In recent years, amino acid supplements, especially those containing BCAAs, have taken off in terms of popularity. These products have begun to replace traditional protein supplements as the go-to source of pre-workout supplementation and post-workout nutrition for bodybuilders and athletes, and they’ve been shown to increase endurance during exercise as well. Of course, like any new and potent product, amino acid supplements have drawn some understandable scrutiny from prospective users, many of whom have questions about this up-and-coming fitness supplement and its effects on the human body. Of these many queries, one of the most basic – and most pressing – is this: Are BCAAs dangerous? It’s a fair question, and one deserving of discussion; to learn the answer, keep reading as the people at aminoVITAL® explain.
Amino Acid Supplements vs. Traditional Protein
For those who haven’t had a biology class in a while, amino acids are the organic compounds that serve as the building blocks of protein in the body. The list of their applications is endless; amino acids are used in the creation of everything from enzymes and neurotransmitters to muscle cells and antibodies. Amino acids also happen to be a critical element in many popular fitness supplements – namely, protein shakes and powders. When you consume a protein shake, your body takes those whole proteins and breaks them down into the individual amino acids they contain then sends those compounds into the bloodstream for use throughout the body.
One of the main differences between amino acid supplements and protein supplements is that the former provides you with free-form amino acids that your body can use pretty much right away, instead of waiting for the lengthy digestion process necessary with protein. The other major distinguishing factor is that amino acid supplements tend to have fewer frills; for example, they tend to have far lower calorie counts and much less sugar per serving. This makes them ideal for those who want to build muscle while staying lean.
What Are BCAAs?
Within the realm of amino acids, there are nine particular varieties that are known as the “essential” amino acids, meaning that our bodies have to get them through food or supplements; among those nine, three uniquely shaped compounds stand out not only for their chemical structure but also for their ability to boost performance at the gym, around the track, or on the field. These are the “branched-chain amino acids,” or BCAAs – leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
The first of the BCAAs, leucine, is the most widely recognized of the three. It has been shown to trigger the synthesis of new muscle tissue, making it a critical part of any post-workout supplement. Even its metabolite, HMB – one of the substances created when your body processes leucine – has the ability to promote the formation of new muscle, reduce the rate of protein breakdown during exercise, and regulate energy levels1.
Despite the similarities between the two names, isoleucine differs pretty significantly from leucine. While this compound can slightly improve the formation of new muscle, its true value comes from its ability to help keep the muscles energized during periods of activity, which it does by promoting the movement and use of glucose (the body’s main form of energy) in muscle cells2. It can also aid the post-workout recovery process by facilitating the repair of torn or damaged muscle tissue.
Valine, the last of the BCAAs, serves more of a support role by helping to regulate the immune system, supporting healthy cognitive functions, and reducing muscle breakdown, among other functions. Taken together, the three BCAAs have proven to be a potent force for enhancing both short-term and long-term athletic performance while fighting fatigue, expediting the muscles’ recovery, limiting soreness, and keeping the user energized.
Are BCAA Supplements Safe to Use?
The short answer to this question is yes, BCAAs are safe to use; as with all supplements, however, there are one or two caveats. The first point to keep in mind is that these products should only be used as intended; overuse of BCAA supplements, or any kind of supplement for that matter, can lead to unpleasant and potentially harmful side effects, though there is little indication at this point that BCAAs pose any significant threat, even when used frequently over a period of time.
The other point to be aware of is that people with certain conditions should avoid taking BCAA supplements, especially those with maple syrup urine disease, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and those preparing for, or recovering from, surgery. For most of us, however, BCAA supplements are a perfectly safe addition to a fitness-focused diet. If you’re unsure whether they’re a good fit for you, or if you suffer from a condition that you feel may be affected by supplements of this nature, talk to your doctor about your concerns.
High-Quality BCAA Supplements Available from aminoVITAL®
With the many types of fitness supplements on the market today, it can be tough to find the one that perfectly suits your needs. If you want to build lean muscle, improve strength and stamina, or speed up your post-workout recovery, give the BCAA supplements from aminoVITAL® a try. Each formula is made with the highest-quality vegan amino acids, and they contain only the bare essentials, so you don’t have to worry about undermining your health, fitness, or dietary goals. To learn more about all the products available from aminoVITAL®, visit us online or call (888) 264-6673 today.