Last updated: September 9, 2021

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When embarking on any kind of weight loss plan, there is a tendency to lose muscle mass along with the fat. If you’re looking to tone up and lose weight, or grow and keep lean muscle mass, you should know about branched amino acids. These are amazing macronutrients that can enable you to drop fat while at the same time keeping your muscles.

BCAAs are not only great tools for those looking to bulk up, but these branched amino acids also contribute key nutrients our bodies rely on to operate at its best. Nonetheless, it is true that modern products, with advanced absorption methods, have made these components key allies for anyone wanting to lose fat. Have we piqued your interest? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about branched amino acids.




Key Facts

  • Branched amino acids, also known as “essential amino acids” or “BCAAs,” are a superb allies to those wanting to lose weight while growing and keeping lean muscle mass.
  • Essential amino acids are micronutrients our bodies are not able to produce on their own.
  • Because our bodies can’t produce BCCAs it is super important to get these essential amino acids through our diet. People with low-protein or highly restrictive diets would benefit from BCAA supplementation.

Our Selection: The Best BCAA Supplements

You will quickly notice that in North America when it comes to choosing a BCAA supplement, there will be no shortage of options. There are dozens of brands, blends, and formats available. To help you understand what to look for, in this section, we present you with the 5 best BCAA products currently available.

Buyer's Guide: Everything You Should Know About Branched Amino Acids

In order to choose the right BCAA supplement for your needs, it is important to know exactly what those needs are. To help you understand your needs better, in this section we cover the most relevant information concerning BCAAs and answer the most frequently asked questions consumers have before choosing a product.

Those looking to lose weight would benefit from supplementing BCAAs.
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What are branched amino acids or BCAAs exactly?

BCAAs are a great source of essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are called this because our bodies can’t produce them on their own. Making it essential that we ingest them through our diet or by supplementing. Overall, anyone looking to increase muscle fiber or lose body fat can benefit from the use of BCCAs.

Fat loss or gaining muscle is achieved through the oxidation of these essential amino acids. To optimise the oxidising effect, combining their intake with working out is recommended. After all, it is a well-known fact that the oxidation of BCAAs is boosted with physical exercise and energy expenditure.

The essential amino acids are:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valina
Did you know the “branched” part of the name comes from the tree-branch like the chemical structure of these amino acids?

Why are BCAAs useful to athletes?

Like we mentioned before, the oxidation of branched amino acids enables the growth and maintenance of muscle fibres. However, BCAAs have many more benefits, which we’ll go over below:

  • Increase muscle endurance
  • Support the tension of our moculature
  • Supply energy to our muscles
  • Favor protein synthesis
  • Increase strength
  • Favour weight and fat loss

Among the proteinogenic amino acids, there are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
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Because BCAAs are metabolised in the muscles and not in our liver, our muscles are allowed to work in optimal conditions.

During the oxidation process, chemical glutamine is created. The presence of glutamine is a key component to prevent muscle tissue from being worn down and lost.

Should I consume BCAAs if I am following a weight loss program?

Even though branched amino acids have multiple benefits for anyone, supplementing with them should be of particular interest to those wanting to lose weight. This is because BCAAs allow you to boost your fat loss without losing muscle mass.

Weight management plans can have negative impacts on our muscles. This is because when our body enters a caloric deficit, it begins to eat up muscle mass to obtain caloric energy. More along these lines, BCAAs are also beneficial to athletes who practice intense cardiovascular exercises.

Dr. Alan CarterPharmacologist and Researcher at the University of Missouri
”Researchers found that BCAA supplementation improved energy metabolism and lowered levels of substances that indicate muscle damage, such as creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase."

What types of BCAAs are there and which one is the right one for me?

If you look on Amazon or your local GNC, you’ll find there is a large selection of BCCA supplements at your disposal. Even though they are all branched chain amino acids, they can have different concentrations, ratios, absorption rates and methods of ingestion. Up next, we’ll go over the different formats you can find:

There are two types of branched amino acids available in the United States market:

  • BCAAs in powder form.
  • BCAAs tablets.

In the following table, we present you the different types of BCAAs, as well as their main
characteristics:

Criterion BCAAs tablets BCAAs in powder
Dosage 3 tablets before or after training (varies by brand). 5g mixed with water or juice before or after training (varies by brand).
Digestion Slower absorption Excellent absorption
Method of ingestion May be difficult to swallow. Soluble and easy to mix.
Price Price varies by formula. Price varies by formula (freeze-dried format is highly priced).
Purity May contain caffeine. Often contain artificial flavours.

As far as their nutritional values go, there are no noteworthy discrepancies between the two types of presentations.

Who is likely to benefit from BCAAs supplementation?

Proper levels of essential amino acids provide many advantages and can be helpful in the prevention of many chronic illnesses. The list below includes those who would benefit most from supplementing with BCCAs.

  • Those who want to increase muscle fiber
  • Bodybuilders during competition
  • Those who want to lose weight
  • Athletes under an intense physical training regime

BCCAs also help reduce some of the normal aches and pains that occur after intense physical training, making for a faster and easier recovery.

Did you know that BCCAs are some of the best-supported supplements by both the athletic and scientific communities?

What is the recommended dose of BCAAs?

The average dose for BCAAs is between 5 to 10 grams for adults. However, it is always advised that you consult the products description and recommendations. Another important criterion along the lines of dosage is timing, let us elaborate:

Time of intake Effect
Before training More intense training.
After training Aids muscle regeneration.
During the day Reduces hunger and helps muscle growth.
Upon awakening (fasting) Stops muscle breakdown that occurs during sleeping hours.

The standard dose, as mentioned above, is usually 5 to 10 grams. This will of course depend on your weight and particular needs.

Is it dangerous to exceed the recommended dose of branched amino acids?

Since a high concentration of amino acids can be toxic to our organisms, excess BCAAs are usually eliminated and excreted immediately. All human cells have a specialised system of enzymes that are responsible for breaking down these amino acids. For these reasons overdosing on BCAAs is not very common, however, it can happen in some cases.

It is important to note that when the body experiences an overdose, eliminating excess toxins becomes a priority. This takes energy away from other vital processes and could cause serious damage. Make sure not to surpass the recommended daily dosage. If you experience any problems, make sure to consult your doctor.

Purchase Criteria

Like with any supplement you’ll ingest, it is important to make sure you get a quality product that will provide all the effects you’re looking for. To help you find the best product, we want to give you one last set of criteria to consider before you make your final purchase:

Taste

Most BCCAs supplements that come in the form of powder will have some sort of fruity or citric taste. Depending on your taste, these supplements will have a pleasant taste or not. If you’re sensitive to artificial flavours, opt for tablets, these don’t usually have any flavour since you take them in one gulp.

Ingredients

Choosing top-quality ingredients is the most important aspect to consider when shopping for products you will consume -- We can’t stress this enough. Beyond the quality of the product, it is always preferable if the supplement contains other beneficial active ingredients that will support its function. You will get more from supplements that also contain vitamins or caffeine.

For instance, vitamins B12 and B6 will improve the body's absorption of BCAAs. Finally, you should also consider the percentages of the amino acids present in the formula you choose. The amount of leucine, for example, should be the highest, as this is the one responsible for protein synthesis, and what enables you to maintain muscle mass.

  • Studies show that the perfect concentration of amino acids is:

2:1:1: 2 parts leucine, 1 part isoleucine and 1 part valine.

Supplements containing BCAAs are popular with bodybuilders and athletes for boosting muscle growth and performance.
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Allergens

If you know you duffer from allergies, the list of ingredients will be your most trusted ally.
Nonetheless, everyone can benefit from knowing the sugar content of the product they chose, or that it does not contain any artificial additives.

Furthermore, you should also pay close attention to the label if you need a product that is:

  • Gluten-free
  • Fructose-free
  • Lactose-free
  • Vegan

Overall, supplements that are vegan and fructose-free are ok for people who suffer from allergies. Nonetheless, vegans should be careful when taking pressed supplements, since they are often coated in gelatin. If you are vegan, keep an eye out for tablets coated in cellulose.

Country of Origin

It can be generalised that the quality of a product is often closely related to its country of origin. Developed countries often have strict standards and regulations that ensure companies produce high-quality products with good ingredients.

Most of the time, supplements made in the European Union adhere to rigorous health and safety standards. Unfortunately, most products made in the United States lack strict quality control, which is reflected in the ingredients used.

Summary

By now you should understand why BCAAs are such great allies to those looking to build muscle and lose fat. Because the body is unable to produce these amino acids on its own, a proper diet and/or supplementation is very important.

Moreover, BCAAs actually offer endless benefits to many different processes in our organisms. The nutritional contribution of these amino acids, along with a balanced diet and physical activity is the perfect combination for athletes and those looking to burn more fat or increase muscle.

If you found value in this information, don’t hesitate to share this guide on your social networks. You can also leave us a comment with your thoughts!

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