The modern fitness fanatic is often seen clutching a water bottle filled with a vibrant coloured liquid. On questioning, this popular drink of choice, is BCAA's (Branched Chain Amino Acids), this is much different than the gym goer of yesteryear, where water bottles were for water, or in some cases filled with an isotonic (carbohydrate) drink - Protein is definitely high on the agenda, but is it all hype or should the old generation make way for the new?
What are BCAA's?
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's) are three essential amino acids - Leucine, Iso-Leucine & Valine, that are categorised based on their branched chain structure. These amino acids are the predominate amino's oxidized within skeletal muscle during exercise. Consequently, the free pool of amino acids is reduced, and subsequent replenishment must come from dietary sources, hence the term, 'essential' amino acids. To read more about the difference between BCAAs and the other amino acids, have a look at our BCAA vs Amino Acids article here.
Don't I need energy?
In truth, the oxidation of amino acids, produces energy, albeit only 1-10% of the energy requirements, but this increases and becomes particularly important in the absence of carbohydrate. In the modern society of the western world, hopefully the incidence of forced starvation is something of a scarcity, but more people are following a starvation dietary regime or competing in carbohydrate exhaustive events. In the gym environment, especially in sessions lasting for less than 90 minutes, the energy requirements, particularly during the session, is not required and therefore more people reaching for anything but, high sugary or isotonic drinks.
Of course, monitoring your hydration status and replacing the water lost through sweat is important, particularly in endurance-based activity, such as cycling or running. Scientific research has demonstrated that as dehydration occurs performance decreases, but less is known about hydration status and muscular or strength performance. Drinking a water-based substance, perhaps a BCAA drink, certainly won't impede performance, but perhaps hydration status could be improved by slowing gastric emptying, thanks to the amino acid inclusion. What is certain, is that if you like the taste of a drink, such as flavoured water, you are more likely to consume it versus water alone.
BCAA and the Science
Whilst post exercise protein supplementation, for individuals with high training volumes or for those wishing to increase muscle mass, is well established and supported. The inclusion of protein or BCAA's during exercise has very little well controlled scientific evidence to make it a must. From a common sense perspective and within the recent update to the position stand of nutrition timing by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2017), consuming protein during exercise may be beneficial. Why not try Maximuscle BCAA Zero sugar or Maximuscle BCAA Essentials Bundle and let us know what you think.
Related Article: BCAA Benefits & Side Effects