BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are the building blocks of muscle protein. They’re considered the most important supplement in a sports nutrition programme and can be the difference between seeing and not seeing results.
It can be difficult to get enough of these amino acids, particularly if you exercise a lot. Working out burns amino acids rapidly, and if you don’t replenish them adequately, you may find that your not making any progress no matter how hard you train.
There are nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and valine. These amino acids don’t need digestion and go straight into the bloodstream for immediate use by muscle cells. The main three that everyone talks about (the BCAAs) are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.
Dieting is catabolic, according to research by Dr Layne Norton, which means it leads to muscle breakdown. The leaner a person gets, the more difficult it becomes to keep muscle mass intact. This is because as fat stores become depleted, the body turns to muscle to satisfy its energy needs.
Taking BCAAs immediately before or during a workout has been shown to increase performance (and results).
PhD Nutrition’s Intra BCAA+ review
PhD Nutrition’s Intra BCAA+ is a branched chain amino acid drink made with coconut water powder, designed to be used during intense exercise.
It uses hydrolysed whey protein, which is protein that has been concentrated and filtered for purpose, allowing it to be digested faster.
It includes all nine essential amino acids, including 7g worth of the BCAAs.
This shake actually tastes really nice. It’s not often you come across a protein shake that tastes good, so it was a pleasant surprise the first time I drank some.
It’s a very different taste to most such things we’ve tried, so top marks in the taste department. You mix 15g up with water and some ice and you’re good to go.
It’s actually so nice I’m constantly getting people to try it, just so I can see their shocked/impressed face.
A 450g tub costs £39.99, which is a little on the pricey side, but first time buyers can get it for £29.99.
By comparison, you can get a 500g pouch of flavoured BCAA powder from MyProtein for £24.99. I have only tried the plain MyProtein BCAA powder, but that doesn’t taste nice at all and definitely ruins the taste of most protein shakes I’ve mixed it into. You can also get 500g from The Protein Works for £19.99, but again I haven’t tried this yet. If it’s good, it’s a bargain price. (Hopefully I’ll be able to try these other options soon and let you know how they compare.)
Nutritional values per serving (15g)
- 58 kcal
- 10.15g protein
- L-Leucine (BCAA) 5.05g
- L-Isoleucine (BCAA) 1.28g
- L-Valine (BCAA) 1.29g
- 4.01g carbs (0.9g sugar)
- 0.12g fat
- Vitamin C 15mg (18.75%)
Instantised BCAAs (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine, emulsifer (soya lecithin), hydrolysed whey protein isolate, L-Leucine, L-Glutamine, Cocomineral Dried Coconut Water (8.42%, L-Alanine, flavour enhancer (Sodium Chloride), Sucralose, Vitamin C.
Can you eat your BCAAs instead?
Eating enough BCAAs and protein to sustain regular training is never going to be as easy as mixing some powder and water together. But you can’t live off supplements, so there are a few things you can include in your diet to maximise your BCAA intake naturally.
You need 3g of leucine at any given meal to maximise muscle protein synthesis, according to research.
That’s the equivalent of six whole eggs or nine egg whites. Or you could try 170g of peanuts (about six handfuls). Dry-roasted peanuts pack more leucine and total BCAAs than any of the meat sources, but not nearly as much protein. Beans are a good vegan source of BCAAs, with a cup of baked beans providing 1g of each of the BCAAs – whereas a cup of quinoa has 04.g of leucine, 0.2g of isoleucine and 0.3g of valine.
There is a lot of debate about whether or not to take supplements, with pros sitting in both the Yes and No camps. So I’m not going to tell you that you should or shouldn’t take them until the scientists researching have a better idea themselves.
But I will tell you that keeping my BCAA levels well stocked make sense to me. BCAA supplements are pretty huge in fitness world and they definitely deserve a spot in your supplementation plan, if you have one. I’ve been loving taking the Intra BCAA+ during my workouts. I’ve felt more hydrated and have noticed a difference in my endurance.
If you’re training hard and not seeing the results you expect, it may be time to look at your nutritional intake and see whether you’re getting enough amino acids.
I like PhD Nutrition’s Intra BCCA+. This product tastes great, mixes well and includes almost 7g of essential amino acids. I’ll be sad when the pot runs out.