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BCAAs... What are they and when should you take them?

Many bodybuilders, athletes, fitness enthusiast, health practitioners, and those who undergo medical treatment take BCAAs for a variety of reasons. They take them for muscle building, losing fat, preserving muscle, recovery, or for the treatment of some diseases.

Like every supplement, there's always an ideal "timing" that we can take advantage of to reap the most out it. So "when to take BCAAs?" has always been the question in people's head.



Before we get to the WHEN TO TAKE BCAAs portion, let's tackle first the WHATs of BCAAs. It's always important to have the basics first to have a thorough understanding.

So what are BCAAs? It is an acronym for Branched-Chain Amino Acids.

Amino acids are "the building blocks of protein." They are important because they make up most solid matter in our body: skin, eyes, intestines, heart, bones, and of course, MUSCLE.

Of all twenty of the amino acids, nine are considered ESSENTIAL.

 Essential means essential, meaning we cannot survive without it. This is why essential amino acids and essential fatty acids are crucial to our living.

Of these nine essential amino acids, three account for as much as 33 percent of the muscle tissue, and they are the primary drivers behind muscle recovery and growth. These three essential amino acids--Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine--are the Branched-Chain Amino Acids.

The term “Branched-chain” refers to the molecular structure of these.



"These BCAAs are essential because our bodies do not produce them, but needs them," says Sarah Currie, personal trainer of Physical Equilibrium LLC in New York City. The only way to get them is from our diet or the use of supplements.

Before we discuss when to take BCAA for maximum results, here are the ways we can benefit from it:

1. It can be used to treat diseases such as:
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • A movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia
  • Chronic hepatic encephalopathy and latent hepatic encephalopathy--brain conditions due to liver disease
  • A genetic disease called McArdle's disease
  • A disease called spinocerebellar degeneration
  • Poor appetite in kidney-failure patients and cancer patients
  • BCAAs are also used to help slow muscle wasting in people confined to bed

2. It improves our physical stamina

Our body handles BCAAs very differently compared with how it handles protein shakes, protein-rich foods, and normal amino acids. 

When you ingest amino acids from food sources or protein shakes, they are broken down in the liver and filtered there first before the body use it.

BCAAs, on the other hand, go straight directly to the muscle cells and they are used as a source of fuel for prolonging intense physical activities.

In addition to this, taking BCAA supplements reduces the amount of the amino acid Tryptophan enters the brain. Tryptophan is responsible for the rise of our serotonin levels during exercises, and high serotonin levels increase the perception of fatigue which will result in shorter, less intense workouts.

3. It makes our muscles bigger and stronger 

The process where amino acids are strung together inside the body and form protein is called PROTEIN SYNTHESIS. This process is the one responsible for the rebuilding and repairing of the muscle tissues the are torn down as results of exercise or physical activity. Once the muscle tissue is repaired, it will grow and become stronger. This is how we build our muscles.

Taking BCAAs stimulates the protein synthesis process and increases the muscle cell's capacity for this process. This will result in quicker workout recovery time, huge strength gains, and faster muscle growth! Yes, you heard that right!

4. It preserves muscle mass while dieting 

If you're dieting, most likely you will not only lose fat, but a lot of muscle too. If you're not providing sufficient calories for your body to maintain the muscle that it has, soon it will lead to muscle catabolism or muscle breakdown because your muscles will be used as an energy source.

You don't want this to happen right?

This is where you get the most out of BCAA supplements. It can work by reducing the rate of muscle breakdown because of the heightened protein synthesis.


We now have an accurate understanding of WHAT BCAAs are, and WHY we should take them, but it's also equally important to know WHEN to take BCAAs.



BCAAs are taken best before, during and after exercise for maximum benefit. This ensures that you have a high protein synthesis rate in those three times which will result in faster repair and lesser muscle breakdown from exercise.

You can also take BCAAs first thing in the morning as a substitute for your coffee. This jumpstarts muscle repair and growth and counteracts the fasted state you're in after a long night of sleep.

Moreover, taking BCAAs between meals is also a very good practice that bodybuilders and weightlifters always do, and people who travel a lot. This guarantees that you're in the ANABOLIC and not in the CATABOLIC state all the time especially when you can't have your meals for some reason.

Finally, as a guideline to the dosage, you should take between 3-5 grams if you weigh 150lb and below, and 5-15 grams if you weigh over 150lb.


For the ultimate complete recovery, BCAA's and much more, check out Fallout by Atomic Strength Nutrition. 




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