Fitness supplements have long been an important part of working out. Because these products are specially designed to offer exactly the nutrients the body needs to get the most out of exercise, they can be even more effective than a healthy diet alone. However, with the rise of new types of supplements in recent years has come some confusion regarding exactly what benefits each product can offer and how to use them to maximum effect. For instance, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) have gained widespread recognition for their ability to improve exercise performance, boost gains, and provide an assortment of additional benefits when used along with a workout, but some have come to wonder, “Should you take BCAAs on rest days, too?” Below, the amino acid supplement experts at aminoVITAL® cover this topic in detail; keep reading to learn more.
Are There Any Benefits to Taking BCAAs on Rest Days?
By design, BCAA supplements are meant to be used before, during, or right after a workout routine, rather than on rest days. There’s good reason for this, too: When you exercise, your muscles are subjected to all sorts of stressors, from the physical forces exerted as your muscles strain against weights to the biological effects of your body breaking down muscle tissue for fuel, which can happen once your stores of glycogen – a form of glucose – are exhausted.
How BCAAs Can Help During and After Exercise
BCAAs counteract these negative effects in a number of ways, but we’ll just cover a few here. Firstly, the amino acids in a mid-workout BCAA supplement (especially leucine) can spur the body to create new muscle tissue through a process called muscle protein synthesis, which is essential to build mass and repair the damage wrought by your exercise routine. In addition, isoleucine – another BCAA – can promote the flow of energy to the muscles, improving endurance, and in a pinch, the three BCAAs can even be used as energy themselves. By providing this energy source, BCAA supplements save your body from having to break down muscle tissue for use as fuel, preserving mass and preventing some of the damage your body would otherwise suffer.
Taking BCAAs on Rest Days
On rest days, however, the processes in the body work differently. Many of the factors that lead to improved fitness levels after exercise – the damaged muscles, the exhausted energy stores – are not present on rest days, or at least not present to the same degree as they are right after you exercise. For this reason, most of the benefits of BCAAs simply can’t be gained on days when you haven’t worked out, so taking them on rest days would mostly be a waste.
Benefits of Glutamine on Rest Days
However, it should be noted that another amino acid, glutamine, may offer some benefits, even if you haven’t exercised lately. Though not technically a BCAA, this compound is nevertheless included in aminoVITAL® supplements because, among other things, it can help to reduce soreness after you work out. According to a study1 from the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, this benefit can be gained up to 72 hours after exercising when glutamine is taken every day, and glutamine also showed an ability to help people regain their peak strength more quickly. In other words, for those dealing with significant soreness in the wake of a tough workout or struggling to push themselves as hard a day or two later, it may be worth it to try an amino acid supplement that includes glutamine, even on rest days.
Is There a Downside to Using BCAA Supplements on Rest Days?
Not really, no. BCAAs are what’s known as “essential amino acids,” meaning that your body can’t make them on its own and needs to get them from foods or supplements, whether you’ve worked out or not. Because these substances are a normal part of the diet, taking BCAAs on rest days shouldn’t cause any problem.
The one exception to this is if you happen to have one of the very rare conditions that hamper the body’s ability to process BCAAs. One example of this problem would be maple syrup urine disease, a genetic disorder that causes a lack of a certain enzyme and prevents the body from metabolizing BCAAs; if you have this disease, however, you’d surely know it already, as it must be diagnosed and treated in infancy. In addition, those suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) may want to avoid BCAA supplements.
A final caveat with BCAAs: they shouldn’t be used around the time that you’re undergoing surgery, as some believe that these amino acids can affect blood sugar control during and after a procedure. To be on the safe side, avoid using BCAAs within two weeks of surgery. However, assuming that you don’t have ALS and are not undergoing a major surgical procedure, you should have no problem taking BCAA supplements on rest days, or any other day for that matter.
Take BCAAs to Improve Muscle Health and Function During and After a Workout
When we exercise, we want to reap the greatest possible rewards from our efforts, which means enlisting the aid of supplements to give our bodies the resources they need to improve. BCAA supplements from aminoVITAL® do just that; by providing fast-acting amino acids that fuel your muscles, boost your gains, fight fatigue, and reduce your soreness after a workout, our products can help you take your exercise routine to the next level. Try a pre-, mid-, or post-workout amino acid supplement and see the difference for yourself. To learn more about the benefits of BCAAs, visit aminoVITAL® online or call us today at (888) 264-6673.