Is Supplementing With BCAAs Helpful For Women?
Supplements and I don’t exactly get along.
To me, they’re over priced false promises. They’re like a politician shouting out what they can do for you, but not delivering on those promises.
99.9% of supplements… are crap and filled with sh$t I would rather not put into my body.
No thank you.
In fact, I went to a friends house this past weekend for one of “those” parties. You know the ones, where a seller comes and lists all the INCREDIBLE things their products can do for your body.
Once I heard the word, “this is our detox supplement”, I zoned out and found myself suffering from a case of RBF (resting bitch face).
I think Dr. Stella Volpe from Drexel University says it well…
She goes on to explain there is no scientific evidence that we need to “detox” through cleanses, supplements, etc. Just eat clean and let your body do it’s job.
Sorry for the side rant.
Where was I?
We’re not the best of friends.
I’m also a huge advocate to trying to get all the nutrients you can through a rich, clean WHOLE FOOD diet.
Want better endurance?
–> Eat a beet (I drink 1 cup of beet juice every day) and practice running.
Want to gain muscle “tone”?
–> Lift heavy as hell and eat a high protein diet with 300-500 extra calories.
Results come from effective training and mindful nutrition.
Not some magic pill.
But there are two exceptions…
Two supplement products are allowed in my diet that I feel serve a true purpose and helps me perform, recover, and fuel the best I can.
1). Protein. It’s a fast and delicious way to increase protein intake. My afternoon protein shake is like my “milk shake” and serves two purposes: two take my protein intake to 110 grams/day AND allow me to have a sweet treat without a ton of sugar and junk.
A girl can only eat so much chicken and so many eggs. Protein powder is my fun way to change things up!
2). BCAAs. An even faster way than whey (see what I did there?) to help muscles recovery and remain healthy and happy. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What are BCAAs?
What purpose to they serve?
Are they legit?
Should you add them to your routine?
Those are the questions I get most often and what we’re going to cover here today.
Lucky for us there has been a lot of research done on BCAAs so you should have all the information you need to decide for yourself if they are something you want to try.
What Are BCAAs?
Stop speaking in acronyms!
Branch Chained Amino Acids…
That’s what it stands for. But that’s a mouthful so we’ll stick to BCAAs or amino acids for short.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
Think of it as a lego tower.
(I know this isn’t a lego tower, but it’s so much cooler).
The shape of each individual lego when hooked to another creates a specific design for the tower.
Amino acids are the legos and the protein is the tower.
There are a total of 20 different amino acids, 9 of which are “essential”. This means the only way we can get them is through diet, our body isn’t able to produce these.
Of those 9, there are 3 that account for around 33% of muscle tissue:
These three amino acids help to play a HUGE role in muscle recover, endurance, building, and fighting muscular breakdown.
The idea is that during intense exercise or times of dieting, muscles break down. Supplementing with BCAAs can help prevent that muscle loss.
But it’s more than that…
Effects On Endurance Training
That’s just a fancy way of saying…
They may have the ability to allow you to exercise a little longer, adding exercise endurance capacity.
Both of those studies showed promising results, however, along with the BCAAs, subjects were also give a small amount of carbohydrate solution. So there is definitely a question: Were the results 100% from BCAAs, 100% from carbs or a mix of both?
A second gateway where BCAAs help you push just a little longer is when competing with tryptophan.
We all know that this amino acid is responsible for making us tired on Thanksgiving but how does it affect our workouts?
Well, according to this study…
Tryptophan enters the brain where it is converted to serotonin. Serotonin rises and increases our levels of fatigue.
When BCAAs are ingested they compete with tryptophan for entry into the brain. Which of course decreases the amount of tryptophan, decreases the amount of serotonin produced during exercise and increases our energy levels before feeling fatigued.
Resistance Training And BCAAs
As a woman who is currently training for a strength competition, this is extremely interesting/important to me!
I want to build and preserve as much strength as possible, which can be difficult while simultaneously training for an ultra-marathon.
And yes, I understand I am insane for training for 2 completely different fitness focused events at once. But my insanity makes my life fun!
When it comes to strength training, this is where BCAAs really shine.
The science backs up their strong benefits.
Numerous studies have found that taking BCAAs after a resistance workout, increased testosterone production.
Testosterone = muscle building = toning and strength = results!
Even better yet, BCAAs have demonstrated time and time again, decreased cortisol and other stress hormones allowing for a faster recovery and less muscle breakdown in response to intense training.
So let’s get this straight…
More muscle building/strength?
Faster muscle recovery?
Less exercise induced stress?
Hell to the yea!
Leaning Out The Way You Want
Ever heard that you can’t lose weight without losing muscle?
Sadly, it’s true.
Anytime you lean out, you are going to lose both fat (yay) and muscle mass (boo).
But there is good news…
You can convince your body to burn more body fat and hold on to more muscle mass.
Exercise has the biggest effect on this. Which is why a weight loss program should always include healthy dieting and fitness.
Strength training tells your body…
“Hey, even though I’m cutting calories… I still need muscle for picking up heavy shi$t.”
And BCAAs can help too!
Multiple studies have shown that consumption of BCAAs help maintain muscle mass while losing adipose tissue. Yippie!
To be specific, according to this study, the intake of Leucine can help promote fat burning while simultaneously building strength and maintaining muscle.
(Remember Leucine is one of the 3 major BCAAs for muscle health).
I think it’s also important to bring up the anabolic properties of BCAAs here too.
You know they help promote muscle building and recovery, but that is really important for fat burning too. Remember, the more muscle you build, the more calories you need… Increased metabolism = burning fat faster.
I am not suggesting that BCAAs be taken with the hopes of dropping a ton of weight. This isn’t a miracle supplement (remember, I hate those). But when added to a lifestyle of intense training and a healthy, clean diet… it definitely can help the body move in a direction you’ll be happy with.
And while I don’t want to make BCAAs out to be the “MIRACLE” supplement, I do want to share the benefits and studies with you. That all to say, be realistic when taking anything and lean more on nutrition and workouts for results.
Should You Take Them?
That is completely up to you, your doctor (always consult a doctor before adding anything new), and your current training.
For me, training is intense.
I am also experimenting with intermittent fasting in which experts suggest taking 10-g of BCAAs before workouts to help maintain strength, energy and muscle while in a fasted state (more on this later).
I’ve been taken them for over 6 months now and really do love them. But that’s me.
If you’re curious, I use Gnarly’s BCAAs. The berry flavor is the best!
If you could make your protein ANY flavor you want, what would it be?
I love all things coconut, so I would make Macadamia Coconut Flavor!