There are two things about me that people usually find fascinating. I wake up at 5 a.m. every day to work out, and I don’t drink caffeine. I recognize that, for many, just the thought of waking up before the sun or going through the day without a sip of their beloved vice seems like torture. However, I really enjoy it. I love being awake before the rest of my house, and I love committing a solid amount of time to better my body. I also love going through my day without feeling dependent on caffeine for energy. Even though this has been my routine for years, I, like everyone else, regularly experience feelings of fatigue upon rolling out of bed. I occasionally struggle to get through workouts and find myself craving a little boost to help me push harder during my morning sweat sessions.
After doing some research on coffee alternatives and workout boosters, I stumbled upon a fitness blogger’s post about branched-chain amino acids. The blogger talked about how the substance made them feel stronger and look better and how it allowed them to work out more intensely. I was instantly intrigued. Prior to adding this magical powder to my wellness routine, I wanted to have a more scientific understanding of just how this stuff works. So, I reached out to personal trainer and weight management specialist Tara Lyn Emerson to ask a few questions. Keep reading to learn why it’s not a bad idea to start using branched-chain amino acids.
Let’s start with the basics. Branched-chain amino acids, commonly known as BCAAs, are three of the nine essential amino acids your body needs for protein synthesis. BCAAs are usually available as a tablet or powder and should be consumed before, during, or after a workout. They’re often used as an ingredient in pre-workout formulas, but they can also be purchased by themselves. “This supplement is used to reduce body fat as well as maintain muscle mass,” explains Emerson.
She also expressed that this is the perfect supplement for those who are cutting calories but still want to train hard. When you’re consuming fewer calories, your body will break down tissue without making new tissue.
“This means that while you are breaking down fat tissue, you may also be breaking down muscle tissue,” Emerson continues. “The ideal is to cut fat but maintain muscle size, giving off the lean and cut look. BCAAs create the optimal muscle-building environment in the body through muscle-protein synthesis.” If you’re trying to stick to a diet or health regimen in which you feel less energetic, BCAAs could be the perfect option for you.
Next up, it’s important to decide how you will incorporate BCAAs into your routine. Although they’re frequently used as an ingredient in pre-workout formulas, Emerson prefers to take BCAAs on their own to avoid the jittery feeling that some pre-workout formulas cause. “Taking BCAA before and during your workout can help you go harder, lift more weight, and endure tougher exercises,” shares Emerson. Many people enjoy combining a scoop of BCAA powder and water in a shaker bottle for optimal results.
Emerson goes on to tell me some of the immense benefits of taking BCAAs. They can reduce tiredness, boost workouts, and reduce soreness. She also shares that this is the ideal supplement for those on an intermittent fasting schedule, as taking them during a fast and before your workout can fuel muscle activity and provide needed energy.
On whether consuming BCAAs could bring on any negative side effects, Emerson states that they’re mostly harmless, and most experts suggest taking them regularly to increase their effectiveness. However, she does share that like with any supplement, extreme use can be detrimental and cause issues like nausea, headaches, and increased insulin resistance. Additionally, she states that BCAAs can increase blood sugar levels, so it’s best to avoid taking them before or after having surgery of any kind.
After our chat, I’m convinced that BCAAs are exactly what my wellness regimen has been missing. I’m excited to try it and to see how it makes me feel during and after my workouts. Keep scrolling to see which branched-chain amino acid formulas I’m adding to my cart right now.
Want to learn more about supplements? Try one of these science-backed supplements that help you cut down on caffeine, alcohol, and more.
Ed. note: Before making any major changes to your diet or fitness regiment, be sure to speak with your personal physician.