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Whether you want to build bigger muscles, lose weight, become a better athlete, or simply become healthier, you have to work out.
That’s pretty much a given. You also need the right supplements, and BCAAs are among them. But you also need to know when to take BCAA supplements at the right time.
What is BCAA and Why Bodybuilders Use It
The human body needs 20 amino acids, and they make up the various proteins found in your body.
Of the 20 amino acids, 9 are regarded as essential amino acids. Your body can’t produce them on its own, so you need to get it from your diet.
Among these a9 amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They’re called the branched-chain amino acids because of their chemical structure, and for convenience, they’re just called the BCAAs.
The BCAAs can be found in many food items that are rich in protein. These include meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Many people who work out take BCAA supplements to enjoy the various benefits they offer:
- When they’re taken with the other essential amino acids, BCAAs boost muscle protein synthesis. This leads to greater muscle growth.
- You’re able to improve your mental focus during your workout, as fatigue isn’t as able to make your brain fuzzy.
- They reduce the severity of your muscle soreness after you work out. They improve your ability to recover after a strenuous workout session.
- It prevents muscle-wasting.
2:1:1 BCAA Ratio
It’s also been found that the best ratio for leucine, isoleucine, and valine is 2:1:1. This means that you need twice as much leucine as isoleucine and valine.
Leucine is perhaps the most important amino acid of them all for muscle building.
Even just 4.2 grams of it added to a low-protein drink can really boost the anabolic effects, whether for young adults or senior citizens.
When to Use BCAA
The best time to take BCAA can vary from one person to another. It will depend on your particular circumstances.
However, in general, it’s best to take BCAA supplements around your workout time. This means you can take the BCAA supplement before, during, or after the workout.
Before the Workout
Some people fast in the morning, and if this group includes you then taking BCAA supplements before you start your workout can be the best option for you.
You just need to make sure that you ate properly the previous night, and that your dinner had the proper amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Many people have found that it seems ideal to start a workout about 2 hours after your last meal. You’ve properly digested the food and you don’t feel full and sluggish.
If you decide that when to take BCAA, it's best right before a workout, you’ll find that it offers the same benefits as having a meal 2 hours before your gym session.
You also get the energy you need from your food. Your dinner the night before can still provide you with the nutrients you need, and your BCAA supplement can compensate with an amino acid boost.
The recommended dose for a pre-workout taking of BCAAs is about 5 to 10 grams.
During the Workout
When you work out, you need to keep yourself hydrated. This will help you feeling refreshed while you provide nourishment for your muscles. You can then take the BCAA along with your workout drink.
The effect of this timing is to reduce fatigue. You won’t be as tired as easily, so you can work out more strenuously without worrying that you may get tired too quickly.
If you’re training for stamina, then the BCAAs will also help you last longer for your training session. You don’t feel as much pain during the workout and it feels as if you don’t have to stress yourself out to work out properly.
With this method, you take half your BCAAs (5g if you’re going for 10g total) before the workout. You can then take the rest of the BCAAs during the workout when you’re hydrating.
After the Workout
This is the best time to take BCAAs if you’re primarily concerned about muscle repair and recovery. Your muscle fibers heal more quickly with the help of the BCAAs, and you’re able to recover from soreness better.
Your best bet is to start with 5g of BCAAs, though some may respond better to 10g right after the workout.
Take it with your protein shake that you take to feed your muscles with the raw materials they need to rebuild and become bigger.
BCAAs Before Bedtime
This may be a good idea, but you have to be careful. It’s not a good idea to take BCAAs 3 times a day. That’s simply too much, and too much of a good thing can become a bad thing in a hurry.
BCAA supplements tend to come with recommended daily doses, and you should heed these instructions.
This means it is usually only recommended when you didn’t take your BCAAs right after the workout.
During the night, your body will use up your amino acids as your muscles repair themselves. So having BCAAs right before you get to sleep can make sure that you have enough of the amino acids for your muscles.
However, this timing of taking BCAA before bed works best only if you take pure BCAA supplements.
Some BCAA supplements are designed for pre-workout usage, which is why they also contain stimulants like caffeine.
These stimulants are certainly not a good idea right before you sleep, as they will reduce the quality of your sleep.
Powder or Tablets?
BCAA supplements can be taken as powder which you can add to a liquid or to your protein shake. You can also find BCAAs in tablet form. You can pick either option, depending on your own personal preferences.
Tablets are certainly convenient. They’re small so you can easily bring them to the gym. You can just take a dose with water whenever you need too.
However, it’s also true that some people just don’t like taking tablets at all. It’s also true that some brands don’t really care much for quality, and their tablets don’t properly disintegrate.
BCAA powder offers you a surer delivery system. Once you drink the powder mix, your body will soon be able to absorb the BCAAs into your system.
Of course, there are certain drawbacks. The powder has to be in a rather large container, which isn’t as portable as tablets. You may have to make the mix before you get into the gym if you’re drinking it during or after the workout.
Mixing the powder may also prove challenging, as some powders may end up as unpleasant clumps. You may need to get a blender to get the mix right. Sometimes just stirring the mix with a spoon can be inadequate.
There are also flavors to contend with, though some brands offer a flavorless option. Not everyone will like a certain flavor, so you will have to try various flavors until you din one you like.
These flavors may also affect the way your protein shake tastes if you mix the powder in.
Again, you may have to experiment to see which powder tastes best with your protein shake when you also add various fruits.
When you change the fruits, you may find that the powdered supplement that tasted fine for a certain mix of fruits may not taste good at all with another combo of different fruits.
“So when should I take BCAA?”
This is a question that you yourself can best answer.
Hopefully, at this point, we’ve given you enough pointers to help you decide. The timing is actually up to you.
You need to know when the best time is for you, and then decide on the appropriate BCAA supplement.
Remember, if you’ve decided on taking it before bedtime then you need to make sure that you don’t pick BCAA supplements with caffeine.
You can take it before your workout so you get the amino acids you need if you don’t take breakfast. As BCAAs improve muscle protein synthesis, you can take this with your pre-workout protein shake.
You can take this during your workout, as it can stave off the inevitable fatigue. You can take this with your hydrating drink, and you’ll have better mental focus.
You can take this after your workout so that you can benefit from BCAAs’ ability to help your muscles repair and recover. You won’t be as sore after a strenuous session with the weight and with high intensity training.
You can also choose to take this right before you sleep. This will keep your body supplied with the amino acids it needs while you recover and get a good night’s rest.
Just remember that you cannot take too much BCAAs. You must comply with the instructions regarding the proper dosage of the supplement you’re taking.
It may be okay to take less than the recommended amount, but it’s safer not to go over the prescribed daily dose.
It’s not just about when to take BCAA, but also about how much of it you should take.