When it comes to supplements, many athletes know that protein and BCAAs have great benefits. However, the ideal timing to take different types of protein sources isn’t always clear. We’ll explore the benefits of BCAAs and why taking them before bed can be a great addition to your routine.
What are BCAAs?
Taking a step back, remember that our muscle tissues are made of proteins — and proteins are made up of amino acids. There are twenty amino acids, some of which our body can make on its own (non-essential) and some that we have to get from our diet (essential).
BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, are three of the amino acids that we need to get from food or supplements because our body can’t create the amounts we need. “Branched chain” refers to the unique chemical structure of these amino acids — valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
BCAAs in particular are typically found in higher concentrations in animal-based foods, like chicken, dairy, and beef.
Benefits of BCAAs
1. Build Muscle
Muscle tissue is constantly breaking down and being rebuilt - especially after exercise. When we stress our muscles during our workout, we cause micro-tears in the tissue that require protein (in the form of amino acids) to rebuild and get stronger. It is crucial that all of the necessary amino acids are available, and taking BCAAs ensures that your muscles will have all of the building blocks they need to heal and grow.
2. Lose Weight
Many research studies have linked adequate levels of BCAAs with increased lean muscle mass, which over time can help with weight loss and increase metabolism. We know that adequate protein can help us feel satisfied and fuel our body to maintain muscle even in a calorie deficit - and using BCAAs to make sure we’re getting all of the amino acids that we need can be a game changer when it comes to weight loss.
3. Speedy Recovery
When you want to see changes in your body and your strength, it can be frustrating to feel like it takes forever to recover. If you’ve ever experienced sore muscles 2-3 days after your workout, or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), it can be difficult to push yourself back to the gym. Research has shown that using BCAAs as part of a supplement routine can actually reduce DOMS, making it easier to recover and tackle your next workout.
4. Reduce Fatigue
You may be used to seeing BCAAs as part of a pre-workout or using them as a supplement stack before you hit the gym, because they’re known to give your body a boost of energy. This energy boost comes from the action of the BCAA’s reducing the body’s perception of fatigue - making you feel stronger and able to lift heavier loads or take a few more reps. The more you can challenge your muscles, the more quickly you’ll see results.
Dosage and Timing
Because BCAAs are essential and our body requires us to get them from our diet, taking them any time of day gives some benefit. If you struggle for energy before your workout, it makes sense to have them pre-workout.
Because BCAAs naturally occur in a lot of animal-based foods, those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet could see benefits from taking them any time of day — making sure their bodies have the levels of each that they need to function at their best.
Dosage of BCAAs is quite simple — aim for about 5 grams per day. This amount is enough for those who don’t get adequate levels from their diet, but not too much for those who don’t have any trouble meeting their daily protein and amino acid needs.
Taking BCAAs before bed might not be something you’ve considered before — but it can take our muscles up to 24 hrs to recover from a workout. If you struggle to hit your daily protein needs or are trying to cut calories, BCAAs can be a great alternative to a whey or casein shake, which can feel heavier on your stomach and contribute more calories. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, taking BCAAs at night can optimise your levels for the next day.
Take Home Message
We know that our muscles do a great deal of recovery overnight while we sleep. Priming our bodies with a dose of BCAAs is an easy way to support this process and make sure we’re ready to tackle our next gym session. If you're looking to give it a go, we've got a range of BCAA supplements for you to try.
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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
- Wolfe, R. R. (2017). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 30.
- Shimomura, Y., Inaguma, A., Watanabe, S., Yamamoto, Y., Muramatsu, Y., Bajotto, G., Mawatari, K. (2010). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 20(3), 236-244.
- Wiśnik, P., Chmura, J., Ziemba, A. W., Mikulski, T., & Nazar, K. (2011). The effect of branched chain amino acids on psychomotor performance during treadmill exercise of changing intensity simulating a soccer game. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism, 36(6), 856-862.