BCAA's : The 2018 Stance



BCAA supplements vs Real



For synthesis or the making of new muscle, all amino acids, essential and nonessential need to be present in adequate amounts within the body.

In the Sport Nutrition world, BCAA or Branched Chain Amino Acids are often discussed as the supplement that decreases the breakdown of muscle protein turnover in the body. In other words, many popular claims suggest BCAA supplement consumption during intense training or exercise increases the body’s ability to maintain or build muscle, decrease muscle soreness and recovery times.

An active person or athlete's objective in intense physical training is to build and shape muscles to get faster, stronger and more skilled in their desired activity or sport.  Naturally with this goal in mind, a person would want to know how to eat and potentially supplement themselves in order to increase their performance.

However, many current studies like the 2017’s Journal of the International Society of Sport Nutrition on BCAA and muscle protein synthesis specify no quantified studies in human subjects responding to orally-ingested BCAA.  If there was evidence of supplemented BCAA specifically benefiting active subjects, it was only in a small percentage of endurance athletes or those in prolonged exercise such as a triathlete, cyclist or marathon runner. There is lacking evidence in supplementation of solely BCAA, but some studies are showing a combination with a 6% carbohydrate solution in endurance sports.  Most findings suggest it is the inclusion of extra fuel or energy from the carbohydrate solution that benefits performance and not defined by the inclusion of BCAA supplements.

To debunk why BCAA originally came into play, approximately 30% of our bodies BCAA are stored in our muscle tissue and play an active role in muscle turnover.  There are 9 essential amino acids (EAA), three of which make up BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine. There are also 11 nonessential amino acids (NEAA) and a few conditional amino acids (CAA). Amino acids are the building blocks of protein within our bodies and regulate metabolic processes. AA play a part in immune health and antibodies, and they transport oxygen and nutrients to the body. Those that are considered essential aminos are the 8 amino acids (AA) that adults must consume daily in our eating - the ninth, histidine, is only needed in infants-.  EAA are necessary for humans to consume daily because of our body’s physiological inability to manufacture these particular amino acids in significant enough amounts on it’s own. 

What is interesting is that BCAA are easily found in foods like chicken, beef, beans, fish, almonds, brown rice and eggs. Yet several active people believe BCAA are supplements. Moreover, these food sources are often already part of many active people’s eating regimens.  For those consuming whey protein powders, there is around 6 grams of BCAA for every 25 gram scoop.

BCAA supplements are suggested before or during exercise to improve or extend performance by reducing muscle fatigue.   They are usually in mixable powder form, added to water, but which have a shelf life likely to include artificial sweetening, flavouring and colouring.  Alike protein powders, supplement products are less bio-available than real food and something to consider when seeking our daily requirements. 

Lastly, price factor, convenience and motivation are all valid in considering the purchase and consumption of any BCAA sources. Being aware of what motivates us may be worth the financial cost, our schedules may not always allow for quality protein sources, or some athletes in extreme training may find it incredibly difficult to consume a large amount of their needs from food sources.  

As always, be mindful and inquisitive of where you get your information from; you are unique and your body has unique needs. The majority of current information regarding BCAA supplementation  and it's effects on preserving, increasing and building muscle are limited and inconclusive.

-Owner of SHOCK Performance Nutrition, Alex Paton

Disclaimer: Nutritition Graduates, Dietitians and Specialists provide health education and nutritional guides to clients, family and friends based on an in-depth assessment of a multitude of information.  We are taught within the national standards and regulating bodies like the Dietitians of Canada, to not use words like “prescribing” or conduct our practices telling clients they NEED certain supplements.

Specific to the individual, guiding a client on supplements or products that are not whole foods would be defined as a possibility if a professional assessment deemed a client’s background and behaviours suggested such a need. This is further based on their medical and genetic history, nutrient and blood work, activity and/or stress levels; values, preferences and behaviours regarding a client’s consumption of food, drink and supplementation.

*Many supplements on the market can be unsafe, if you have any questions or concerned about performance, please do not hesitate to ask info@shockperformance.com



BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACID SUPPLEMENTATION TO SUPPORT MUSCLE ANABOLISM FOLLOWING EXERCISE Kevin D. Tipton, PhD, University of Stirling | Stirling, Scotland, UK. Sports Science Exchange (2017) Vol. 28, No. 170, 1-6

BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS AND MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS IN HUMANS: MYTH OR REALITY? Robert R. Wolfe, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2017 https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0184-9