When I was in college, I got really into lifting. My roommate and I would hit the gym about 5 times per week. We were addicted.
Additionally, we started taking supplements. First, some shitty pre workout we got at the grocery store. Then we took a trip to our local GNC to get some protein powder. We told the guy we wanted to get big, but not TOO big. 😂 So we got some whey protein, because we thought it was what we needed.
Then it really started, I took a drive to another supplement store in town to see what else I needed. I wanted to know what the fit people in class with me were drinking from their blender bottles. It looked like pre workout, but there was no way they were drinking pre workout in the middle of class.
So one day I decided to ask a girl I knew who was into bodybuilding what she was drinking. And she said it was BCAAs. Well I didn’t know what they did, but now I thought I needed them. Back to the supplement store.
I think the guy at the supplement store sold me on BCAAs as an intra-workout hydration option. I can’t remember what he said the benefits were.
Anyway, fast forward to now. I don’t take BCAAs anymore and haven’t for probably 5 years.
5 Reasons Why I Don’t Take BCAA Supplements Anymore
1. I Get Amino Acids from Real Food
Amino acids are the molecules that combine to form proteins. You can get a good supply of the essential amino acids from your diet especially if you eat a fair amount of meat.
These foods are some of the top natural sources of BCAAs:
- Greek Yogurt
2. BCAA Drinks Contain Artificial Sweeteners, Flavors and Colors
One of the downfalls of many supplement drinks is that they contain artificial sweeteners and flavors to make them taste better. I found that when I took BCAAs regularly I got quite a bit of bloating — which is a common side-effect of drinking artificial sweeteners.
3. Adequate Protein Intake Makes BCAAs Basically Useless
According to research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, people who had adequate protein intake did not benefit from additional supplementation with BCAAs.
4. BCAAs Contain Additional Calories
If I’m focusing on cutting fat, obviously every calorie gets a little more valuable. I prefer to let food take up all of my calories, aside from the occasional Gatorade after training. BCAAs. BCAA drinks aren’t very high in calories, but I’m not interested in drinking a sugary drink, even if it would provide an incremental improvement in my training or performance.
5. You’ll Get Better Results from Optimizing Other Things
I get it, supplements are so enticing because all you have to do is take them properly and you get the benefits. However, one of the reasons I haven’t focused on taking BCAAs for a long time is that I can get better performance improvements by focusing on other things. For example, I’ve found that I get more benefit from improving the quality of my training, my diet and my sleep than from taking any supplement.
What are BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)?
BCAAs are essential amino acids. The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
The body uses amino acids to make proteins, which are the building blocks of every cell, tissue, and organ. Amino acids and proteins also play a crucial role in metabolism.
There are 20 amino acids, of which nine are essential. The body cannot make essential amino acids, so a person needs to get them from their diet.
Supposed Benefits of Taking BCAAs
These are some of the benefits of taking branched-chain amino acids. I say “supposed” because there isn’t hard evidence that shows that BCAAs are beneficial for athletic performance.
A whey isolate can be a useful tool for meeting your daily protein needs, which can have direct impact on your body composition and performance. Pre-workout contains caffeine and beta alanine which are both shown to improve athletic performance.
BCAAs have a number of benefits, including:
- Increased Muscle Mass
- Decreased Muscle Soreness
- Improved Immune Function
- Preserved Lean Mass When Cutting
- Delated Onset of Fatigue
BCAAs are popular in the endurance world for their ability to delay the onset of fatigue. Many bodybuilders use BCAAs as an intra-workout drink to help keep energy levels topped off during their training sessions.