Branched Chain Amino Acids: A Supplement You Want to Use


BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and the body uses these amino acids to generate protein. There are 20 total amino acids in the body and nine are considered essential. These nine essential amino acids are not produced naturally in the body and therefore must be consumed within our diets.

Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine are three total branched-chain amino acids and account for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins. These essential amino acids are metabolized and designed to be burned by the body for energy.


It has been proven through research that exercise, particularly cardio and longer training sessions causes an increase in energy expenditure and promotes protein and amino acid catabolism which is the muscle breaking down. Since, the body uses these during exercise, we have a need to replenish and maintain adequate levels in the body. BCAA’s provides us an avenue to do so.

Research has also shown supplementing with BCAA’s before, during and after exercise have positive effects to decrease muscle wasting and promote protein synthesis.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study to examine the effects of BCAA supplementation on muscle damage during exercise. The group of volunteers who received BCAA’s demonstrated a reduced incidence of muscle damage and soreness post exercise. This benefit would lead to improved recovery for future workouts. Therefore, the research suggests that BCAA’s are a useful supplement for individuals exercising.

Good Food Sources for BCAA’s

  • Whey Protein
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Almonds
  • Brown Rice
  • Chickpeas
  • Whole Wheat

Of course, there are specific supplements on the market as well such as Xtend by Scivation. According to some studies, an appropriate dosage is between 4-20 grams depending on body weight and type of exercise.

Side Effects

Are there any known side effects to supplementing with BCAA’s? Research has not concluded this is the case. Some studies have concluded that further research is needed on this topic. But regardless, amino acids are synthesized in the body and found naturally in our diets. They are essential to human beings. It would make sense then that the side effects would be almost non-existent when used appropriately. Of course, if your healthcare professional has directed you to avoid certain proteins or BCAA’s, you should consult with them before supplementing with BCAA’s.


In review, BCAA’s are specific to muscle tissue and provide energy to the muscle during exercise. As you exercise, the level of BCAA’s in the body diminishes. Consuming BCAA’s will provide energy during workouts and provide muscle tissue stimulation and recovery when consumed in either food or supplement form. So the next time you think about carrying just water into the gym, think about maybe adding some BCAA’s as well. Your body might just thank you.

Want to know more supplements? Including those in my own personal training program? Learn about them here: Personal Training Masterclass: Your Complete Training Plan


Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Naoya Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA (2004). “Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise“. J. Nutr. 134 (6): 1583S–1587S. Retrieved 22 March 2011.

BCAA Supplements and Their Benefits“. Macrospective. Retrieved 2016-03-23.

Sowers, Strakie. “A Primer On Branched Chain Amino Acids“(PDF). Huntington College of Health Sciences. Retrieved 22 March 2011

Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study”. Home – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved 2012-07-12.

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