What is the best BCAA for women? In order to really answer this question, we need to know some context. Let’s begin by getting familiar with BCAA.
If you do exercise regularly, you probably already know about BCAA. BCAA, or branched-chain amino acids, are taken to help you recover faster from intense exercise, to help burn more fat, and some even say they take it to improve their performance.
Is all this myth or reality? And if it does work, then what are the best BCAA for women? We will discuss all these topics in this article.
A large portion of the body’s total amino acid pool is made up of BCAAs. BCAAs, in turn, are composed of three types of amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. (1)
In total, they represent around 35 to 40% of all essential amino acids present in your body and about 14 to 18% of those found in your muscles. (2) And why are they so important? Lauren Simmons, R.D., C.S.C.S., of Core Dynamics, explains that when your body’s glycogen stores run low, your body relies on BCAAs for fuel.
BCAAs have something that makes them different from other amino acids: they are broken down in the muscle, instead of being processed in the liver. It is because of this that they play an important role in energy production during exercise, where muscles need the extra boost.
BCAAs have other important functions in our bodies. For example, our bodies use BCAAs as building blocks for protein and muscle. The block-chain amino acids may also be involved in regulating blood sugar levels because they preserve liver and muscle sugar stores. This stimulates cells into taking sugar from your bloodstream. Of the three amino acids that compose BCAA, isoleucine and valine seem more effective at producing energy and regulating blood sugar levels. (2)
When it comes to exercise, though, leucine is believed to be the most effective at impacting your body’s capacity to build protein muscles. This is incredibly important for athletes. BCAAs are also thought to be beneficial in reducing the fatigue a person feels while doing exercise because they reduce the production of serotonin in the brain. (2)
However, our bodies can’t naturally produce BCAAs on its own. This means that we get all our BCAAs from our diet. Branched-chain amino acids are naturally found in many foods, but they can also be taken via supplements.
There are many good reasons to consume BCAA. Isabel Smith, R.D. a Registered Dietitian, Fitness and Lifestyle Expert, and Founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition and Lifestyle (3) explains that “BCAAs can help promote muscle growth” and also “repair and reduce muscle soreness after exercise”. This is especially effective if the BCAAs are consumed around the time of your workout. They can also make you feel less tired after exercising. However, Simmons warns not to fall into this trap: even though BCAAs make you feel less tired, they won’t improve athletic performance.
Smith explains another benefit of BCAA: it could help you feel more satisfied and get less hungry. Smith says that some research has found that leucine specifically could help you feel more full. This happens because it improves the sensitivity to leptin, a hunger hormone. Other studies also indicate that BCAA could help balance sugar levels and promote fat burning. Smith explains that this helps maintain or lose weight because imbalanced blood sugar levels can lead to weight gain.
So, in which foods can you find BCAAs? You can find these amino acids in protein-rich foods like chicken breast, lean beef, flank steak, eggs, canned tuna, wild salmon, haddock, cod, whitefish, trout, turkey breast, and Greek yogurt.
What about BCAA supplements? There are a lot of options if you want to take a branched-chain amino acid supplement. They usually come in pills, tablets or in powder (to mix in with drinks). Liquid supplements usually take effect faster, Simmons says, because they don’t have to be digested like whole foods. This is an especially good option if you want to take a BCAA boost before exercising but dislike doing a workout with your stomach full.
There are many varieties of BCAA supplements for both men and women. Some boast about having a lower-calorie count, while others boast about being vegetarian-friendly (they are usually made with whey protein or soy protein isolate). The choice will depend on the user and her priorities. However, it is important to talk to your doctor or dietician before taking BCAA supplements. Smith says “I don’t think women should start chugging BCAA supplements unless they’re doing it in a targeted way”. (1)
Let’s answer an important question. Do women need BCAA? In the last decades, the way women approach fitness has been changing. (4) Before, developing muscle and lifting weights was a stereotypically male activity. Nowadays, women are more and more interested in increasing their strength, developing their muscles and toning their bodies. Their goal is not only to lose fat but also to build toned muscle.
Since BCAAs are building blocks of protein, it can help develop muscles and reduce fatigue.
You see, during protein synthesis, old muscle tissues will be “on repair”. At the same time, new muscle tissue will be built progressively. In order to develop more muscle and maintain the muscle you already have, protein synthesis has to exceed the rate of protein breakdown. (4)
This adds to the fact that, when exercising and dieting, you will reduce your intake of carbohydrates or burn them faster. So, when your body needs energy, over time, it can start turning to muscle protein as a source of energy. This increases protein breakdown levels in your body. If these protein breakdown levels are larger than your protein synthesis, you can lose muscle mass. BCAA could help prevent that. (4)
This is, in large part, what has made BCAAs become more and more appealing to women who exercise.
The Top 5 Best BCAA For Women
PrettyFit BCAA Burn
This BCAA supplement for women is good because it combines the muscle building and recovery benefits of BCAAs with stimulant-free, all-natural metabolism boosters. This helps you have longer workouts, a faster recovery, and increased metabolism.
The Pretty Fit BCAA Burn has a unique and delicious formula. It is refreshing and also contains 0 calories, 0 sugars, and 0 carbs. So, if you’re trying to get lean, to put on muscle or to improve your athletic performance, this product can help you achieve your fitness goals
This product’s formula is made of all-natural components like CLA, L-Taurine, and L-Carnitine. It also has a 100% money-back guarantee. If you buy the product, you have a 30 day, no-questions-asked money refund guarantee.
Truth Nutrition – All Natural Pre Workout Powder
This product is great because it can help you stay active for longer and push harder in those intense workout sessions. You should take this BCAA supplement before your workouts in order to get outstanding results.
The Truth Nutrition Natural Pre-workout uses 13 vegan, plant-based ingredients specifically formulated to boost energy, build muscle, hydrate, and increase focus during really intense workouts.
These 100% natural fermented plant-based BCAAs are L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine. Together they help promote muscle growth, endurance, and recovery.
The supplement also contains coconut water, Himalayan pink sea salt, electrolytes, and black pepper fruit extract. This aids in hydration and absorption. This product has no chemicals, fillers or synthetics.
It is non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free. This BCAA supplement is also Paleo and Keto friendly. It doesn’t contain any artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners.
If you buy this product and aren’t in love with it, the company will give a full, prompt refund or exchange–whichever the customer prefers.
Red Leaf Pre-Workout Energizer Powder
This product is special because it is a delicious pre-workout nutrition supplement with natural cranberry lime flavors. It is a healthy energy blend that also provides antioxidants. Its formula contains extracts from natural antioxidants like green tea.
This will help support vibrant health and energy in the consumer. The Red Leaf Pre-Workout Energizer also contains beta-alanine, which can aid in reducing muscle fatigue. It can also help fuel intense workouts. Its formula is packed with BCAAs which help promote muscle recovery and endurance.
This product should be consumed before, during, or after a workout for best results. This BCAA supplement is made only with quality ingredients and has a 100% guarantee on this.
Red Leaf Pre-Workout is made in a GMP-Certified facility to ensure purity and potency. This product has no carbs, maltodextrin, artificial colors, or harsh stimulants.
It is only made with healthy ingredients the customer can trust.
Ora Organic Natural Pre-Workout Powder – Vegan Energy Supplement
This product is great because it has many benefits. It is a vegan pre-workout powder made only from organic ingredients. It doesn’t have any GMOs or artificial stimulants. It is made in California.
The Ora Organic Natural Pre-Workout Powder is keto-friendly. This product helps promote healthy blood flow to key muscle groups.
It does this because it contains beet and pomegranate, which boost nitric oxide. This is all topped off with a natural, delicious berry flavor.
The product can also help give the user a natural energy boost with the minimal comedown. This is due to its 90 mg of caffeine from organic green coffee beans, organic yerba mate, and organic matcha.
It also includes a blend of adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, Triphala, Rhodiola, and cordyceps mushroom to support stress relief, keep you focused, and promote endurance.
Ora offers its customers a 60-day money-back guarantee.
OPTIMUM NUTRITION ESSENTIAL AMINO ENERGY
This product is great because it has a perfectly blended mix of amino acids which can help aid in muscle recovery. It also provides energy: it has 100 mg of caffeine coming from green tea and green coffee bean extracts.
This can help the user be more alert and energetic during an intense workout.
The Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy formula is great because it is perfect for taking during any time of the day and can help the user through a workout or simply to get through her day.
This cotton-candy format is original and unique: it can help the user have a delightful experience. It has only 13 calories per serving, 1g of carbs, and no sugar.
There are more than 10 delicious flavors to choose from.
1. BCAA supplements may help reduce muscle soreness
Consuming BCAAs may help your muscles feel less sore after exercise. This happens because it can help lower the levels of the enzymes creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase in the blood.
Both of these enzymes are involved in muscle damage. This probably helps improve recovery and even provide some protection against future muscle damage.
There have been studies in which participants were asked to rate their levels of muscle soreness after performing various strength exercises. Participants who had taken BCAA supplements rated their muscle soreness levels lower than those given a placebo. Some rated it even 33% lower.
In this same experiment, those given BCAA performed better than those who didn’t when they repeated the same strength training tests in a period of 24 to 48 hours later. The difference in performance was up to 20 %.
Basically, BCAAs taken before or after strength training may help in reducing the muscle soreness that often comes after exercising. However, the effects may vary from one person to another, especially based on their gender and on the total protein content of their diet. (2)
2. BCAAs may help increase muscle mass
Research has shown that BCAAs activate enzymes that are responsible for building muscle. Other studies have shown that BCAA supplements may help increase muscle mass (especially when they have a higher proportion of leucine than of isoleucine and valine).
However, there is no definite evidence that getting BCAAs from a supplement is more effective than getting them from your diet. So consider your own personal situation carefully before deciding to buy a supplement. In conclusion, consuming BCAAs, be it through your normal diet or with supplements, can very likely help you increase muscle growth. (2)
3. BCAAs may help enhance weight loss
Observational studies have confirmed that people who consume an average of 15 grams of BCAAs from their diets could have up to 30% lower risk of becoming overweight in comparison to those who only consumed an average of 12 grams a day. However, it is important to take into consideration that those who consumed less BCAAs also consumed about 20 grams less of total protein per day. This may have influenced the results.
Although more research is needed, it is generally agreed that branched-chain amino acids may help enhance fat loss and also prevent weight gain. However, more studies need to be done in order to really determine whether BCAA supplements provide any added benefits in comparison with a high-protein diet. (2)
1. The risks of taking branched-chain amino acid supplements
In general, a daily BCAA intake of 15 to 35 grams is considered safe for most people. You should only really watch out for side effects if you suffer from any specific conditions, like ALS or maple syrup urine disease (2). These individuals should limit their intake.
If you will undergo or have recently undergone surgery, BCAAs could interfere with blood glucose levels. Also, if you have chronic alcoholism or branched-chain ketoaciduria, you may be at an increased risk of presenting adverse side effects from taking BCAAs. It is also widely recommended to avoid BCAAs if you are pregnant or breastfeeding (5).
Although taking oral supplements of BCAA has not often been linked with harmful side effects, some of the cases have presented symptoms like nausea, pain or headaches (5). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, go to the doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I consume BCAAs? This depends on every person, their bodies, and their exercise goals. However, a general rule of thumb is that BCAAs aren’t necessary for every workout. It is best to use them for intense exercise.
Isabel Smith, R.D a Registered Dietitian, Fitness and Lifestyle Expert, and Founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition and Lifestyle recommends that you take “BCAAs for strength and interval training, rather than 30 a minute jaunt on the elliptical”.
And the most important thing is to consume your BCAAs around the time you do your workout. So time your routine in a way that allows you to consume them before, during or after the exercise. (1)
How much BCAA should I consume? This, again, depends on every individual, their body, and their exercising habits. However, Smith explains that research shows that a serving of BCAAs that goes from three to five grams is a good amount for most women. If you consume three to a four-ounce serving of cooked animal protein you get this amount. (1)
In which meals can I find BCAAs? You can find BCAA naturally in many different meals, ranging from animal protein to vegetarian options. Here are some foods that contain all three types of BCAAs in one serving: chicken breast, lean beef, flank steak, eggs (three eggs, to be precise), canned tuna, wild salmon, haddock, cod, whitefish, trout, turkey breast, and low-fat Greek yogurt (one cup, to be precise).
Lauren Simmons, R.D., C.S.C.S., of Core Dynamics adds that brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, lima beans, whole wheat, peanuts, brazil nuts, and almonds contain decent amounts of BCAAs. These are good options for vegetarians and vegans.(1)
Any tips to help me choose my BCAA supplement? If you decide to buy a BCAA supplement, both Simmons and Smith recommend choosing one that has a third-party certification by a group like NSF or Informed Choice. This will help you make sure to take a high-quality supplement that will benefit your health. Simmons recommends women to look for a ratio of 2:1:1 or 3:1:1 of leucine/isoleucine/valine. Smith, on the other hand, suggests that you should check the label and choose a product that does not contain added chemicals, sweeteners, or dyes. This will be more beneficial for your health. (1)
What dosage of BCAA supplement should I take? It is important to stress that this will depend on your body type, your exercise goals, and the product you buy. Studies show that healthy women should try to consume a minimum of 9 grams of BCAAs every day. Athletes, however, may benefit from taking supplements with up to 10–20 grams of BCAAs daily. Each product will have specific instructions on the dosage. You should read them carefully and follow them. (2)
In conclusion, branched-chain amino acid supplements can help provide benefits to the consumer in certain circumstances. It is most beneficial when it comes to developing more muscle and improving physical performance. BCAA supplements are most effective when taken around the time of the workout.
It is important to note that BCAAs are found naturally in many protein-rich foods. They can also be found in whole protein supplements. This means that if a woman is getting enough protein from her daily diet, she might not need a BCAA supplement. Consult an expert before making the decision to buy one and consume it.
The best BCAA for women will be the natural diet or added supplement that best helps each woman perform her best according to her body and her exercise goals.