BCAAs: essential or not?

The proteins in meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products are made up of amino acids. In total, there are nine that are said to be essential, that is, they must come from the diet, because the body cannot produce them on its own. And of these, we find three small branched chain amino acids (BCAA) that are similar in their chemical composition,  and which are very popular with athletes: Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine. They make up about a third of muscle protein.

Leucine has been shown to work more on muscles, but needs both valine and isoleucine to be fully functional.

What the studies say about BCAAs

In studies, results vary depending on the protocol, type of physical activity, level of participants, etc. But here’s what we take away from the proven potential benefits:

  • Reduced fatigue in endurance events
  • A decrease in the time to exhaustion in less trained people
  • A gain or maintenance of muscle mass during a low calorie period (less energy intake than expenditure)
  • Optimal recovery after training

On the other hand, it is important to know that the more protein the diet has, the less noticeable the positive effects.

Foods vs Supplements

As always, for a mild to moderately active person, food is often enough to meet needs. First, be sure to consume foods rich in AACR after your workout, some sources of which are:

  • Animals: lean beef, pork, chicken, eggs and fish
  • Dairy: milk, chocolate milk, yogurt, low fat cheese
  • Vegetarian: quinoa, soy, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Finally, consult a sports nutritionist before paying for supplements that are not always necessary!

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