note that unsweetened BCAAs taste horribly bitter.

The Supplement Rating

Xtend by SciVation is the leader among amino acid supplementsXtend by SciVation is the leader among amino acid supplements

According to the athletes’ reviews and opinions of bodybuilding experts, the BCAA rating can be represented as follows:

  • Xtend by SciVation is the favorite supplement of professional athletes that harmoniously combines 7 grams of BCAA in a 14 g serving, 3.5 grams of which is leucine, and also glutamine, pyridoxine, and citrulline in perfect proportions and doses.
  • Intra Fuel by SAN is one of the best pre-workout supplements due to its composition that contains the patented complex to increase endurance and delay fatigue. 7 grams of BCAA in an 11 g portion of powder make this product one of the most concentrated.
  • Best BCAA by BPI Sports – an affordable price, 10 grams of BCAA, and the ability to choose one of 5 flavors.
  • BCAA 3:1:2 by MusclePharm – the patented effective ratio of amino acids and the optimal dose of 5 grams per serving. However, it should be noted that a serving consists of 8 capsules, so it is not suitable for people who experience discomfort when swallowing pills.

Conclusion

The effect of BCAA should not be underestimated – it is one of the limited number of supplements, the need for which is emphasized by all professional athletes and advanced amateurs of various sports. If you want to choose a really good supplement, you should note the following aspects:

  1. BCAAs have many positive properties and are effective regardless of the chosen goal (muscle mass building, fat-burning, weight maintenance, keeping fit, etc.).
  2. Unflavored supplements are cheaper, but it is more difficult to take them due to the distinct bitter taste.
  3. All supplement forms are quickly absorbed.
  4. Studying the composition of the supplement for the content and serving size is the key to the most rational choice.

Shesternenko Alexander
Fitness trainer, group instructor, dietitian
  • Counsels and educates on proper nutrition principles, body weight correction, and adjustment of individual diets and diets during pregnancy;
  • Develops meal plans that meet nutrition goals and dietary needs for obese and underweight people;
  • Specializes in modern functional testing techniques in sports, athletic recovery, sports supplementation, pharmacological support, and actual women's problems in sports;
  • On the website, provides analysis of different dietary schemes, reviews modern training techniques and effective exercises.

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