Hyped up about the trending supplements in the market backed by fitness enthusiasts and social media influencers, we often tend to fall prey to promotional gimmicks or misread the facts. With the intention to clear the air and debunk myths, we decode one supplement each month and are focusing on Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs, this time. To answer the frequently asked questions, we speak to Nmami Agarwal, celebrity nutritionist and Founder & CEO of Nmami Life.
Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins and are required for various body functions. Our body needs nine essential amino acids through diet. Explains Nmami, “Out of these essential amino acids, valine, leucine and isoleucine are known BCAAs which composes 30 to 40 per cent of essential amino acids. BCAAs provide energy to the muscles, prevent degradation during exercise and promote faster recovery, post-workout. They also play an important role in maintaining normal blood glucose levels.”
BCAAs increase muscle protein synthesis, since they are both anabolic (aid in building muscles) and anti-catabolic (preventing muscle damage). Exercise leads to breakdown of muscles, thereby increasing the body’s need for alanine and glutamine which can be sufficed with regular consumption of BCAAs. These help to maintain optimum levels of alanine needed to prevent muscle breakdown. Also, it helps in the synthesis of amino acid Glutamine inside skeletal muscle which further facilitates muscle mass gain, shares Nmami.
A well-rounded healthy diet consisting of whole foods is an easy solution to fulfill daily BCAA requirements. Adds Nmami, “Lean meat, fish, eggs, milk, tofu, and quinoa are rich sources of BCAA. Whole-wheat foods and brown rice are an easy option to increase leucine content in the diet.” Supplements are beneficial to fitness enthusiasts who aim at muscle mass maintenance. In supplement form, BCAA can help regulate blood sugar levels by preserving the sugar stored in the liver and muscles, and can stimulate the cells to take in sugar from the bloodstream. But, it should be done only under the guidance of a nutritionist because self-supplementing can do more harm than good.
Though harmless as suggested by studies, excessive intake of BCAA may have side effects like any other supplements. Explains Nmami, “These are not advised for people suffering from medical conditions like, Maple Syrup Urine Disease, kidney or liver disease and heart disease. These should also be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Side effects include fatigue, lack of coordination, nausea, headaches, and increased insulin resistance, which may lead to Type 2 Diabetes.”
Dosage depends on various factors, such as dietary protein intake, body composition and size, exercise schedule, health factors and goals. Mostly, doses ranging from 4-20 grams are consumed in a the day.This dose can be taken in the form of powders, capsules or pills at any time of the day. It is advised to consult a registered dietician to determine the type and amount that is best suited for your health, concludes Nmami.