When you think of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), you most likely think of them in terms of helping you recover from your workouts faster.
While they definitely can help improve recovery, you probably didn’t realize that they can also be an incredibly effective tool to help you stay lean when used in certain ways.
In fact, top fitness pros regularly use BCAAs to help them maintain their outstanding physiques, but most use them differently (and more effectively) than the average gym goer.
In this article we’ve pulled together the science and interviewed fitness professionals to show you the five most effective ways to use BCAAs to get lean. Read on to learn more!
1. Before workouts
Muscles are designed to burn BCAAs for energy during exercise. In fact, some conservative estimates show 3% to 18% of all workout energy being provided by BCAAs.
Proper pre-workout nutrition is NOT just about loading up on caffeine and getting your sweat on.
The pros know it’s about supplying your body with the fuel it needs for an optimal workout—carbs, BCAAs, and protein.
Studies show elevated levels of amino acids and insulin during a workout improve muscle performance during the workout and consequently improve muscle gains.
Therefore, a light snack of carbs and a BCAA drink before your workout can be your ticket to better, quicker results.
What’s more, some products like PrettyFit’s BCAA Burn combine BCAAs with effective compounds like L-Carnitine, which can help boost endurance, muscle performance and fat oxidation.
2. During and after workouts
“BCAA’s have been such a lifesaver as I’m prepping for my first Bikini Competition! I mostly drink them during my workouts to carry me through, but I also drink them throughout the day when I need to fight my sweet tooth!” – Yami Mufdi NSCF-Certified Personal Trainer
As mentioned above, muscles use BCAAs as a source of energy. Sipping on BCAAs throughout your workout and immediately after can help you build muscle and thereby kick start your metabolism.
Studies also show that consuming BCAAs during your workout can increase resistance to fatigue and increase fat-oxidation which can be especially helpful if you’re on a low-carb diet or working out in a fasted state.
This is why many fitness pros turn to BCAAs when they have to drop body fat for a competition or photo shoot.
3. Before cardio
“I love sipping on my BCAA Burn every morning during fasted interval cardio & throughout my training sessions! The BCAA’s help keep my endurance up through both so I am able to execute the task at hand and finish strong. “ – Haylee Rhodes, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
While it can be a somewhat controversial subject, fasted cardio is used by many pros to increase fat loss.
What is fasted cardio? Basically it refers to working out in the morning before eating breakfast or any food, when your gut is empty and no food is being processed or digested.
While fasted cardio can accelerate exercise related muscle loss, using BCAAs to power the workouts can reduce muscle loss while still burning fat.
While there is some conflicting research on the efficacy of fasted cardio, the fact of the matter is, BCAAs are critical to maintaining muscle mass while on a calorie-restricted diet.
4. Calorie restricted diets
“I always drink BCAA’s during my workouts and on my rest days. After eating at a caloric surplus for several months to put muscle on, I’ve transitioned into a cutting phase. Due to the lower calorie intake, I’m currently relying on BCAA’s to help me maintain muscle mass as I lean out and to aid my recovery time.” – Anne Evans Cody, ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Like we’ve mentioned in a few of the previous sections, BCAAs are crucial to maintaining muscle mass while on a calorie or carb-restricted diet.
If your goal is to drop body fat, your body likely requires a calorie-restricted diet. Unfortunately though, by reducing your daily caloric intake, you will likely start to drop muscle mass as well.
This can be problematic since muscle mass is critical to long-term fat loss and overall body composition.
In order to minimize these effects and maintain high levels of muscular energy, many pros turn to a BCAA supplement like BCAA Burn, which also includes all-natural, stimulant-free metabolic boosters like L-Taurine, L-Carnitine and CLA in the ingredients.
5. Recovery/rest days
You see, muscles grow during the recovery phase, so it’s important to keep your BCAA levels high both during workouts and while recovering.
Plus, what’s better on your rest day than sipping on a delicious beverage loaded with ingredients that can help you recover faster and get lean? It’s way better than a sugary soda or “fruit” juice and it satisfies your taste buds and muscles at the same time.