Megan Callahan, MS, RD, LD
Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian

January 2, 2021

Last year, I set a goal to get to the gym five days per week with plans to lift more weights and improve strength and decrease body fat. I got started, went to the gym and worked my way up to five times per week. My muscles and body were so sore from all the weight lifting that I thought I should back off a little. Once I slowed down and lost sight of my goal, I went less and less often and eventually stopped going to the gym.

Can you relate to this? I recently learned that supplementing with BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) could have significantly helped with my muscle recovery and soreness. Let me share what I’ve learned about BCAAs.

What are BCAAs?
There are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, valine. Amino acids are the components of proteins in our body. Proteins make up our body’s structure (bones, muscles, organs, tissue, hair, nails etc.). The body is able to make some amino acids on its own called nonessential amino acids. Other amino acids cannot be produced in the body, called essential amino acids, because it’s essential that we get them through what we eat and drink.

What makes BCAAs essential for the body?
These three essential BCAAs (not made in the body) make up more than one third of the protein found in your muscle tissue. What’s unique about these BCAAs is that they are the building blocks for new muscle tissue, and leucine has been identified as “the switch” for initiating muscle protein synthesis. In a fasting or depleted state, BCAAs are broken down in the muscle tissue, rapidly absorbed and used for energy.

What are food sources of BCAA and how do they compare to supplements?
Eggs, dairy, beef, pork, poultry, seafood are all great food sources of BCAAs. But supplements provide a more convenient and refreshing delivery method of BCAAs. It’s much more appealing to drink a BCAA supplement that tastes like Kool-Aid versus having six eggs during a workout.

What are some of the ways in which taking a BCAA supplement could help?
• If you’re trying to build muscle by increased weight training and increased calorie intake, for best results, BCAA can help build muscle tissue if taken during the exercise session.
• If you’re trying to lose weight and eating less than what your body needs, you can take BCAA to avoid using muscle for energy and losing muscle tissue during exercise.
• If you’re doing prolonged training sessions and want to avoid burning muscle for fuel, BCAA can be used as a fuel source to spare muscle during exercise.
• If you’re doing lots of training or in multiple intense sporting activities and not allowing your body adequate recovery time, taking BCAA supplements can help off-set that run-down feeling and a compromised immune system that happens with prolonged intense training. Research has found that immune cells in the gut use the BCAAs as fuel to regenerate more efficiently, thus improving immune system protection.

Here’s a refreshing and delicious BCAA recipe to try after a tough workout to rehydrate and kick-start muscle recovery.

Strawberry Mango BCAA Smoothie
Serves 1
All You Need:
1 scoop Performance Inspired BCAA (tropical mango delight flavor)
½ cup frozen mango
½ cup frozen strawberries
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or milk of choice)
½ cup ice
All you do:

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender; blend until smooth. Enjoy!

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.