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My Jax Nutrition Blog

5 Things to Know about BCAAs

Posted by Your Sports Nutritionist on Sep 24, 2015 11:51:00 AM

valine-amino-acid-molecule-1Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are one of the “Hot Topics” for athletes and exercise enthusiasts these days. You can’t turn around without finding an article or blog post about them. Maybe you’ve already participated in a discussion (or two) about BCAAs at the gym or online. If you don’t have all the facts, or still have some questions, here are 5 things to know about BCAAs.

Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine

There are only three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are all part of the essential amino acids group. Because of their unique chemical design, these three have earned the title “branched chain.”

Generally, your body obtains these important nutrients from the proteins in food, especially meat and eggs. According to the Recommended Daily Allowance, amino acids should be about 20 percent of our daily intake. Of that segment, BCAAs should make up 40 percent – that’s eight percent of your total Recommended Daily Allowance of nutrients.

BCAAs in Food

Long before there were supplements—or even stores—humans got all their BCAAs from food. This was probably fine many, many years ago. However, in years of drought, poverty, or animal disease, the lack of protein from meat would have been felt in the people’s physical health, including loss of muscle mass. Today, we can get BCAAs from the following sources:

  • Cashew nuts, brazil nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds

  • Whole wheat and brown rice

  • Milk/milk proteins, whey and eggs

  • Beef, chicken and fish

  • Baked beans, lima beans, lentils, corn, and chickpeas

  • Soy protein

Medical/Health Uses

Athletes aren’t the only ones who have noticed the benefits of introducing extra BCAAs into the body. Physicians and members of the medical field are employing BCAAs as medicine for the following diseases and conditions:

  • ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease and other muscle-related conditions

  • Brain swelling caused by liver disease

  • Poor appetite in cancer patients and kidney failure patients

  • Fatigue prevention

  • Concentration improvement

  • Sleep apnea

  • To impede muscle-wasting for patients confined to bed

How They Work

Branched Chain Amino Acids are very important to your muscles for a number of reasons.

  1. They are required forprotein synthesis, which is the first step to building muscle.

  2. Your body uses BCAAs to repair your muscles and boost recovery.

  3. To prevent muscle protein from being reduced and converted to energy during intense physical work or exercise.

Why Supplements?

There are a number of very good reasons for utilizing a BCAA supplement. Here are just a few:

  • Doesn’t waste time in the GI tract or liver. It heads directly for the muscles where it can immediately go to work replacing lost nutrients and energy.

  • Helps prevent central fatigue by blocking tryptophan from getting to the brain, which would then trigger serotonin to tell you that you are tired and not able to exercise anymore.

  • During dieting, increases fat burning without losing muscle tissue.

  • When taken before and after workouts, has been shown to help athletes reduce their times for racing events.

  • Can lower the amount of lactic acid in the muscles (reduces “burn”).

  • Considerably easier to calculate BCAA usage utilizing a supplement.


Utilizing a Branched Chain Amino Acid supplement is just one of many ways to enhance your health and make the most out of your workout. If BCAAs aren’t right for you, that’s not a problem. At Jax Nutrition, we carry more than 2,000 health and nutrition products for all types of individuals and training regimens. If you have questions about BCAAs or questions about nutrition in general, our experienced staff is here to help!

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