To supplement or not to supplement — that is the question, perhaps not as old as Hamlet, but certainly current. That’s what body builders, professional athletes, and amateurs alike want to know.
Will their performance be improved by taking legal performance enhancing supplements like amino acids, especially BCAAs? You might say the jury is out, but it would be well worth your while to take a close look at that jury.
Any advocates have something to sell you. Some nay-sayers want to sell you an alternative. The rest of those who aren’t in favor or don’t promote one product over another are from the scientific community.
By now you probably know that the body makes some amino acids but must obtain others by eating protein-rich foods. The top one is whey followed by eggs, fish, chicken, red meat, and some plants.
These supply amino acids to build and support muscle tissue, encourage brain development and health, help to balance hormones and the metabolic system, and generally encourage a body to function at its best. Low fat diets of the past several decades did some damage to the amount of healthy fat and amino acids people were consuming from food, but things have turned around.
Amino Acid Supplements
You can obtain most of your nutrients from good food. Avoiding junk full of refined sugar will help to digest and absorb those nutrients and to lay down strong muscle tissue, etc.
When does a person need supplements?
They are usually best used by individuals who are seriously training and can’t imagine eating another calorie of food; they just can’t do it. Maybe they can’t for other reasons or are unwilling to eat properly due to an eating disorder. Numerous individuals also dislike certain protein-rich foods, so a supplement serves the purpose of helping a person bulk up.
BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acid. These three amino acids make the other amino acids work to their best ability. This trio is made up of leucine (the most important one), isoleucine, and valine. Like other amino acids, these three are touted for supplying a variety of benefits besides growing bigger muscles.
If one can believe the claims by companies that make and sell supplements, BCAAs not only encourage muscles to grow larger but also encourage lean muscle, fat loss, immune health, prevent catabolism, and protect muscles strained during a workout. They increase focus and reduce fatigue.
Food or BCAA Supplements?
What the bodybuilding industry is keen to know is this: should consumers be eating food to obtain their amino acids, or is it better to supplement? After all, the business is huge with any number of products on the market.
Most BCAAs are consumed in liquid form with a flavored drink because they don’t taste so good on their own. Some are taken as tablets. Brands like Optimum Nutrition, Dymatize, and Muscletech all have their own take on this product with slight variations between them. One thing they share in common is that supplements are expensive.
In fact, scientists and consumer watch dogs have established that it’s possible to obtain lots of amino acids including BCAAs by eating properly. Most people just don’t get enough protein in their diets.
Also, if they do consume enough, the benefits are obstructed by negative eating habits. People who don’t eat a high-fiber diet, consume too little water, don’t take a multi-vitamin, have gut problems, or who eat too much sugar aren’t doing themselves any good.
There is also the problem that many individuals are eating greasy protein rather than the good fats they need. Vegan and vegetarian diets are also difficult for bodybuilders and it takes an excellent nutritional plan to make that work for someone who wants to gain muscle weight.
Will BCAAs Do Anything?
While you take these powders or pills, they are doing something, certainly. You will potentially notice your focus increases if you drink some while working out or between sessions during a short rest period. That could also be a side-effect of re-hydrating with or without additional nutrients.
Some people say it improves their digestion. Again, drinking more water always helps, but there’s no denying that many individuals find these amino acids easier to digest than real food, especially during a workout.
The immune system is best supported by foods rich in Vitamin C and a balance of vitamins, minerals, and protein. You really just need to eat sensibly and perhaps increase the antioxidants you consume like green tea and berries, especially during cold and flu season. BCAAs might add something to this, but not as much as good old oranges and lemons.
One’s body seeks energy from the most available source, and muscle is easier to access than fat. If you take a BCAA after working out, this can prevent the body from taking muscle instead, but whey powder shakes are also useful as is eating an apple to supply carbs. If you already drink one or two shakes daily, you don’t need to stack with BCAAs as well. The cost could get out of hand.