Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by one of our partners, Ath Organics. We, at BJJ Heroes, are strong advocates for plant-based diets and found the information here displayed an excellent source for those in jiu-jitsu, seeking similar sources of nourishment.
Plant Based BCAA vs. Traditional BCAA
Anyone beginning research into the science of exercise will soon come across the term BCAAs. These four letters crop up everywhere in the fitness world, from interval training to weightlifting, and high-intensity workouts. But what exactly are BCAAs and how do they contribute to your exercise regimen?
BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids, which includes the three essential amino acids known as leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids make up 35% of the body’s protein; however, the body does not produce them by itself. These essential building blocks of protein come from food and supplements that are used to encourage an effective workout. They also preserve muscle glycogen stores, which is the fuel your body burns to produce energy. Meaning, BCAAs help you have more strength and stamina in the long run. Plus, these amino acids prevent your body from breaking down muscle protein during exertion (1), helping you bulk up and increase muscle mass. In short, BCAAs help fitness gurus get the most benefit from their daily training sessions while encouraging the body to recover quickly (2) to hit it hard again the next day.
BCAAs have even been shown to encourage muscle growth, and this benefit is becoming one of the primary reasons people are looking to add these amino acids to their workout regime. This is primarily due to one of the three amino acids in BCAAs known as leucine. This amino acid has been shown (3) to increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis and decrease muscle degradation, thereby helping your body to make muscle faster.
How do you get BCAAs?
As mentioned above, BCAAs are not naturally produced by the body. The most common way of getting these essential amino acids is through supplements taken before, during and after exercise. BCAAs are also found in foods (4) such as whey protein powder, eggs, meat, fish, brown rice, and nuts like almonds and cashews. In fact, if you sustain a protein-rich, BCAA hearty diet, you may not even need supplementation. Before beginning any intense BCAA supplementation be sure to discuss options with your trainer, or dietician to ensure that you are eating them at the right time and ingesting the proper amount.
Foods rich in BCAAs
- 1% milk
- Greek yogurt
- Parmesan cheese
What kind of BCAAs should you buy?
Traditional BCAA supplements, though an attractive option for many consumers, as they are readily available and less hassle than changing your diet, often have nasty ingredients hiding in their capsules. The majority of the BCAAs on the market today contain things like duck feathers, human hair, and even animal fur. These by-products are then treated with acids and cleaning chemicals to help extract the amino acids. Since these are considered “natural products” they are often not even mentioned on the label of the supplement, and many people unknowingly ingest these distinctly unappetizing products.
If this fact makes you a little hesitant to run out to the store and purchase a bottle of BCAA capsules, you are not alone. Many customers are turning to alternative, fermented vegan BCAAs. ATH Organics BCAAs are entirely plant-based, and though slightly more expensive are worth the extra investment. In the past, plant-based BCAAs were not a practical option for many consumers or companies, as they were 3-4 times more expensive than traditional BCAAs. Fortunately, times have changed, and new, sustainable vegan options are coming onto the market at around the same price as BCAAs produced from hair and animal by-products.
Be cautious, however, as even plant-based BCAAs can prove detrimental. Since this type of BCAAs is produced from soy and corn, there is a high chance that the materials come from a genetically modified plant and contain allergens.
Things to look for when buying plant-based BCAAs
Be sure that each supplement indicates the following:
- 100% plant-based
- Produced from non-GMO ingredients
- No artificial coloring or flavoring
- Allergen-free processing
The choice between BCAA sources will ultimately come down to personal preference and conviction. If you are vegan, vegetarian or hold environmental beliefs regarding the sustainability of the planet, fermented plant-based BCAAs will be the best choice. If you simply want a cheap supplement that can extend your workout without burnout, then you can purchase and use traditional, animal BCAAs with little difference in benefits.
Discontinue use if you notice any of the following side effects:
- Loss of coordination
- High blood pressure
BCAAs can be an excellent option for athletes, fitness buffs, bodybuilders, and gym rats to help encourage muscle repair, protein synthesis, and overall muscle health. Be sure you are purchasing genuine, high-quality BCAA supplements and pairing them with a healthy lifestyle and diet for the full benefits.
ATH Organics was developed to create simple, wholesome ingredients without the fluff that provide you with natural and genuine supplements to add to your training regime. As athletes, our mission is to provide fellow athletes with the best natural sport supplements in the world to help you train harder, recover faster, and kick ass. Learn more about ATH at athorganics.com.
- MacLean DA, e. (1994). Branched-chain amino acids augment ammonia metabolism while attenuating protein breakdown during exercise. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7810616 [Accessed 9 Oct. 2018].
- Costello JT, e. (2016). Cochrane review: Whole-body cryotherapy (extreme cold air exposure) for preventing and treating muscle soreness after exercise in adults. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26779801 [Accessed 9 Oct. 2018].
- Blomstrand E, e. (2006). Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16365096 [Accessed 9 Oct. 2018].
- Ndb.nal.usda.gov. (2006). Food Composition Databases Show Nutrients List. [online] Available at: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/report/nutrientsfrm?max=25&offset=0&totCount=0&nutrient1=504&nutrient2=503&nutrient3=510&fg=13&fg=1&fg=12&fg=10&fg=5&subset=0&sort=c&measureby=g [Accessed 9 Oct. 2018].