Branched Chain Amino Acids
Neither of us have ever been fans of taking “supplements” as it seemed to us that they were essentially just that, supplementing a diet that otherwise is lacking something. Wouldn’t an easier answer be to just find food to fill the gap?? We’ve open our minds a bit, taking into consideration that while putting our bodies through the kind of training and racing we do, its sometimes difficult to eat a completely well rounded meal, especially while say running from sun up to sun down!! We decided that we would look into where and how a product is made, and if it looks like a quality product, we’d give it a fair try. First up to the plate, Prairie Naturals Branched Chain Amino Acids…
So BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids. This to me is a nerdy way of saying, the good proteins!!
Essentially the nitty gritty details of them are that they are composed of 3 of the 22 amino acids; these are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. While it’s well known that amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein, and are needed for muscle tissue recovery, BCAAs play other roles. What makes BCAAs more interesting from the other amino acids is that they are metabolized within muscle tissue and can be utilized for energy (oxidized)—which can result in glycogen being spared. Another role they play is within the CNS, by affecting neurotransmitters, and altering our perception of fatigue.
What does this mean?? For an athlete (especially endurance athletes) BCAA’s can be taken before or during workouts to give your body a source of energy other than carbs/glucose, but they have shown to help your muscles from “feeling” fatigued for longer. I found the two articles below that are pretty compelling as to the fatigue reducing claims that BCAA’s have. They are quite wordy and scientific but have some good info.
My experience with BCAA’s???
Having first tried them starting in December of 2013, we worked them into our training in multiple different ways. Varying dosages, pre workout and during workout, strength and endurance workouts. We’ve been using a BCAA capsule made by Prairie Naturals which come in a capsule form (however no longer available in the capsule). While its a bit of a con to have to down a palmfull of pills, I’ve read that the taste of the powder form can be quite unsettling to most consumers.
I’ve had the best results when taking about 4 capsules (800mg each) approximately one hour before I begin my workout. Essentially I’ve used them for three types of workouts: Low Intensity workouts (Heavy lift days or gymnastic skill work), Moderate Intensity workouts (Most of my runs of other endurance activities that stretch for longer than an hour) and High Intensity workouts (Intervals, Crossfit style wods). The low intensity workouts usually allow for adequate rest so your body can keep up, therefore BCAA’s haven’t shown my too many effects. High intensity workouts, I’ve seen a noticeable change in my bodies ability to hang on and keep going. Moderate intensity workouts theres been a uplifting effect for mroe of my middle distance stuff (1-3 hours).
I have also tried the BCAA’s DURING my workouts, and have felt quite impressed with not only the energy they provided but with how well they were ingested.
Who would I recommend these for??
BCAA’s are not for an average joe kind of person who’s days are relatively sedentary. If you are participating in even any kind of activity, from day hiking, to crossfit, to ultra marathons then you might benefit from taking BCAA’s. For vegans and vegetarians, you may notice a greater effect from these as your sources for obtaining proteins (and thus amino acids) are slightly reduced with the elimination of meat consumption.
As always my rule of thumb when it comes to trying new things is you can’t judge or comment on something until you’ve given it a fair chance. For BCAA’s I decided to give it a shot based on the recommendation of a few talented ultra runners, and can honestly say now I will continue to use BCAA’s throughout my training and even into race days if they continue to show benefits.
Feel free to share your comments, opinions, experiences!