Everyone wants to optimise every aspect of their lives and our sporting performance is no different. Nutrition and supplements pay an important role is helping us gain the edge, and when it comes to running - every little helps! You might have heard of BCAA's (branch chain amino acids) common known as the building blocks of protein. Whether you're going for a long run or a quick 5k, you might find the benefits of BCAA supplements useful, especially if you don't get enough protein from your diet or normal food sources.
What are BCAA's?
BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are a group of essential amino acids that include valine, leucine, and isoleucine. These amino acids are crucial for the body as they are metabolized and used as sources of muscle energy. BCAAs are referred to as "branched chain" because of their molecular structure, which includes branches. They are found in large quantities in muscle protein and play a significant role in muscle health and function.
BCAAs are essential for muscle protein synthesis and can help in suppressing muscle protein degradation. They are commonly used as supplements, particularly among athletes and individuals aiming to build muscle. While BCAAs are naturally found in dietary protein sources, some people choose to take BCAA supplements to ensure an adequate intake.
Research suggests that BCAAs may have potential benefits for muscle growth, reducing muscle soreness, and aiding in weight loss. However, it's important to note that supplementation of BCAAs alone may not increase muscle growth, as all essential amino acids must be present for muscle protein synthesis to occur.
Can you get BCAA's from your diet?
Yes, you can obtain BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) from your diet by consuming protein-rich foods from both plant and animal sources. Natural food sources of BCAAs include dairy products, chicken, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, cheese, nuts, seeds, quinoa, and soy products. These foods contain varying amounts of leucine, valine, and isoleucine, the three essential BCAAs. For individuals following a vegan diet, legumes, nuts, whole grains, soy products, seeds, and greens are excellent sources of BCAAs.
It's important to note that while most people can obtain sufficient BCAAs from their diet, those engaged in regular physical activity, such as runners, may benefit from supplementing their intake to support muscle recovery and performance. However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist before incorporating BCAA supplements into your diet to ensure safe and appropriate usage.
BCAA supplementation benefits for runners
BCAA supplementation offers several potential benefits for runners. Firstly, branch chain amino acid supplements can support muscle growth and strength gains, which is beneficial for runners looking to improve their overall performance.
Additionally, BCAAs have been shown to reduce perceived exertion and time to fatigue, which can be advantageous for distance runners aiming to delay fatigue and improve endurance. Furthermore, BCAAs play a critical role in cell signaling, regulating the metabolism of glucose and lipids, synthesizing proteins, enhancing gut health, and supporting immunity, all of which are important for runners.
Research has also indicated that BCAA supplementation can improve exercise performance, reduce muscle soreness, and aid in faster recovery from intense exercise, which can be particularly beneficial for marathon runners. Therefore, incorporating BCAA supplementation before or during endurance exercise, such as marathon running, may provide runners with the advantages of improved exercise performance and reduced muscle soreness. However, it's important to note that while BCAA supplementation can be beneficial, individuals should also focus on maintaining a well-rounded diet to ensure overall nutritional needs are met.
Benefits of BCAA supplements in strength training
In my opinion, everyone should be doing some aspect of strength training - even if you are an endurance athlete. Building strength has many benefits including injury prevention, increasing muscle tissue and supplementing endurance exercise; to name a few.
BCAA supplementation offers several benefits for individuals engaged in strength training. Research suggests that BCAA supplements may contribute to increased lean muscle mass and strength during training, potentially aiding in muscle building and repair. Additionally, BCAAs have been shown to reduce muscle soreness and assist in recovery following intense exercise, which can be particularly advantageous for strength training athletes.
Furthermore, BCAAs play a crucial role in muscle metabolism, energy production, and regulation of blood sugar levels, all of which are essential for individuals involved in any strength training session. Studies have also indicated that BCAA supplementation may help reduce exercise fatigue, improve endurance, and support muscle growth, making it a valuable addition to the training regimen of strength athletes.
Another strength-related benefit of supplementing BCAAs if you're a runner include helping to prevent muscle loss, which can be a uphill battle in longer distance runners who typically burn a lot of calories, and also in athletes who eat a lot of plant-based foods or those who tend to avoid dairy products and sometimes struggle to naturally consume enough BCAAs from their diet. Supplements can be a great, easy way to tick this nutritional checkbox. However, it's important to note that while BCAA supplementation can offer benefits, it should be complemented with a well-rounded diet to ensure overall nutritional needs are met.
BCAA for distance runners
BCAAs offer several potential benefits for distance runners. Firstly, BCAAs support muscle growth and strength gains, playing a crucial role in stimulating the body's anabolic hormones to boost muscle protein synthesis, which can help runners preserve muscle mass and repair muscle fibres after training. Secondly, BCAAs can reduce perceived exertion and time to fatigue, which is essential for distance runners aiming to delay fatigue and improve overall performance.
Additionally, BCAA supplementation has been shown to improve intestinal absorption of nutrients, which is important for runners as nutrition is key to injury prevention and recovery. Furthermore, BCAAs can provide a ready source of energy for muscles during endurance exercise like distance running, helping to delay fatigue and extend energy levels. While the research on BCAAs and endurance running is still evolving, the potential benefits of BCAA supplementation for distance runners make it a valuable consideration for those looking to make significant improvements in performance and recovery.
BCAA for recovery
BCAA supplementation can significantly contribute to post-exercise muscle recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Research suggests that BCAAs may help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness and accelerate recovery by decreasing the rate of muscle breakdown and boosting the speed at which muscles repair themselves. Additionally, BCAAs play a crucial role in promoting muscle growth and reducing muscle damage, which can result in less muscle soreness and fatigue, aiding in the recovery process.
Furthermore, BCAAs support muscle metabolism, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce the production of serotonin in the brain, potentially helping to decrease fatigue during exercise and enhance recovery. While some studies indicate that BCAA supplementation may ease soreness and shorten recovery time, it's important to note that most athletes may not necessarily need to take BCAA supplements if they have a well-rounded diet. Therefore, BCAA supplements can be a valuable addition to a recovery regimen, particularly for individuals engaged in intense physical activity, but should be considered in conjunction with a balanced diet and overall nutritional needs.
What are the best BCAA's?
BCAA supplements typically come in two forms; power or capsules. They both ultimately achieve the same results so whichever you choose is down to personal preference. I personally like to take my supplements in tablet-form because I can use habit stacking to make sure I stick to them and don't forget! This is where you couple them with something else you do routinely. In my case, I have a coffee EVERY morning, without fail. So I keep my supplements next to the coffee machine, so when I'm making my coffee I see them and remember to take them.
BCAA powders are widely available online and in supplement stores in a range of flavours. They can be mixed into juice, water or even added to your protein shakes/energy drinks for the ultimate convenience.
In conclusion, supplementing with BCAAs can offer several potential benefits for runners, including improved muscle growth and strength gains, reduced perceived exertion and time to fatigue, and enhanced recovery after exercise. BCAAs play a crucial role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis, providing a source of energy, and promoting muscle repair, which can be particularly advantageous for runners, especially those engaged in distance running and marathon training. While the research on BCAA supplementation for endurance athletes is still evolving, the existing evidence suggests that BCAAs can be a valuable addition to a runner's regimen, aiding in performance and recovery.
However, it's important to note that the effectiveness of BCAA supplementation may vary among individuals, and it should be complemented with a well-rounded diet to ensure overall nutritional needs are met. Additionally, runners should consider consulting with a healthcare professional before incorporating BCAA supplements into their training routine to ensure safe and appropriate usage.