The idea of taking supplements if pretty common nowadays. Most of us take at least one, if not more, a day to make sure we’re getting all the essential nutrients we need. This could be your multivitamin, biotin for your hair and nails, zinc, iron, the list goes on.
In fact, research shows that the trend is only increasing as more and more people turn to supplements to compensate for what we are not getting in our daily meals. Alternatively, there are also supplements that help with our cognitive functions, physical fitness, and a wide range of other things.
Joining the popularity bandwagon are BCAA supplements. Do you know what they are and where to find them? Find out right here.
What Are Natural BCAA Supplements?
BCAA stands for Branched-chain amino acids. These are naturally occurring molecules that consist of three distinct amino acids, namely, valine, leucine, and isoleucine. They are essential (meaning that your body does not produce them and therefore you must get them from your diet) and play a major role in muscle protein synthesis; the body's ability to build muscle and reduce muscle breakdown.
That is why they always come in handy before or after training sessions because that is when you need to build your muscles.
BCAAs are found in many popular proteins. For example, a 6oz chicken breast serving has 6.6g of BCAA, 6oz canned tuna has 5.6g, 6oz stake has 6.2g, and 1oz egg has 1.3g. While it's a good idea to consume BCAAs in meals, that amount might not be sufficient to repair muscle damage caused by physical stress and injuries. And that is why you need natural BCAA supplements.
The word ‘natural' means that they should be extracted directly from natural sources. The opposite of that is synthetic. Synthetic BCAAs are manufactured using chemicals and chemical processes and are designed to mimic the natural ones.
Why You Should Be Taking Natural BCAA Supplements
We've already mentioned that natural BCAA supplements help in muscle protein synthesis. Contrary to other amino acids, BCAAs are metabolized in skeletal muscles and not in the liver, and that is part of the reason why they have the ability to not only build muscles, but also protect them from breakdown. Therefore, they work to repair your damaged muscles, increase muscle function and decrease soreness; especially after exercise sessions. While at it, they will also reduce body fat and are thus very important in your weight loss and management efforts.
What else will they do for you?
- Enhance exercise performance: the reason why you usually feel fatigued when you exercise is because exercising increases serotonin level in your body. It is believed that BCAAs actually reduces serotonin and thus cancel out fatigue.
- For treatment: BCAAs are used to treat liver-related brain conditions, Lou Gehrig's disease, and some cancer symptoms among other illnesses.
Simplified Buying Guide
#1: Natural is better
As mentioned already, natural BCAA supplements differ from synthetic ones in that while natural ones are extracted directly from natural sources, synthetic ones are not. Instead, they are manufactured using chemicals and designed to mimic natural BCAAs.
When making your purchase, choose natural BCAA supplements because our bodies are designed to process natural stuff. Synthetic ones are likely to be perceived as foreign substances, and that might force your body to reject and excrete them. Wasting their benefit and your money.
#2: Ratio of the 3 amino acids
By now you already know that BCAAs contain three different amino acids, valine, leucine, and isoleucine. If you are sharp or a label reader, you've probably noticed that different brands have the three in varying ratios.
But which one should you pick? According to research, the Leucine to isoleucine to valine ratio should be 2:1:1.
Why? All the three amino acids are certainly important but Leucine plays the biggest role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Note that the 2:1:1 ratio is the most ideal. Avoid those brands that have anything other than that (some have 4:1:1, 6:1:1, and even 10:1:1) because if the ratio of Leucine is more than 2 then you will be taking a Leucine supplement and not a BCAA supplement. It won't be effective because our muscles contain a 2:1:1 ratio naturally. This is one of those cases where more is not always better.
#3: Ingredients and fillers
Some manufacturers add extra ingredients and fillers to their BCAA supplements in the name of making them ‘more nutritious'. The only problem is that most of these additions usually add no value to the supplement. In fact, they only make it less natural.
Some usually add sweeteners and colors – two substances that are associated with various health risks like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardio diseases. Your best bet? Avoid any brand that contains additional ingredients and fillers.
#4: Where to find BCAAs
Finally, where can you get natural BCAAs? That's pretty simple really; most brands are available in online and health food stores. Research shows that most people (42.8%) prefer to buy their supplements online compared to 29.3% who buy them in food health stores. Just make sure you know which brand you want, and take a little time to look into the seller’s reputation.