Do BCAAs work?

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Do BCAAs work?

BCAAs and creatine are steroid users go to when they are asked what they are using to get so muscular. We know that creatine has evidence behind them but how do BCAAs compare. Are they worth your time or money? Will they make you the next Arnold?

If you are consuming enough protein each day, you are most likely receiving all the branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) you need.

The issue with the science behind BCAAs is that it is limited and there are multiple issues with the studies themselves. There have been claims made in presentations about BCAAs outperforming other nutritional supplements, however, this is a low form of evidence. In addition, an actual study on bodybuilders dieting showed that there were better strength gains, lean mass maintenance and fat loss in the BCAA group than the other carbohydrate powder group. A letter to the editor has shown that there was inappropriate statistical analysis and reporting errors. Furthermore, there was a conflict of interest with this study. The study was funded by a company selling BCAA based products. Further studies are needed to see if they report the same findings before drawing any conclusions.

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A meta-analysis in 2017 was published that showed BCAAs were better than a placebo (flavoured water) at reducing markers of muscle damage. This suggests that BCAAs are better than nothing at reducing muscle damage, however, comparing it to a protein shake would have drawn more conclusive results.

However, there is evidence that BCAAs may improve aerobic ability when compared to carbohydrate powder in those who are glycogen depleted. While this does suggest a possible benefit for endurance athletes, this will not help those into bodybuilding. You may argue that bodybuilders do cardio which is true but not to improve endurance. It is done to burn a certain number of calories or energy which BCAAs wont aid necessarily.

Many BCAAs do have calories which may or may not be stated on the nutritional label and are commonly pair with caffeine to give the user instant gratification. Furthermore, other protein powders such as Whey have BCAAs and other essential amino acids which then could lead you to stating that whey would be worth more of your money and time.

Therefore, if you are consuming enough calories and protein, BCAAs will not benefit you to the extent that you think it might. They do work. However, they do the exact same thing protein is supposed to do and protein powder might do a better job given its additional essential amino acids. It gives no added benefit to resistance training, however, may help those who have goals for endurance.

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