BCAA's - What are they and why should women take them?
If you ask most professional competitive figure and bikini gals what their top three "must-have" supplements are you'll usually hear (1) multivitamins, (2) whey protein isolate, and (3) BCAA's, or "branched chain amino acids". Which leaves the rest of us saying "Huh? What the heck are BCAA's?" And that's the end of the discussion. Being someone that shys away from anything that sounds like classic bodybuilding supplements that will make me look blocky and masculine I avoided learning anything about this key supplement until recently and why I might consider adding this to my daily intake. Read on...
So what are BCAA's? Well, in a nutshell, they are protein. When protein is consumed and digested in the body, it turns into amino acids, 22 of them, that are then taken in through the blood stream. Being a major building block for the body, these amino acids help the body to function in tremendous ways, including that all important part of any figure and bikini gal's goals, muscle growth and muscle tissue repair.
BCAA's are broken down in what the industry calls "essential" or "non-essenitial". Essential aminos are not produced by the body and only can be derived from food or supplement intake. Conversely, non-essentials are produced by the body and therefore do not necessarily need to be supplemented as long as the body is operating at functional levels. That's not to say that non-essentials are not essential, as they are (it's a deceiving term). It's just that our bodies naturally produce these aminos.
In order to get the best benefit from our workouts, building muscle and losing fat, we need to take in enough of these aminos to get the job done. Otherwise, all of our efforts are lost.
Most figure, bikini, and fitness pros ingest at least their body weight in grams of protein a day in order to achieve that ideal level of essential amino acids (see: Meals for Fat Loss).
With the best source of essential aminos coming from whole sources of protein like chicken and beef, that's a tremendous amount of clean foods to ingest (which is an awesome thing). But sometimes that amount of food is difficult to get in. And sometimes we need a faster absorption of the protein for maximum benefit, such as pre or post workout.
So that's where supplementation comes in. Just like mineral and vitamin supplements, BCAA supplementation will not only help you to achieve your muscle gain / fat loss goals, it's a very convenient.
While the amount of BCAA supplementation is always up for debate, a general rule of thumb is 5 grams before, during, or after a workout. They come in both pill and powder form, with many competitors preparing the powder to add to their water during workouts.
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