The Protein family is a big one with many varieties of proteins available in different forms, doing different work. So if you’re confused and wondering where to start, let me take you on this journey today to explore one of the easiest, simplest yet very essential member of the Protein family – BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids).

 But first, let’s understand briefly what is Protein-

A protein molecule is a macromolecule made up of 20 different types of amino acids. And the functions of these amino acids vary depending on how they bond with each other. Largely, Proteins are needed by the body to regulate body cells, tissues and organs, build muscle, support skin and hair health and work as neurotransmitters and carry oxygen via haemoglobin. 

Out of these 20, there 9 essential amino acids that the human body doesn’t make. Therefore, they need to be consumed in the form of dietary protein from various food sources or supplements. BCAA is a part of these ‘Essential Amino Acids’

What are Branched Chain Amino Acids?

BCAA are basically the building blocks of protein and comprise of 3 amino acids namely Leucine, Iso-leucine and Valine. BCAA are termed as the most important amino acids for muscle building.



BCAA play an important role in your body – 

  1. Act as building blocks for protein and muscles
  2. Reduce fatigue during exercise by reducing serotonin levels in brain
  3. Reduce muscle soreness (or DOMS) after the exercise and help in faster recovery
  4. Improve performance over time
  5. May help in fat loss and prevent weight gain
  6. Regulate blood sugar levels by preserving liver and muscle sugar stores and stimulating your cells to take in sugar from your bloodstream 
  7. Regulate blood sugar levels by preserving liver and muscle sugar stores and stimulating your cells to take in sugar from your bloodstream 

How do BCAA work?

BCAAs are directly broken down in and used by the muscle in our body rather than going through the liver and the regular process of digestion. This is where it becomes very helpful while training because they act as ready fuel for energy production during exercise.

Any type of training or exercise we do will cause the body to breakdown the muscles in order to fuel itself with energy to perform the ongoing tasks. And if one is working out in a fasted state, there is no ready energy source (carbohydrates or any consumed calories for that matter) for the body to utilise. This will result in further break down of muscles by the body to fuel itself. And if preserving or gaining lean muscle mass is the goal, then working out in a fasted state will be counterproductive. 

This is where BCAA comes to the rescue, as it’ll directly feed the skeletal muscle mass and therefore, prevent or minimize any muscle breakdown, which will then force the body to tend to other sources (stored fats) for fuelling its tasks. It is due to this function that BCAAs are said to help in retaining the muscles as well as build muscles and also aid in fat loss.

 You may wonder, “Why do I need to preserve lean mass?” Simple – lean mass gives you the strength to carry your body and function normally, besides improving your training. When lean mass develops, the fat is replaced and the body looks toned, defined and ‘leaner’. 

Best Time to take BCAA?

The best way to decide is as per your goals and your routine –

  • If you’re working out in a fasted state/ empty stomach, consume it pre-workout to use it as a fuel and preserve muscle
  • You can take it during workout/ intra workout to continue the supply of ready fuel to the muscle and decrease fatigue
  • Taking it as a post workout will help in muscle recovery and reducing DOMS Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

However, the ideal time to take is intra workout. You can have a small amount fruit/nuts/protein as pre workout fuel and post workout, you can have your protein meal (either shake or natural food) to help in muscle toning and recovery.   

How much BCAA to take?

Getting an adequate dose based on your body weight is essential, as well as continuing to take them long-term, including on non-exercise days. 

Based on newer studies, healthy adults should aim to consume: 

  • Women: A minimum of 9 grams per day
  • Men: A minimum of 12 grams per day

However, daily requirements may be slightly higher for athletes and people doing heavy resistance training. In these cases, supplements may be beneficial. They may need to consume 10-20 grams per day. 

Natural Food Sources of BCAA

Though there are many varieties of BCAA supplements in the market today, we must first resort to getting it naturally via the food we eat –

  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Beans and lentils
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts

With this, I hope you include BCAA in your diet as a natural source or supplement, if needed, and up your fitness game. If you have any queries, drop a comment below and I will be happy to help! 



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