If you spend time around athletes in the gym and in running groups, you’ll probably hear some debate about branch chain amino acids (BCAAs). What are they and how do they impact sport performance?

What are Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)?

Branched Chain Amino Acids structurally have a branch at the end of their chain and include valine, leucine, and isoleucine. When taken before and after exercise, BCAAs:

  • Increase muscle building
  • Increase the body’s production of protein
  • Decrease protein breakdown from exercise
  • Decrease muscle damage and soreness

Where do I get BCAAs?

BCAAs are found in food, so you don’t need to buy a special supplement. Whey protein is loaded with BCAAs and is found in dairy products like milk and yogurt. Red meat, soy, peanuts, seeds, and egg protein also are high in BCAAs. These TNT Healthy Recipes are excellent sources of BCAAs:

If you are planning to supplement BCAAs, talk with your TNT provider about quality supplements and amounts for your unique needs and goals. Supplements are usually powders that you can mix in with your drinks.

What should I watch out for?

According to the TRC Natural Medicines Database, BCAAs appear to be safe for use of up to 2 years in adult athletes and up to 6 months in children. BCAAs haven’t been studied in pregnant women, but they could affect infant birth weight and are therefore not advised in pregnancy or lactation. Supplements could interact with some medications, like those used for diabetic management. Some athletes don’t tolerate BCAA supplements well and can get nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, headache, high blood pressure, or skin blanching.

In short, you may experience improvements in athletic performance and soreness by taking BCAAs. They can be taken as a supplement or incorporated into delicious and nutritious recipes via food sources.

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