The following list of BCAA pros and cons will conclude, once and for all, whether BCAAs live up to the hype.
You see, Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs are essential amino acids with anabolic properties. In other words, they can help the body grow muscle faster and improve physical performance. Hence why they are so popular among active men and women.
However, they do have their disadvantages in supplement form. Thus below, we’ll let you know whether they’re worth the cash and energy. Stay tuned for the details.
BCAA Pros and Cons
BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids that play important roles in different biochemical processes within the body. They consist of the amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine.
It can be harder for athletes and active people to achieve ultimate gains with a BCAA deficiency, seeing as they help maintain the body. Luckily, we can get BCAAs from food and dietary supplements, so they’re not hard to find.
However, there may be some cons to Branched Chain Amino Acid supplement intake. So below, we’ll go through the BCAA pros and cons for active men and women.
PRO: BCAAs Promote Muscle Protein Synthesis
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Active men and women seek muscle protein synthesis because it helps maintain muscle anabolism, which leads to muscle gain. For example, men and women who enjoy bodybuilding can reap great benefits from anabolic maintenance.
However, Branched Chain Amino Acids won’t live up to their full potential without a consistent strength or anaerobic training regimen. You see, physical activity triggers mechanical stimulation of the muscles to activate the mTORC1 signaling pathway.
Thus, BCAA supplementation must be coupled with exercise to induce muscle protein synthesis upon mechanical stimulation. Muscle gain won’t happen otherwise.
PRO: BCAAs Improve Muscle Mass and Strength
As we were saying, BCAAs can promote muscle protein synthesis. Then, the muscles are known to eventually increase in size and strength upon continuous muscle protein synthesis.
Exercise induces muscle protein synthesis and BCAAs provide the amino acids, which are used by the muscles as fuel to make these biochemical processes possible. However, your body must be getting adequate nutrition and fuel to experience increases in muscle mass and strength.
PRO: BCAAs Increase Muscle Energy
Branched Chain Amino Acids don’t only enhance muscle size, they increase muscle energy. In addition, BCAAs are easily absorbed by the muscles, so they provide solid fuel for physical activity.
The muscles are involved in every physical activity, which is why athletes and the like often use BCAAs as intra-workout supplements. BCAA supplementation helps prevent muscle fatigue and promote lipid oxidation.
The prevention of muscle fatigue automatically increases muscle endurance, allowing us to do more exhaustive exercise than usual. This is great for bodybuilding. In addition, BCAAs allow us to use our fat as fuel for muscle activity, so we burn more of it.
PRO: BCAAs Reduce Muscle Pain and Soreness Caused by Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Branched Chain Amino Acids can even help with muscle recovery. While this is a popular benefit of post-workout supplements, BCAAs help to reduce soreness in similar ways, ultimately reducing recovery time like a post-workout supplement.
However, BCAAs only provide amino acids that target muscle growth while post-workouts with ingredients like Whey Protein and Creatine usually contain every amino acid. In other words, BCAAs target the muscles specifically.
Now, if you have ever switched to a new workout routine, you have probably experienced Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Glycogen storage gets depleted as we work out, which is one cause of DOMS.
However, BCAA supplementation can help prevent it by restoring glycogen and nutrients faster. All in all, BCAAs can help reduce fatigue and lessen muscle pain & soreness by alleviating skeletal muscle damage and restoring nutrients.
PRO: BCAAs Help with Fat Loss and Lean Body Mass
BCAAs also help with fat loss for lean body mass. They can protect the muscles from catabolism during intense exercise, supporting overall muscle health.
In addition, BCAAs can be taken alongside effective fat burners to speed up fat loss, if that’s what you’re looking to do. They may also help to lower health risks caused by carrying too much excess fat. Here are some health problems you can avoid later in life by losing excess fat now:
- Fatty liver
- Coronary artery disease (CAD) & Coronary heart disease (CHD)
- Fatty kidney
PRO: BCAAs are Affordable
BCAAs are quite inexpensive compared to other fitness supplements like Whey and milk protein. And even though BCAAs often contain fewer ingredients than other fitness supplements, they can deliver similar results when it comes to muscle gains.
In addition, BCAA supplementation can lead to other health benefits. All in all, BCAAs are affordable, safe and effective. So you can easily sustain the use of them if you’re on a tight budget and healthy diet.
Now that we’ve discussed the pros, BCAA supplements do have some cons worth noting. Below, we’ve outlined these cons and what you can do to avoid any negative side effects while taking BCAAs.
CON: Some BCAA Supplements Include Unnecessary, Inactive Ingredients
Branched Chain Amino Acid powders often contain unnecessary additives, which aren’t beneficial for the body. Actually, some of these ingredients might harm the body in high doses.
However, there are BCAA supplements that offer another delivery system: BCAA capsules. BCAA capsules aim to eliminate fillers that are often found in BCAA powders. So, we recommend opting for the capsule form.
CON: BCAAs may Interfere with Protein Metabolism if Consumed in Excess
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. BCAAs are amino acids that take part in protein folding and homeostasis. However, ingesting too may BCAAs per day may lead to dysregulated proteostasis and protein misfolding, especially in mature adults.
In other words, it can start to interfere with protein metabolism, which can lead to other issues down the road. As such, if you choose to take BCAAs for muscle gains, recovery and overall health, just make sure you’re not overdoing the daily dosage.
If you’re new to the supplement game, get to know daily dosage and safety basics with our complete guide to buying the best supplements.
Conclusion on BCAA Pros and Cons
Overall, there are more pros than cons associated with BCAA supplements. For instance, they can enhance muscle gains, workout performance and overall health. Not to mention, they don’t have any medically significant side effects. Thus they are safe for long-term use.
However, make sure to follow the daily dosage listed on your chosen Branched Chain Amino Acid supplement. In addition, keep in mind that you can get BCAAs via foods in your diet, so you may want to adjust dosages based on your diet.
- The pros of BCAAs clearly outweigh the cons. Moreover, you can easily avoid cons attributed to BCAAs by choosing the right form and following the dosage listed on your desired supplement.
If you need more information before choosing the right BCAA supplement, our review of the Best BCAA Supplements 2018 will help you decide. It explains how BCAAs work and lists different BCAA supplements that may meet your unique needs. When taken as directed, BCAAs can be extremely helpful for muscle gains, recovery and performance enhancement.