By now you’ve probably heard of BCAAs. Or maybe you saw your guy friend taking a scoop of aminos post-workout. You probably wondered…what the heck are those for? Will they make me big/bulky? (I know I did before I was in the know!) Are BCAAs/EAAs good for women? If the guys are always taking them, should you be taking them, too? Let’s find out.
Listen…all these ‘amino acronyms’ can get a little confusing, so let’s cover some basics first.
A Quick Refresher on Amino Acids
BCAAs = ‘Branch Chain Amino Acids’
EAAs = ‘Essential Amino Acids’
Amino acids are the building blocks of many proteins in the human body.
There are 20 different amino acids that make up these proteins.
Nine of those are essential amino acids (EAAs), of which three are branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
BCAAs, named for their branching chemical structure, are subunits of protein that support tissue repair and muscle growth.
They are often found in animal protein foods like eggs, meat, and dairy products. They are also available in a powder supplement form.
What about EAAs? EAAs (essential amino acids) are amino acids that your body cannot make on their own.
Your body is AMAZING. And it actually has the power to make vitamins and amino acids from other substances in the body.
As amazing as it is, there are some nutrients you have to get from your diet or supplements. Essential amino acids (EAAs) are some of those nutrients.
Why should women take BCAAs?
There are several reasons why women should take BCAAs – and in fact they are the very same reasons that men take amino acid supplements!
So before we dig into the benefits of aminos, let’s make that loud and clear…
BCAAs are just as effective, and safe for women as they are for men.
Support Muscle Growth
There are several science-backed benefits to taking BCAAs, but the most popular reason for taking them is to build muscle.
Women who want to build muscle can benefit from BCAAs, too.
In fact there are no biological differences in the way that women and men utilize amino acids. Both genders use, and benefit from aminos equally.
Speaking of ‘benefits’…let’s talk about the ‘king’ (or ‘queen’!) of amino acids- leucine.
The branch-chain amino acid leucine has been shown to activate important enzymes in protein synthesis (building muscle) after exercise.
One study showed that people who drank BCAAs including leucine after resistance training gained 22% more muscle than the group that didn’t.
Although this study showed more muscle growth in people who took BCAAs, it’s important to note that this increase was less than what is observed in other studies where people took whey protein with a similar amino acid content after a workout.
Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the EAAs.
EAAs are amino acids that our bodies cannot make on its own.
BCAA vs EAA – Which is Better?
Considering that people had increased muscle growth when drinking whey protein after a workout, it makes sense that a BCAA supplement that includes EAAs in the formula would be more effective than the one without EAAs.
While BCAAs can increase muscle synthesis in women, they can’t work as well alone as they do with other sources of amino acids or complete proteins.
Complete proteins contain all essential amino acids (EAAs), so using a product that contains EAAs along with BCAAs can increase the benefits.
Aminos Help With Sore Muscles
Some studies show that drinking BCAAs after exercise can help with post-workout soreness.
It’s totally normal if your muscles feel sore after a workout, especially when starting a new routine.
Leg day can make going to the bathroom or walking up the stairs the next day pretty uncomfortable, so maybe you would rather not feel sore all the time!
This post-workout soreness is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and can begin in as little as 12 hours after exercise, and last up to 72 hours.
Scientists don’t fully understand what causes DOMS, but they believe it has to do with small tears in the muscles that occur during training.
In several studies, BCAA’s have been shown to reduce damage to the muscle, which can decrease soreness and how long it lasts.
This is because BCAAs are believed to prevent the breakdown of muscle protein during resistance training, and lower levels of kinase which is an indicator of muscle damage.
Another thing that can contribute to soreness is dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Let’s Talk Hydration
When you sweat during a workout, you lose fluid and electrolytes. Loss of electrolytes can lead to muscle cramping and other uncomfortable side effects.
It’s important to replenish fluid and electrolytes after a workout to support your body’s recovery. Consider a BCAA supplement that contains electrolytes, so you can replenish all of your body’s needs to support your recovery.
Long story short, supplementing your diet with BCAAs, before and after exercise, can help speed up your workout recovery.
If you’re not in love with the idea of being sore for 2-3 days after a hard workout, you may want to consider adding BCAAs to your regimen.
Helps With Early Fatigue During a Workout
There are a lot of factors that play into how quickly you tire during your workout.
It is totally normal to feel spent at some point during your workout, but there are things you can do to delay the onset of fatigue.
Your nutrition, quality of sleep, whether you’re adequately hydrated, and level of fitness all contribute to your exercise endurance.
I think it’s safe to say that we all want to get the most out of our workouts, and ideally we would have enough energy to make it through to the finish.
Although there is no such thing as a ‘bad workout’, it would be beneficial to make the most of each one!
A good amino supplement for women can help you do just that.
Much like BCAAs can improve muscle soreness after a workout, they can also help reduce early fatigue during exercise.
If you are getting fatigued earlier in your workout than you would like, BCAAs with EAAs may help.
When you exercise, your muscles use BCAAs, causing what you have in your blood to deplete.
When blood BCAA levels decrease, EAA tryptophan levels increase in your brain. Tryptophan is then made into serotonin, and serotonin is believed to increase lethargy and weakness during exercise.
Taking BCAAs before a workout can help maintain the levels of BCAAs in your blood.
They can also prevent the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin during your workout.
This can delay exercise fatigue and help you make it through to the end of your workout before you feel like throwing in the towel.
Just like dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can cause muscle cramping and soreness, it can also decrease energy and focus during a workout.
As you exercise, you sweat, and fluid is lost with electrolytes. It can help to replace these fluids and electrolytes as you lose them to prevent early fatigue and prolong your exercise endurance.
Bottom Line – BCAAs are Great for Women Too.
Branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are the building blocks of protein that serve the three important roles of:
- Helping Muscle growth
- Decrease soreness after a workout
- Enhance intra-workout strength & endurance
BCAAs are 3 of 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) that your body cannot produce on its own.
BCAAs are not just for men, as they are digested and used by women just as efficiently.
Women who exercise can benefit from BCAA and EAA supplementation if they want to increase muscle, reduce soreness, and reduce exercise fatigue.
Since studies show higher increases of muscle mass when consuming whey protein after a workout, BCAA products that contain all 9 of the EAAs can be more effective than ones that don’t.
Additionally, a supplement that contains electrolytes can provide additional benefits and improved recovery.
If you workout often, it’s important to provide your body with the proper nutrition for enhanced recovery.
Consider adding BCAAs with EAAs before and after your workouts and see if you feel stronger, have more energy, and a shorter recovery time.
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