The BCAA myth

The BCAA myth

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)

Of all the supplements on the market, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) seem to be the most highly debated one. Various trials regarding the benefits and best ratio have also been conducted.

BCAAs (Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine) form part of the nine essential amino acids (USN ALL9™ Amino), which the body is unable to produce. The nine essential amino acids are vital for various body functions. Amino acids have various roles to play in the body, of which one of the most important being that they are the building blocks of protein, which in turn make up muscle tissue.

Benefits of BCAA

In the sporting/fitness industry, BCAAs have been highly accredited for the following beneficial roles:

  • Promotes muscle protein synthesis
  • Prolongs endurance and stamina
  • Prevents muscle breakdown for metabolism
  • Reduces the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • Assists uptake of free-form amino acids.

According to scientific research, BCAA supplementation prior to resistance training can reduce the effects of DOMS and muscular fatigue. More specifically, leucine has been proven to have a very significant effect on enhancing protein synthesis (anabolism) and inhibition of protein degradation (catabolism).  It is therefore imperative to consider that exercise induces peak levels of muscle tissue catabolism via amino acid oxidation (breakdown). This muscle safeguarding mechanism increases intracellular and arterial BCAA levels, which in turn suppresses the utilisation of muscle protein for energy.

Taking these claims into account raise debates regarding when the optimal time would be to consume BCAAs, as well as the most effective ratio of BCAAs.

When to take BCAAs

The debate regarding the most effective time to consume BCAAs is broken down into three time periods:

1. Before workout
2. Intra-workout
3. Post-workout.

It has been proven that consuming BCAAs prior versus after training, renders the same results regarding improved muscle recovery, long-term strength enhancement and muscle growth.

Alternatively, it has been scientifically proven that consuming BCAAs during exercise has a drastic impact on reducing muscle damage in exercises performed until exhaustion. The mechanism in which this occurs, is via the “sparing” of muscle amino acids, and the utilisation of the “free-form” BCAAs consumed, which in turn prolongs endurance.

It is therefore important to take into consideration what other supplements are being used along with your BCAA supplement, to determine when it will be the most optimal time to consume the BCAA supplement. If you are already using a post-workout recovery drink, it would be beneficial to consume your BCAAs during exercise, or alternatively if you are using a pre-workout supplement, it would be useful to consume BCAAs during or after exercise.

BCAA ratio

The final grey area of discussion is the BCAA ratio. The BCAA ratio is made up of leucine, isoleucine and valine. Many ratios are used by sports nutrition brands, 2:1:1; 3:1:1; 4:1:1 etc. Leucine (the first value indicated in the ratio) is regarded as the most anabolic amino acid, with a very effective protein synthesis catalyst effect. The discussion surrounding the ratio is investigating which ratio is most effective on the grounds of the body’s ability to fully absorb the nutrients. To date, the most investigated ratio is 2:1:1. It has been noted that this ratio is the natural ratio which is prevalent in the muscle tissue. According to research 2–3.5g of leucine is seen as the most effective dosage per serving to gain maximum effects and absorption, of which all these aspects coincide with USN’s ALL9™ Amino.

BCAAs are a great supplementary tool to assist in improving performance during exercise and speeding up the recovery process post-workout. BCAAs should never replace any form of nutrition in the diet, but instead it should be added to the diet to give yourself that extra edge to obtain your desired training goals.


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