Branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are synonymous with the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are essential amino acids, of which there are 9. Essential amino acids are found in pretty much any source of protein or protein complement. This includes eggs, soy, animal flesh, dairy protein (casein and whey), beans, nuts, seeds, and grains (which tend to be low on lysine, they still have BCAAs). Essential means you must eat them every day for good nutrition.
I’m tired of seeing this scam promoted. If you eat protein, your blood has plenty of BCAAs. If you are worried about your BCAA level going down during exercise, eat dietary sources of protein sometime within 2-3 hours of your workout or a faster absorbing protein 30 min to 1 hour before your workout (whey) if you didn’t plan your day well enough to have dietary sources. That is a good time period to ensure BCAAs, or protein in general, will be in your blood.
If you supplement with BCAAs or protein and your body doesn’t need it, your liver deaminates (removes the nitrogen group) or transaminates (moves the nitrogen to a different keto acid, making a different amino acid) the amino acid to maintain homeostasis. The nitrogen group forms urea, which is filtered by the kidneys into your urine.
The carbon backbone of the amino acid is then integrated into either glucogenic pathways (pathways that synthesize glucose) or ketogenic pathways (pathways that synthesize fatty acids and ketones).
In other words, BCAAs become carbohydrate or fat calories, just like dietary carbohydrate and dietary fat do, and an insignificant amount of calories at that. Except you bought BCAAs, and your body isn’t using them like that. Consider the cost difference. Let me break it down for you:
If you bought a container of BCAAs with 40 servings of 10 calories each, you might get 400 Calories from that whole container, according to the label. That said, they apparently don’t count the protein from amino acids into the total calories on the label. This particular item actually has 12 Calories from carbohydrate (rounded down to 10, so that is legit), but 5 g of protein from amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Add 20 calories to that serving size from the 5g of protein, so there are about 30 calories per serving total. So, 30 calories times 40 servings means the bottle has 1200 calories total, 3 times as much as reported on the label.
If that’s not enough to make you distrust this supplement, this bottle costs $26.39 at the time this post is written. For $26.39, you could have bought about 10 bags of rice and 10 bags of beans or lentils, or you could buy 5 bottles of olive oil or 2-3 large containers of nuts if you prefer to get your calories from fat. All of these are much more cost effective per calorie than buying a bottle of BCAAs.
People who tell you to buy BCAAs may be salesmen trying to make a living in the supplement industry or personal trainers who don’t have any human physiology or biochemistry education who work for gyms that tell you to push supplements or lose your job. These are not people you should take nutrition advice from.
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