BCAAs are three specific amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, that have a unique branched chemical structure.
There are a lot of questions surrounding branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs.
Do they really work? Yes. Do you need to take them after you workout? Maybe.
BCAAs are three specific amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, that have a unique branched chemical structure. This unique structure makes them important for your muscles.
Leucine specifically is required to "turn on" muscle building at the cellular level, which is what scientists call muscle protein synthesis (MPS). The latest research suggests consuming 2 to 3 grams of leucine a sitting, at least 3 times during the day.
BCAAs not only increase MPS, but they also help reduce muscle breakdown and muscle soreness due to exercise.
It is important to realize that BCAAs are found naturally in the proteins that you are already eating, like whey or casein protein shakes, eggs, beef, fish, and chicken. (Running low on whey protein? Check out Norcal's organic whey from the Men's Health store.) This means that for the average guy looking to get fit, there's no need to add a BCAA supplement to your post-workout protein shake. It's overkill, and it won't get you any better results.
Mike Roussell, Ph.D., is the Men's Health nutrition advisor. He holds a degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. His research has been published multiple times in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.