BCAAs: What, Why, How, When… and When Not

by Mal – Tuesday, 30. July 2019

Please note this is an opinion article and not a scientific review. Velocity takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the content. This blog was orignally posted in April 2018.

What are BCAAs?

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are very popular right now within the fitness industry. Perhaps you’ve heard of them or seen them listed on the side of your energy drink. They can also be taken as a standalone powder or tablet, and they’re marketed as a key ingredient in many pre-workout formulas.


So what’s the hype?

BCAAs are considered by many to be the ‘perfect’ supplement for building muscle mass while also reducing body fat, which can be difficult to isolate from one another.

How Do BCAAs Work?

When you’re cutting calories, your body will be in a catabolic state. This means that your body will be breaking down tissue rather than making it, which is known as being in an anabolic state. In addition to fat loss, muscle loss is likely to occur when you’re reducing your calorie-intake, as the body uses muscle protein (which is made up of amino acids) as an energy source.

BCAA Powder

Why Take BCAAs?

Three of the nine essential amino acids are called Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). These are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. They account for approximately 35% of essential amino acids in muscle proteins. BCAAs can be oxidised in skeletal muscle, whereas other essential amino acids are mostly broken down in the liver. Exercise greatly increases energy expenditure and promotes oxidation of BCAAs in the muscles, therefore supplementation is thought to be helpful for those who wish to maintain or increase muscle mass.

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What Are The Other Benefits Of BCAAs?

BCAAs claim to have several other benefits, such as reducing tiredness, which can boost your workout, or at least helps to ensure you get started. This is one of the reasons why they are recommended to take before your workout. They do this by inhibiting the production of serotonin, which often rises during exercise. Furthermore, they have been said to reduce muscle soreness.

Are BCAAs Right For Me?

BCAAs may be right for those looking to increase muscle mass and lose fat. As people age, creating the optimum muscle-building environment within your body can be harder to accomplish. Thus it is claimed that BCAAs are a good way for those over the age of 35 to boost the amount of muscle they can build. BCAAs are also often used by people following specific diets, or eating schedules such as Intermittent Fasting. For example, BCAAs are said to be beneficial to take pre-workout during a fast, in order to fuel muscles.

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Side Effects / Safety Precautions

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding it’s important to never take BCAAs, or before surgery as BCAAs have been shown to affect blood sugar levels. Because BCAA’s inhibit the production of serotonin, they can interrupt your sleep cycle, especially when taken later in the day. And like all supplements and drugs that interact with the body’s chemistry, BCAA’s (and energy drinks) can become addictive. Feeling like you can’t workout without having something before, during or after, can become a dangerous mindset. Sometimes it’s important to listen to what your body is trying to tell you, before and after a workout, so that you can accurately gauge how hard to push and how long to go for. Lastly, proper sleep and recovery is as important an element as anything else in your training.

Got curious,? You can now try NOCCO BCAAs (with or without caffeine) in all our studios.