Hugo Luna, General Manager, Rick & Ann's GNC Stores
BCAA supplements are really big with athletes. If you’re new to them — or even if you’ve been using them for a while — you might not know the whole story about them.
What are they?
‘BCAA’ stands for ‘branched-chain amino acids’.
OK, we got that out of the way. Now let’s focus on what that means in practical terms. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are three of them in all the supplements we carry: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Together, they’re responsible for building and maintaining your muscles.
You may hear those BCAAs referred to as ‘essential’ amino acids. That means they can’t be produced by your body. The only way you can get those three amino acids is through your diet and through supplements. Taken together, those three ‘essential’ amino acids make up almost 40% of the amino acids found in your body.
BCAAs not only help to build and maintain muscle, there’s also evidence that they’re used by your muscles to produce energy and that they may play a role in regulating your blood sugar.
Why are they important?
From your perspective as an athlete, here’s why they’re important to you:
They build muscle and they help you to repair the muscle that you break down while working out. Leucine, in particular, is known to stimulate muscle protein synthesis more effectively than other amino acids.
They reduce fatigue when you’re pushing yourself during a workout. That means you can push yourself farther and longer, for better results.
They reduce muscle soreness brought on by working out and can help you to recover faster.
How do I get them?
You can get BCAAs through your diet, from protein-rich foods like meat, dairy products, fish, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds.
But if you’re an athlete, you may want an extra boost for better performance and faster recovery from your workouts.
You can take them pretty much anytime. Of course, a lot of people drink them during their workouts. Others drink them during the day, using them to give flavor to their water. And some people use them as a substitute for protein shakes, because they provide recovery benefits without the added calories of a shake.
Which BCAA supplement is best for me?
There are a lot BCAA supplements out there, and we’ve picked the best ones to stock in our stores. They vary from one another in terms of the amount of the amino acids they carry, whether they contain additional components, like electrolytes, which give you additional help in post-workout recovery, or Velocitol and glutamine, which can give a boost to the basic BCAAs.
Some of our BCAA supplements are even vegan.
To help you choose, we’ve prepared a table that compares a few of the most popular products. But we also encourage you to stop into one of our stores and speak to one of our experts. They’ll help you pick the supplement that’s best for you and your program.