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What are they? How can they help me?

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage, increase muscle recovery, and regulate protein synthesis. They may also reduce fatigue. This means being able to train at a higher intensity for a prolonged period of time.

BCAAs refer to a group of essential amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Though amino acids are the building blocks of protein, your body can’t produce them, so they must be consumed as part of your daily diet.

Nearly 25% of all whey protein is made up of BCAAs. Researchers believe that BCAAs—specifically leucine—are responsible for regulating protein synthesis.

When do I use them?

BCAAs are most beneficial when included with post-exercise-recovery nutrition, which should begin within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Consuming protein during this time is critical, and one of the best sources of BCAAs is whey protein.

Taking advantage of the post-exercise “window of opportunity” provides your muscles with the fuel needed for rebuilding and repair.

How much do I need?

To ensure adequate levels of BCAAs, consume at least 15 grams of whey protein as part of your post-exercise recovery. The amount of leucine needed to stimulate protein synthesis and improve muscle recovery is at least 3,000 mg (3 grams) after a workout.

More helpful information

Leucine is able to stimulate protein synthesis through the same pathway that insulin influences, especially in skeletal muscle. BCAAs may also play a role in delaying central fatigue.

Ingesting BCAAs increases the amount in the bloodstream, helping to balance the increase in free tryptophan associated with exercise. BCAAs decrease the amount of tryptophan transported to the brain, ultimately delaying fatigue.

Many research studies have demonstrated the benefits of consuming BCAAs during various types of exercise, including strength training, endurance training, and general exercise.

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