The search for a healthier lifestyle puts physical activities on the list of needs. Whether running in the park, taking dance classes or going to the gym, keeping your body moving is always essential.
But physical exercises go beyond health and are sought for aesthetic and professional purposes.
Those who want a defined body, with muscles worked or are in the middle of bodybuilding competitions maintains an intense routine, mostly in bodybuilding .
Of course, especially in these cases, the high physical demand – of strength, endurance and conditioning – is constant. But in addition to the routine at the gym, care with food is important, even so that performance during training is high and, after leaving the gym, the results are optimized.
Therefore, the supplement market has invested in products that are increasingly functional, concentrated and designed to bring more strength, definition and growth.
According to a survey by the Brazilian Association of the Food Industry for Special Purposes and the like (ABIAD) on the consumption habits of Brazilian dietary supplements, among the interviewees, 16% consume proteins in general and 14% consume amino acids.
Among these, 10% make specific use of BCAAs, with men, aged 25 to 40 years, the ones who consume the most.
The acronym is probably not strange for those who go to the gym or supplement stores, but the effects and benefits of BCAA are not always well known.
When it comes to sports-oriented food, hypertrophy (gaining muscle mass) or physical performance, in general, proteins and carbohydrates are the most remembered. If we consider supplements, then they are Whey Proteins and maltodextrins.
Among the supplement options offered on the market, is BCAA, an acronym for Branched Chain Amino Acids or branched chain amino acids (leucine, valine and isoleucine) .
Approximately 35% of the essential amino acids present in muscle protein is made up of BCAAs, the maintenance of this percentage being essential for the health of the tissue.
According to Thiago Sicsú, orthomolecular physician and specialist in human and sports performance, these substances play a fundamental role in muscle anabolism (construction), as they act in protein synthesis.
In short, amino acids enter the body and assist in muscle recovery, favoring the increase of lean mass after training. When the correct intake is associated with vitamins B6 and B12, there is even greater favoring of protein synthesis.
All the essential amino acids that the human body needs can be obtained, preferably, through food, except in cases where there is a recommendation for supplementation due to various problems (such as difficulty in absorption, pathologies or poor diet).
So, if all the essential amino acids can be acquired with a balanced meal, BCAA as a supplement is not an indispensable product, as the substances present in it are found in other proteins (such as meat, eggs and milk) and, also, in other supplements, like Whey Protein itself.
But the products marketed indicate that consumption helps in strength, performance, gain and maintenance of muscle mass.
However, research on the effects of BCAA on the body still generates debates, including among bodybuilders and sports nutritionists themselves.
In general, BCAA is indicated for those who demand a lot of muscles through high intensity exercises.
For this reason, those who go to the gym in search of a better quality of life or “take it easy” in training, may not benefit from consumption.
Before investing in the supplement, learn more about the action of BCAA and talk to a nutritionist.
Not only does exercise, nor just food, live a muscle. Whoever wants to maintain or gain lean mass , should invest in the balance of the two.
Even if you don’t know exactly what the muscle building process is, chances are you have heard about the need for protein to get good results.
This is because the nutrient helps in muscle building and tissue recovery, especially after exercise.
Our body performs a series of processes constantly, synthesizing and degrading substances so that the systems work correctly. These processes are consecutively called anabolism and catabolism.
Even if you are a very sedentary person, synthesis and degradation occur in your body all the time and are not exclusive to muscle processes.
As they are part of metabolism (which is the set of reactions that occur in the body), anabolism and the catabolism of substances participate in several functions, such as digestion (nutrient catabolism) and energy supply (glycogen anabolism).
The muscles maintain a continuous and balanced entry and exit of substance. This means that the tendency, in a healthy organism, is that the muscle tissue is in a state of inertia (neither losing mass nor gaining).
But if there is a stimulus through physical activity, changes during and after exercise will run.
As you exercise, protein synthesis decreases and degradation increases. This means that, at the time the weights are being lifted, there are more substances leaving the muscle tissue than entering.
However, when the body rests, this process is reversed and tissue repair begins, with an even greater than normal synthesis.
That is why it is said that the interval of muscle recovery is so important for the gain of lean mass, because it is not during the activity that the muscles are built.
But it is not enough to lift too much weight and not eat properly. It is as if the exercises favored the entry of proteins into the muscle, but if the nutrient is not available in the body, there will also be no growth and tissue recovery.
Amino acids and proteins
The analogy is not new, but it is always valid: think of amino acids as blocks or bricks. Isolated, they have certain functions, but when stacked, they can form more complex structures, that is, proteins.
After water, protein is the most abundant substance in the human body, participating and composing various elements and functions of the body.
It is estimated that there are between 50 thousand and 100 thousand different types of proteins, which involve structural functions (such as the formation of hair, skin and muscle) or functional (such as the formation of hormones and antibodies).
As there are several types, each protein has a different chemical formula. But no matter what the link or the order of this structure, it is a junction of amino acids.
This union is called amino acid polymers, which have minimum sizes of 50 amino acids – that is, it takes at least 50 molecules to form a protein. The most complex proteins can reach more than 30 thousand molecules united.
In general, the amount of protein recommended for those who want to increase muscle mass is 1.5 to 2g per kilogram of body. This amount, combined with adequate training for hypertrophy, ensures that the muscle is able to recover and increase the volume of the fibers.
There are 20 types of amino acids that can be divided into essential – that is, our body does not produce -, semi-essential – the organism even produces, but this quantity may not be enough – and non-essential – the organism is capable of producing.
Essential amino acids
Of the 20 that the body needs, 8 amino acids need to be acquired through food and, therefore, they are called essential. They are isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Arginine, cysteine, glutamine, histidine, proline, taurine and tyrosine are part of the group of conditionally essential amino acids. In this case, despite being able to synthesize these substances, the organism can count on a sufficient quantity or the production is not totally efficient.
The purpose of food digestion is to obtain and provide the body with the necessary nutrients to maintain regulated organic functions.
Remember that proteins are made up of joined amino acids? So when you eat, for example, a portion of chicken (which is rich in protein), digestion will break down that meal until it obtains and releases the amino acids to the body.
The process occurs in the stomach, with the action of hydrochloric gastric acid, causing the chicken piece to become structures of amino acids that will be absorbed in the small intestine, sent to the bloodstream and reach the liver.
After reaching the organ, there will be a synthesis of these substances, making them suitable to perform the functions in the organism.
Among the essential amino acids are branched, which are chemically characterized as structures with a variable portion linked to carbon. That is, there is a main chain of the amino acid and there are secondary elements that are linked to the carbon molecule (called the side chain).
Only leucine, isoleucine and valine have this branching, so the rest are not branched.
When exercising, a series of changes occur in our body, which vary according to the intensity, duration and conditions of the organism (for example, resistance or physical conditioning).
Think that doing physical activities, in general, requires a lot of the organism, changing its state of inertia. So the body’s forces and attention are focused on performing these activities, supplying energy to the muscles and ensuring that the work of other bodily systems does not fail.
It is as if the body had to divide the tasks, paying special attention to the exercises, as the physical demand is higher at this moment. But he also doesn’t want the heart or kidneys to stop working, so it needs a very smart and balanced distribution.
The activities promote a temporary catabolic reaction in the muscles, with the release of some amino acids from the muscle tissue, at the same time that protein synthesis (amino acid entry into the tissue) is paused.
Between 4 and 8 hours after the end of the exercise, the muscle begins to recover and may even increase the synthesis of amino acids at that time.
Studies point out that leucine is highly degraded during intense exercise, especially when the practitioner is not physically fit.
Thus, people who are starting out at the gym tend to spend more leucine than that colleague who has been training for years.
All this effort of the activity generates microlesions in the muscular fibers, that need to be repaired.
When starting the recovery of the tissue, synthesizing the amino acids, the tissue is more reinforced and the amount of fibers is increased. That is, your muscles grow.
BCAA is nothing more than a supplement composed of isoleucine, leucine and lysine, which are the 3 branched chain amino acids.
The components are essential to keep the organism functioning properly and, therefore, they must participate in an adequate way in the diet. But even though the BCAA amino acids are parts of protein, they have no direct effect on gaining muscle mass.
The compound called BCAA is commonly indicated to assist in muscle repair, favor the entry of proteins into the muscle after training and provide more resistance in physical activity.
In a nutshell, the branched chains act by transporting nitrogen to the organism, a fundamental element for the synthesis of other amino acids.
They will help the body to send more amino acids to the muscle after the activity, decrease the microlesions caused during the exercise and give more energy to finish the series or run on the treadmill.
If there is BCAA supplementation, the body realizes that there is no need to inhibit protein synthesis, as soon as there is sufficient stock of amino acids in the body to replace the rates lost during the effort.
BCAA supplements are necessarily composed of L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine, which form the branched amino acids.
As an amino acid compound, the supplement has no carbohydrates and the caloric value is significantly low (usually between 5 and 10 calories per serving).
In general, products sold in supplement stores also contain amounts of vitamin B6 or B12, which aid in protein synthesis and muscle repair.
It is worth mentioning that the amino acids from the diet must be composed of 30% of the BCAAs, in a percentage of 15% of leucine, 7.5% of isoleucine and 7.5% of valine. Therefore, most supplements work with a 2: 1: 1 ratio.
However, as leucine has a higher demand due to the more effective binding in the protein synthesis process, some supplements intensify their dosage and may offer a 4: 1: 1 ratio for leucine, isoleucine and valine, respectively.
Present in some foods, it is quite simple to include them in the diet, since the branched amino acids are found in proteins, such as milk, meat and eggs.
But when it comes to high-level sports performance, the diet of the athlete or athlete is probably already well balanced and the interest tends to be focused on dietary supplements to optimize the results – whether in hypertrophy or in physical conditioning.
Among the 3 branched amino acids, it is leucine that has a more intense action on muscle tissue, optimizing recovery and maintenance. Its concentration is higher due to the more active action on hypertrophy and reduction of catabolism.
Therefore, the proportions of the 3 branched amino acids are different. It is possible to find supplements with 2 parts of leucine for 1 of valine and 1 of isoleucine (2: 1: 1), reaching a proportion of 10: 1: 1, respectively.
Isolated BCAAs are sold in capsules, in liquid, powder and injectables, the main difference being in concentration (in grams of amino acids) and ease of ingestion.
But it is worth remembering: the substances are part of the diet and it is not difficult to obtain the necessary quantities with the adequate intake of proteins.
Although there are currently other presentations, the BCAA capsule is quite popular and easy to find, possibly due to its ease of ingestion and measurement of dosage.
The average concentration of supplements is between 1g and 3g of BCAA per dosage.
The packages suggest the use of one serving per day, which can generally vary between 2 and 4 capsules, depending on the manufacturer.
However, the amount of BCAA contained in the portion is much lower than the dosages used and recommended in studies or by nutrition professionals, who indicate doses of around 8g before or after training.
Each manufacturer has a different concentration and serving, but in general, the product offers about 2.4g of BCAA per serving of 4 capsules. If the intake follows 8g before and after training (16g per day), consumption exceeds 20 capsules.
Similar to the capsules in the presentation, there are also the tablets, which tend to have a slightly higher BCAA concentration, with 3g of amino acids every 3 tablets (about 4.5g). In this case, the consumption of 16 tablets per day would be necessary to reach 16g of amino acids (well below that suggested by the manufacturers).
Manufacturers, in general, point out that the main difference between powder and capsule BCAA is the purity of the product.
This is because excipients are added to the capsules, that is, elements that fill the formula to facilitate the preparation of tablets, flavor, color or alloy, for example.
So, there are higher concentrations of amino acids per gram of powdered product, making the benefit from the amount ingested greater.
For those who consume the average amount recommended by sports studies and research, the powder product facilitates ingestion, as soon as it takes about 6 dosers, or 30g, to approach the recommended 16g of BCAAs.
The packages, in general, recommend the consumption of 1 serving (or 1 doser) per day. However, each dose contains 5g of product equivalent to only 2.6g of BCAA.
Because it does not need to be packed in capsules, the product tends to be more easily tolerated, since the gelatinous layers used in the capsules can irritate the stomach.
Again, it is the ease of ingestion of the product that weighs more in this case. As it is ready for consumption, liquid BCAA can be purchased and ingested anywhere.
Some manufacturers point out that the drink is digested more quickly, but effectively there are no studies showing greater or better use of the liquid supplement.
There are also two concentrations of the product, which are concentrated and single-dose.
In general, BCAAs that are single-dose tend to be diluted (they come in bottles of 120mL or 200mL, generally) and offer approximately 1.5g of BCAA per unit.
The concentrates, on the other hand, reach 3.3g per spoon (15mL) and are sold in containers of approximately 500mL.
There is also the injectable presentation of BCAAs, which can be found in cosmetic clinics or specialized in applications. Manufacturers indicate that the main difference is the direct action at the application site, promoting a more punctual and accelerated action.
However, studies and evaluations do not confirm the most effective metabolism or a better action of the injectable amino acids, causing the use to be questioned many times.
In addition, there are greater difficulties in using the product, as soon as the application at home or any place outside specialized clinics is advised against.
The injection is intramuscular and should be done weekly, usually lasting 3 months.
Just like any complete source of protein (meat, milk and eggs, for example), the Whey Protein supplement already provides some amount of BCAA.
The concentrations vary according to each manufacturer and product line, but if you consume Whey, you certainly consume some amount of branched amino acids in addition to what is in your diet.
On average, the most popular lines of Wheys Protein offer about 3g of BCAA for every 30g of product. The purest lines (usually of higher value), on the other hand, can reach 5.3g of BCAA for every 30g of product.
Below you can learn a little more about the actions of branched amino acids in the body and the effects of BCAA supplementation:
Reduces muscle fatigue
During exercise, the muscle undergoes fatigue due to decreased concentrations of branched-chain amino acids. In the brain, BCAAs and tryptophan are competing substances. That is, if one rises, the other has its action reduced.
Therefore, the reduction of BCAA allows tryptophan to reach the brain in greater quantity.
As a precursor to serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates, among other things, mood, sleep and appetite), it favors tiredness , sleep and fatigue. Thus, BCAA supplementation is intended to prevent it from reaching the brain in large quantities, causing physical resistance to be maintained during exercise.
A study published in the journal Revista Brasileira de Nutrição Esportiva, in 2013, points out that leucine (one of the amino acids of BCAA) has shown an important participation in the anabolic and catabolic processes of muscle, helping in hypertrophy and muscle recovery.
In this process, the amino acid has a degradation inhibiting function (that is, it reduces catabolism) and promotes protein synthesis (that is, it favors anabolism), which are essential for muscle growth.
According to the study, leucine has an anti-atrophic action and, therefore, it is very promising in intense physical activities, but it is also able to slow down the aging process. Thus, it assists in maintaining the strength and structure of the muscle tissue as a whole.
In addition, leucine intake is able to temporarily promote a slight increase in blood insulin levels, causing protein synthesis to be stimulated.
Studies carried out in 2006 and published in the journal The Journal of Nutrition , indicate that this may occur because, when insulin levels rise, there is an increase in blood flow and, consequently, a greater distribution of amino acids to muscle tissues.
Briefly, BCAA acts as a nitrogen transporter, which acts as a facilitator for the entry of other amino acids into cells, reducing muscle wasting.
With this, the performance and performance during the activities are high, the practitioner of intense activities feels less fatigue and withstands more weight or more repetitions (with the best execution of the exercises, he obtains better physical gains).
Helps prevent catabolism
Anyone looking for hypertrophy or muscle definition knows the importance that protein intake, in general, has in these processes.
Without proteins, muscle tissue does not recover and physical exercises may have the opposite result: instead of increasing, you will lose lean mass through wear and tear.
A study on the effects of amino acids in athletes, published in The Journal of Nutrition , in 2006, pointed out that BCAAs, especially leucine, can favor protein synthesis and decrease muscle breakdown during exercise. That is, the fabric is better preserved.
Assists in fat reduction
It is not only those who want to work their muscles that should be aware of BCAAs, because if the goal is to reduce measures, paying attention to the muscle-fat ratio is essential.
In general, when thinking about losing weight, diet (reducing or restricting food intake) and increasing exercise are the first things that come to mind.
As the preference is for reducing fat and not muscle mass, prioritizing muscle maintenance is essential, as food restriction tends to reduce the supply of proteins, making it difficult to repair the body after activities.
Along with an increase in exercise, the result is that there is a significant loss of lean mass.
This may not even sound so bad for those who just want to lose weight without defining their bodies. But the muscles are lean tissues that can even favor the reduction of fat, because the body spends more calories to maintain 1 kilo of muscle than to maintain 1 kilo of fat.
That is, more muscle equals less fat.
Improves muscle recovery
A study carried out in 2012 and published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition , pointed out that the consumption of BCAA before and after training can increase muscle recovery, reduce pain resulting from microlesions generated by exercise and favor mass gain muscular.
It is worth mentioning that, in the study, the participants ingested 10g of BCAA before and after training, in addition to the food already adequate to the required physical performance.
Therefore, despite the results pointing to the promising effects of supplementation, it is perceived from large dosages, which may not produce similar actions in small doses (even those recommended in BCAA packages).
Reduces pain after exercise
That pain due to physical exercise has a name: DOMS, from the acronym Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or late-onset muscle pain. In general, these late pains occur when the person is not used to physical activities or has changed training (inserted new exercises or changed their routine).
Studies published in the sports journal Jornal Internacional de Nutrição Esportiva e Metabolismo Desportivo show that participants who ingested BCAA supplements before starting a training had up to 30% less late pain in up to 48 after the activity.
But there are studies published in the journal ISRN Nutrition that do not confirm previous results. Thus, it is also necessary to take into account the perception of pain, the biological, physical and daily factors of the participants.
Assists in hypertrophy
BCAAs will not make you gain muscle directly, but they do play a secondary role in hypertrophy.
First, to gain lean mass, you need to maintain what you already have. For this, BCAAs help prevent the catabolism of your muscle tissue.
Whether the goal is to define or just not lose muscle, providing the body with branched amino acids is essential. And in that case, maintaining the pace of physical activity is sufficient.
But if the goal is to improve fitness and gain muscle, BCAAs act indirectly by reducing muscle fatigue, giving you more resistance and helping you to endure one more repetition or increase weights.
If the demand during exercise is high, your muscle undergoes more microlesions and this leads to hypertrophy. Of course, it is necessary that the food is also adequate for the action of BCAAs to have good results.
Action on blood sugar rate
In addition to direct action on muscles, there is research directing and investigating the action of branched amino acids also on the hormone insulin.
Although some researchers have indicated positive results in reducing blood sugar rates, the controversy is still great and the data are quite inconclusive.
A study published in the journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics Studies indicates that the action of leucine and isoleucine can promote greater insulin secretion, combating the higher blood glucose index.
But the hypothesis is countered by other research that does not prove the action, as in a study published in the medical journal Metabolismo, in which the participants did not present any glycemic alteration with the supplementation.
Also considering a study that evaluated 27 participants who used BCAA, 10 showed a reduction in sugar rates, while 17 of them had an increase or no change in sugar rates.
Scientifically, there is no recognized action of the supplement on kidney dysfunction, but a study published in the Chinese journal of Hepatology suggests that the patients analyzed had better liver function, reduced risk of complications and reduced hospitalizations due to complications of liver disease.
Chemically, branched-chain amino acids do not have significant amounts of calories or carbohydrates. That is, the supplement does not cause weight gain.
In general terms, pure BCAAs (without the addition of other compounds or nutrients), have an average of less than 5 calories per serving. The quantity is so low that many nutritional tables do not even consider the value significant.
So, for these calories to cause the increase in fat tissue (that is, for you to put on weight), the intake would have to be extremely high and for a prolonged period.
However, one of the goals of those who ingest BCAA is to increase lean mass. Gaining muscle means, in general, increasing weight. Combined with heavy training, BCAA favors hypertrophy.
The result can be an increase in weight due to muscle gain, which is different from actually gaining weight (or increasing fat tissue).
The consumption of amino acids must be balanced and meet the body’s need. This means that ingesting a lot of BCAA and having a lack of other nutrients does not result in muscle gain or physical performance.
It is recommended to eat about 10g of isoleucine, 10g of valine and 14g of leucine daily, which can be easily obtained through a balanced diet.
Does this mean that consuming too many amino acids will make you build muscle quickly? In truth no.
The ideal amount of proteins and amino acids will assist in gaining lean mass, but there is a limit on intake.
And, unlike other nutrients like carbohydrates, the body is unable to store these substances, causing them to be eliminated in the urine.
But after all, how much BCAA to take?
The ideal amount should be determined and monitored by a nutritionist , considering the training, the objectives and the individual characteristics of the person. But, in general, it is indicated that 0.20g of BCAA be ingested for each kilogram of body, without considering the food.
That is, this dosage should come only from supplementation.
For example, an athlete weighing 70kg should ingest (70X0.20) = 14g of BCAA.
It is also necessary to remember the difference of the recommended daily dose, since the supplements, in general, suggest the intake of approximately 4g, well below the amount used in studies and indicated by sports nutritionists in general.
There is no right time to take supplements, especially when it comes to muscle hypertrophy. Several studies try to pinpoint the ideal time to consume them, but a number of factors make this task quite difficult.
First, the consumption of supplements depends on the time when you do your workouts. Exercising in the morning or at night will already influence your schedule, especially the BCAA, as the supplement should be taken close to training – the most recommended is that it is done about 30 minutes before or after training.
In addition, there are those who train right after lunch, for example, and those who only go to the gym after a few hours without eating (implying the need to reinforce their diet or not).
Therefore, the ideal is to set the schedule with a professional, considering their schedules and eating habits.
Below you can find some information about the effects of pre and post training consumption, which can help in choosing and fitting BCAA into your routine:
Before the training
Research aimed at establishing a good consumption schedule is scarce. In general, the studies conducted evaluate supplementation in a generic way (several supplements, such as Whey Protein, BCAA and creatine together), as is the case of research published in the American journal Jornal de Psicologia-Endocrinologia e Metabolismo .
Although quite limited (only 6 participants were evaluated), the study found that there was an improvement in blood flow during exercises when supplements were taken before training.
This means that the muscles could already take advantage of the amino acids during the stress generated by the effort. Thus, if the supplements were taken after the end of the activity, the substances would take longer to reach the muscle tissue.
Since BCAA can reduce muscle fatigue, taking it before you start working out gives you extra strength to end your repetitions or increase your load.
In addition, if the physical activities performed are aerobic, especially sports (running, rowing or swimming, for example), the use of the supplement before training is more ideal, as long exercises promote greater wear and require prolonged conditioning.
After finishing the exercises, the muscles are tired and micro injured. At that time, the supply of amino acids is ideal for the fiber recovery to be optimized.
Remember that exercises favor the entry of amino acids into the muscle? It is exactly at that moment that your blood needs to have enough nutrients to supply the muscle.
That is, if consumed after training, BCAA will reach the muscle tissue in more abundant amounts and optimize the synthesis of amino acids.
In addition, studies indicate that after training the consumption of BCAA can promote an increase in insulin, that is, stimulate the body to naturally produce more insulin.
The hormone is also linked to the quality of protein synthesis and, therefore, improves muscle recovery.
Before and after training
An alternative found mainly in gyms is to fractionate the recommended dose before and after training.
That is, a 70kg person who needs 14g of BCAA, can choose to ingest 7g before training and 7g afterwards, supplying the needs of muscle preparation and repair in a balanced way.
Intake should be close to exercise, maximum 30 minutes before and after training.
You can choose to consume BCAA before, after training or in a fractionated way, adapting the times and quantities according to your needs.
The presentation of the supplement will not drastically interfere with the action, be it in capsules, powder or liquid. But the way to consume amino acids will be quite different according to your goals, routine and other eating habits.
Therefore, it is always recommended to consult a nutrition professional.
If the option is for supplementation, it is necessary to first calculate the recommended dosage (0.20g per kilo body), then it is necessary to fit the consumption into your routine, along with an adequate diet.
In other words, the product is a nutritional supplement and should never be used as a food substitute. So, nothing to change the breakfast for the dosage of supplements.
The capsules should be taken with water or with the Whey Protein shake (in this case, after training).
The powder version of the BCAA must be prepared by mixing it in water in the proportion recommended by the manufacturer (normally each scoop or meter needs 150mL of water).
Liquid BCAAs can take two forms of ingestion: if it is a single dose, it can usually be consumed directly, as it comes ready to drink. But if it is concentrated, it is necessary to dose the amount according to the packaging.
Generally, each spoon corresponds to 1 serving and should be taken without mixing or diluting.
It is worth remembering that injectable BCAAs must be indicated by a professional, as well as the application must be made only by a qualified specialist, avoiding the risks of infection and contamination.
There are several ways to combine dietary supplements and optimize muscle gains. In general, BCAAs combined with Whey Protein are the most consumed, and they can be mixed in the same shakeira and ingested together after training.
In addition, if the goal is hypertrophy, the use of BCAA after exercise may be accompanied by a carbohydrate, such as dextrose or maltodextrin , as they raise the glycemic rate, causing the body to produce insulin and favor protein synthesis.
Chromium is a natural mineral that acts by promoting the synthesis of insulin and promotes better muscle recovery. The substance makes amino acids easier to be routed into the muscles and thus better assimilated by the cells.
When combined with BCAAs, chromium decreases the breakdown of proteins by the body, causing the processes of anabolism (loss of mass) to be minimized.
Vitamins B6, B12 and biotin (or B7) play an important role in transporting amino acids into cells, and nutrients are present in some BCAA supplements, especially B6 and B12.
However, if the product used is not fortified, including vitamins among supplements can be a good alternative.
BCAA can also be taken with creatine, post-workout, increasing the results of hypertrophy.
In fact, stores and brands sell combos or kits with the most popular or most sought after products, making it easier to choose and associate supplements.
The combination of various supplements is a common practice among bodybuilders or bodybuilders, for example, BCAA + Whey Protein + creatine.
In this case, the ideal is to consult a nutritionist so that, together, you balance the most appropriate dosages and schedules, avoiding excessive doses that can be harmful to the body.
In general, there are not many scientific reports of BCAA side effects. Like any substance ingested excessively, high dosages can be harmful and should not be ingested.
But even the use in indicated doses can present bad organic alterations, although they are uncommon. Between them:
- Falling glucose levels (hypoglycemia) : BCAA can cause a reduction in blood sugar, in patients with diabetes or not;
- Alteration of motor coordination : the supplement can alter or hinder motor control;
- Renal overload : it is estimated that supplemental consumption of BCAA can overload the kidneys, causing damage to those who already have predisposition or impaired renal function;
- Nausea and headaches : some people point out that the supplement causes headaches and gastric changes;
- Liver disorders : high doses and consumed for a prolonged period of BCAA can cause liver overload, especially in people with a predisposition;
- Intestinal changes : constipation and gas can occur.
A review study published in the Revista Brasileira de Neurologia, in 2014, raised research on the effects of BCAAs in patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is suggested that the prolonged or excessive consumption of branched amino acids may aggravate the condition of ALS.
In addition to the possible side effects, patients with lactose intolerance should be aware of the label, as some brands have lactose in the formulation.
Milk protein is not part of the basic formulation of BCAA, but it can be present in some products, generating adverse reactions in patients with sensitivity.
People with any type of allergy or intolerance should always read the labels carefully, as other elements can be added to the formulation (called surpluses, in order to give color, consistency or flavor to the product).
Taking the supplement close to bedtime can interfere with sleep, since, according to Thiago Sicsú , an orthomolecular doctor, BCAA competes with tryptophan when it reaches the brain. This means that in the presence of one amino acid, the other acts less.
Since tryptophan is associated with relaxation and sleep, its inhibition can interfere with the process of falling asleep.
In addition, patients undergoing treatment for Parkinson’s disease may have their symptoms aggravated with the use of BCAA, presenting greater difficulty in motor control.
BCAA can interact or interfere with the action of some medications. Patients undergoing continuous or punctual treatment for any condition should always consult a specialist. Possible interactions include:
- Corticosteroids : the medication can interfere with the action of BCAAs, reducing the effectiveness of the supplement;
- Hypoglycemic remedies : the use of drugs to lower blood sugar levels or control diabetes can interact with BCAA and aggravate hypoglycemic action;
- Medicines for thyroid disorders : the use of drugs for thyroid dysfunction can reduce the rate of absorption of BCAA;
- Drugs for Parkinson’s disease : BCAA can interfere with the action of drugs to control the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, reducing the action of treatment.
Before consuming any supplement, a doctor or nutritionist should be consulted to assess the need and the possibility of inserting the product into the routine.
In general, the elderly, pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, people with alcohol dependence and patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis should not use BCAA.
Patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and thyroid disorders, or nutritional restrictions should always strictly follow the recommendations of the doctor who performs the follow-up.
Food supplement stores are the most common places to purchase BCAA, usually offering the widest range of brands and lines of the supplement.
In addition, in general, specialized stores rely on sports nutritionists or refer professionals, helping you to choose the products.
It is also possible to find BCAA and other supplements in pharmacies, markets and gyms. In our price comparison, Consulta Remédios , you will find several offers of pharmacies from all over the country.
Although the products are freely available, without the need for nutritional or medical advice, it is always important to emphasize that the use of any substance, be it a supplement or medication, should only be conducted with professional monitoring.
Anyone who has looked at a supplement rack knows that it is not always easy to decide which one to buy, as the fitness market offers different brands, lines and presentations.
It is always necessary to evaluate the objectives and facilities of each product, observing the nutritional table and the form of consumption, for example.
Sometimes, those who have difficulties in ingesting capsules, may prioritize powdered BCAAs. However, it is necessary to decide between the flavors (which often means testing the available alternatives until you find the most pleasant flavor).
Branched amino acid supplements, in general, are quite similar in concentration and form of ingestion. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the cost benefit, the preference for the manufacturer and whether there are other components combined with the formula, such as calories or vitamins.
Below you will find some options:
BCAA 4:1:1 Drink (280g) – Max Titanium
BCAA 4: 1: 1 Drink has maltodextrin, leucine, isoleucine, valine, vitamin B6 and vitamin C in the formulation. It is possible to find the supplement in the flavors of lemon, grape, passion fruit and orange.
Each 7g of product (2 dosers) provides 25 calories and 3g of protein. The concentration of amino acids is in the ratio of 4: 1: 1.
Average price: between 85 and 150 reais.
BCAA Powder (300g) – Integralmedica
Powder Integralmedica BCAA powder does not contain sugar or carbohydrates. It has a concentration of amino acids in the proportion of 4: 1: 1 of leucine, valine and isoleucine.
Each dosage contains 2.6g of BCAA in a 3.2g serving of product. The available flavors are passion fruit, red fruits and guarana with açaí .
Average price: between 90 and 140 reais.
Capsules or tablets
BCAA 2400 – Millennium Probiotics
This tablet supplement contains high concentrations of BCAAs in each unit. In addition, it is enriched with vitamin B6, reaching 50% of the recommended daily dose.
2 tablets provide 14 calories and 2.4g of branched amino acids, which should be consumed with water. The product is also available in packaging with 60 tablets.
Average price: between 60 and 110 reais.
BCAA Top (120 capsules) – Integralmedica
In the BCAA Top each serving corresponds to 4 capsules and provides 4.3 calories, 0.6g of carbohydrates, 1.3mg of vitamin B6 and 2.1g of BCAAs.
Average price: between 70 and 90 reais.
BCAA 2400 (200 cápsulas) – Max Titanium
BCAA 2400 Max Titanium, contains neither gluten nor lactose. It can be found in packs of 100 and 200 capsules. For each serving, or 4 capsules, the supplement provides 10 calories and 2.4g of BCAAs.
Average price: between 30 and 60 reais.
BCAA 1000 Mega-Size (200 cápsulas) – Optimum Nutrition
BCAA 1000 Mega-Size does not contain gluten and also does not contain significant amounts of calories or carbohydrates in the 4 capsule portion.
In the proportion of 2: 1: 1, BCAA provides in its portion 1000mg, 500mg and 500mg of leucine, valine and isoleucine, respectively.
Average price: from 180 reais.
* The price survey was carried out through Consulta Remédios on 07/30/2018. Values may change.
Setting up a balanced menu is not always simple, so it is essential that it be prepared together with a professional to meet your needs and adapt to your habits and routines.
Below you will find some menu options for hypertrophy that include BCAA as a supplement:
To train in the afternoon
For breakfast, at approximately 8 am, prepare an omelet with 7 egg whites + 4 whole eggs and 3 tablespoons (oats).
At lunch, at approximately noon, consume a salad of green leaves at will, 250g of lean proteins, such as grilled chicken breast or tuna, 1 80g portion of Brazil nuts or sweet potatoes .
For the afternoon snack, at approximately 3 pm, consume a salad of green leaves, 250g of good carbohydrates (ie complexes, such as brown rice or sweet potatoes ), 350g of proteins, such as red meat.
Before exercising, use some pre-workout supplements, such as L-carnitine, caffeine or maltodextrin.
During training, supplementation is with 3g of BCAA and, right after finishing, consume a shake of 2 scoops of Whey Protein + 3g of BCAA.
At dinner, at approximately 18h, consume about 100g leaf salad with broccoli; 200g of carbohydrate, like brown rice or oats and 300g of protein, like grilled chicken breast.
At supper, to end the day, consume 120g of avocado and + omelet of 2 whole eggs + 9 egg whites.
For hypertrophy (2400 calories)
For breakfast, at approximately 6 am, consume 250mL of skimmed milk, 50g of rolled oats, 20g of Whey Protein, 1 nanica banana and 15g of Maltodextrin.
In the middle of the morning, around 9 am, consume 1 apple or 1/2 papaya or 1 pear, 100g of rice, sweet potato or wholegrain pasta and 100g of lean meat or tuna.
For lunch, at approximately noon, prepare 200g of sweet potatoes or rice or wholegrain pasta, 30g of beans , 50g of broccoli or cauliflower, 150g of chicken breast or tuna.
In the middle of the afternoon, at approximately 15h, consume 200mL of skimmed milk, 40g of rolled oats and 1 banana or 1 pear.
At 6 pm, in the pre-workout, consume 250g of sweet potatoes or brown rice, 150g of chicken breast and 6g of BCAA.
After training, consume 40g of maltodextrin, 30g of Whey Protein and 6g of BCAA.
At approximately 8:30 pm, for dinner, prepare 200g of sweet potatoes or brown rice, 150g of chicken breast and 100g of grated beets.
To end the day, before bed, at approximately 10 pm, make an omelet with 1 whole egg + 4 egg whites and 30g of rolled oats.
With free protein
For breakfast, the intake is 1 cup of zero soy extract, 30g of whey protein with 5g of glutamine, 2 slices of wholemeal bread with a protein at will (such as light ricotta cream, light curd, tuna pate, turkey breast, chicken breast or white cheese), 1 small banana and 3g of BCAA.
For your morning snack, at approximately 9 am, eat 100g of tuna with cottage cheese or turkey breast with white cheese.
For lunch, at approximately noon, consume 100g of sweet potatoes, carrots or brown rice, 150g of lean proteins (such as tuna, grilled chicken breast or lean steak), varied low-calorie salads (such as leafy greens, tomatoes and carrots ) and 50g of chestnuts.
In the middle of the afternoon, at approximately 3 pm, consume 1 fruit (banana, pear or papaya), 50g of oats and 150mL of skimmed milk.
Before training, supplement with 3g of BCAA and, after training, with 30g of Whey protein + 5g glutamine + 1 fruit or 70g of sweet potato + 3g of BCAA.
For dinner, at approximately 6 pm, consume lean protein at will (grilled chicken breast, turkey breast, tuna or cottage cheese), green leafy salad and 1 fruit.
Before bed, to end the day, consume 50g of oats with skimmed milk or 50g of unsweetened peanut butter.
People with high physical demands can resort to BCAA supplements to enrich their diet and obtain better physical performance. But it is important to remember that the main source of obtaining nutrients must be food .
A rich and nutritionally balanced menu provides the body with all the essential amino acids for the proper functioning of the body, even for practitioners of physical activities that seek better performance and hypertrophy.
Isoleucine, leucine and lysine are present in complete protein foods, whether of animal or vegetable origin, so it is possible to balance meals even without the use of supplements.
Below you will find some of the products that can offer a rich composition of amino acids, followed by the quantity in grams of isoleucine (ile), leucine (leu) and valine (val):
- 100g of pumpkin seed : 1.13 (ile), 2.16 (leu), 1.24 (val);
- 100g of brocolis : 0.18 (ile), 0.23 (leu), 0.21 (val);
- 100g of chicken meat : 1.06 (ile), 1.47 (leu), 1.59 (val);
- 100g of pork : 0.67 (ile), 0.89 (leu), 0.96 (val);
- 100g of lean beef : 1.03 (ile), 1.73 (leu), 1.90 (val);
- 100g of curd : 0.20 (ile), 0.38 (leu), 0.27 (val);
- 100g of couve-flor : 0.13 (ile), 0.19 (leu), 0.16 (val);
- 100g of fresh peas : 0.27 (ile), 0.45 (leu), 0.47 (val);
- 100g of white beans : 0.84 (ile), 1.54 (leu), 1.45 (val);
- 100g of cow liver : 1.16 (ile), 1.79 (leu), 1.54 (val);
- 100g of gelatin : 1.45 (ile), 2.82 (leu), 3.85 (val);
- 100g of cow’s milk : 0.21 (ile), 0.43 (leu), 0.24 (val);
- 100g of lentils : 1.04 (ile), 1.84 (leu), 1.73 (val);
- 100g of chicken egg : 0.77 (ile), 1.09 (leu), 0.86 (val);
- 100g of fresh white cheese : 1.12 (ile), 2.21 (leu), 1.27 (val);
- 100g of tin sardines : 0.97 (ile), 1.49 (leu), 1.89 (val);
- 100g of soybeans : 1.88 (ile), 3.23 (leu), 2.65 (val)
- 100g of tofu : 0.03 (ile), 0.53 (leu), 0.39 (val).
Quite effective for some, unnecessary for others. The truth is that BCAA, like any other supplement, has different effects on each organism and this is not only due to the action of the product, as training, biotype and adaptation to use can influence its effects.
According to orthomolecular and sports performance doctor Thiago Sicsú, some conditions can cause a reduction in the absorption of amino acids by the body, such as trauma, alcoholism , psychosis, anorexia nervosa and liver damage (either due to non-ingestion or due to dysfunction of the organism).
In these cases, supplementation must be evaluated and indicated by a professional specialized in each situation.
In general, the supplement can improve training and gain lean mass as long as it is consumed in the correct dosages – which often generates a very high investment.
Whether or not to take BCAA will depend on your assessment, with a professional, of the cost benefit. Remembering that the branched amino acids are present in the diet and, therefore, the supplement acts as a reinforcement.
Regardless of whether you choose to take BCAAs or not, you need to remember that the supplement alone will not bring results to your muscles. It is necessary to align it with healthy lifestyle habits, physical exercises appropriate to the objective, professional monitoring and, of course, food.
In fact, supplements always act as a nutritional boost, especially right after training, but it is by maintaining a rich and balanced diet that you offer the body the necessary elements for physical and organic health.
Because if the body does not have proteins and amino acids throughout the day, there is no point in replacing it just after exercise.
Below you can see some tips that help – with or without BCAA – to gain muscle:
If you still think that a lot of weight is equivalent to more lean mass, it’s time to review that information. Of course, the amount of load interferes with the strengthening and hypertrophy process, but it is not the only determinant.
Those who are starting in weight training, should start with low weights and gradually increase, just as those who already train should continue to put on more weight.
Have you noticed that after a while, even with high loads, it seems that the muscle gains have been reduced or that you can no longer increase the weight?
That’s because the muscles tend to adapt to exercise and stagnate in the load. So it is necessary to vary the performance to prevent the body from settling in the movements and execution.
The possibilities are diverse: more sets of few repetitions, alternating with few sets of more repetitions, alternating with mixed sets and load variation.
It is not difficult to find someone who spends the whole afternoon at the gym. There is still an idea that getting tired a lot and spending long hours exercising the muscle will bring better results of hypertrophy.
But, in fact, several studies have pointed out that quick workouts tend to show better results.
So avoid very long intervals between sets and exercises, as this requires more muscle and there is still time for other activities of the day.
You probably already know, but it is worth repeating: it is not in the gym, while you are pushing, that your muscle grows. Only then, when tissue regeneration occurs, does hypertrophy occur.
So it is necessary to respect the body’s resting time. This includes sleeping well and switching exercised muscles.
If you go to the gym 5 or 6 times a week, it is best to work different muscle groups so as not to overload them. The lack of rest, in addition to not allowing the muscle to recover, favors injuries.
Food is a key point in hypertrophy or muscle definition, but it is not always easy to keep it balanced.
There are several experts who argue that it is possible to build a muscular and defined body without the use of supplements, betting on a balanced diet.
But as long as it is properly recommended and monitored, nutritional supplementation for healthy and physically demanding people does not pose any health risks.
The products are produced to bring better performance and facilitate nutritional obtaining when, for some reason, it cannot be supplied by food alone.
But there is a consensus that not all proteins or any other nutrient can be obtained from supplements alone. Therefore, a balanced menu is essential.
For good physical performance, it is necessary to pay attention to the intake of proteins, but also of carbohydrates, calories, fats and vitamins.
Also prefer the healthiest foods. That means reducing industrialized.
In addition to bringing health benefits, basic care with food (such as reducing sodium present in sausages and canned foods) avoids fluid retention, improves organic functions, brings more disposition and better responses to training.
Does BCAA retain liquid?
No. Branched amino acids do not have properties capable of causing fluid retention in the body.
It is necessary to be attentive to other dietary changes and check if the retention is being caused by excess sodium, for example, or by some dysfunction of the body.
Can I take BCAA with Whey Protein or other supplements?
Yes. Whey Protein already has concentrations of BCAA, so the associated consumption will only increase the amount ingested.
Other supplements, such as creatine, maltodextrin and even thermogenic can be taken with BCAA without interference. Just adjust the consumption schedules of each one.
Is the amount of BCAA in Whey enough?
It is important to remember that amino acids come from food and are present in meat, milk and eggs, for example. Those who supplement with Whey also have another source of amino acids, which varies according to the brand and product line.
The nutritional quantity must be assessed individually, considering the diet and physical characteristics. Therefore, it may be that the intake of amino acids is supplying the recommended dosage, even without supplementation.
It is also necessary to consider the goals of each person, remembering that, very often, very small dosages of BCAA may not alter the gain of lean mass. Therefore, in general, the amount of branched amino acids contained in the Wheys is sufficient to supply the minimum recommended dosage, as long as it is combined with good nutrition.
BCAA helps to define or lose weight?
Weight loss occurs if the supplement is associated with aerobic physical activities and adequate nutrition. In order to define the muscles, the ideal is that the activities are weight training. However, the supplement without training does not promote physical changes.
Does BCAA need a nutritional or medical prescription?
No. The purchase of BCAAs does not require a medical prescription, as they are sold in the Food category, within the national territory, according to Anvisa, Article 29 of Resolution RDC nº 18/2010.
Does BCAA harm the kidneys and liver?
In healthy people, there are no kidney or liver risks due to the consumption of BCAA. The caveat is for the consumption of overdoses for a long time, as there may be a pathological predisposition.
In other words, what is effectively known is that people without changes in their kidneys or liver can consume protein (and BCAA) without risk.
Even in practitioners of physical activities who ingest higher doses, the body tends to adapt and respond well to high protein intake.
The search for more health, quality of life and well-being is associated with healthy habits and daily balance. Whether in search of a more conditioned body, better muscle gains or just maintaining health, food is a pillar.
Many experts argue that good nutrition can provide the body with the necessary nutrients for health. But in special cases, as in the practitioners of intense physical exercises or athletes, supplementation presents itself as a facilitating resource.
Several products are developed in order to meet the public’s broad sporting, athletic and nutritional demands.
Evaluate the benefits, observe your body, consult nutrition professionals and follow the Healthy Minute for better results!