BCAA, or branched-chain amino acids, are a potentially useful supplement for vegan bodybuilders to help promote muscle growth. There are three amino acids included in this group and they work best when taken together: Leucine, isoleucine, and valine. This article should give you all the information you need in order to decide whether or not BCAA supplementation is the right choice for you. We’ll also point you towards some vegan-friendly BCAA supplements that you can buy today if you decide to add this supplement to your diet and training program.
Why Do Bodybuilders Take BCAA Supplements?
As an essential amino acid, BCAAs have an important role to play in stimulating protein synthesis, which is a major part of the muscle mass equation of muscle mass = rate of protein synthesis – rate of protein breakdown. You’re breaking down protein when you work out, but if you aren’t synthesizing protein in return, you’re actually breaking down muscle tissue rather than building muscle growth. Because bodybuilders are concerned with overall calorie intake and fat loss, they feel they need to replace important muscle recovery elements like BCAA protein powder in order to make sure their workouts are actually effective and to avoid needed to consume a lot of extra calories in order to recover.
Is BCAA Supplementation Effective?
In the bodybuilding community, the conventional wisdom at this point seems to be that BCAA supplementation is indeed effective. There are a lot of words written on this subject and you’ll find plenty of pro and amateur bodybuilders in both the vegan and meat-eating communities who swear by BCAA supplementation.
Some even go as far as to say that BCAA supplements are one of the most accepted forms of supplement that are supported by research and promoted by doctors and scientists. However, this may not be an accurate representation of the realities of BCAAs. The harsh truth of scientific research is that a single study can throw off public perception of an idea for decades and that may well be the case with BCAAs. A raft of research conducted more than 10 years ago, put BCAAs back in vogue in the bodybuilding community and you’ll still see a lot of those studies cited today, especially (and perhaps conveniently) by companies that sell BCAA supplements. More recent research seems to argue against the idea that BCAA supplementation is as effective as many people say and some sources have even called out mistakes in a number of the original studies that hailed BCAAs as being such a great idea for building and repairing muscle. You can cherry-pick studies and find support for just about any opinion on the efficacy of BCAA supplementation for muscle recovery, athletic performance, and strength training assistance.
This is all to say that, officially speaking, the jury is out on BCAAs. One thing to note is that there isn’t really any evidence that BCAA supplementation is bad for you, so if you’re a big believer in supplementation and you feel that BCAA supplements can help you recover better and build more muscle with less pain, it’s worth trying it out and using your own research process to see how you feel about it.
Natural Dietary BCAA Sources
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and, as we already know, there are plenty of 100% plant-based protein product sources out there for vegans to use as part of a bodybuilding diet plan. Naturally, the bodybuilding world is a bit biased toward protein sources for meat eaters and vegetarians, but you have plenty of options beyond the non-vegan-friendly categories of meat and dairy.
Natural vegan dietary BCAA product sources include some of the most common and efficient vegan proteins, including beans and soy. Both beans and soy offer a lot of easily digestible and useable BCAA, making them efficient choices. You can also eat corn, cashews, brown rice, and almonds to integrate whole-food BCAA sources into your diet.
How to Up Your BCAA Intake
When the foods above aren’t providing you with a level of BCAA intake that you feel is sufficient, you can turn to supplements. Whey protein is one of the most common supplemental BCAA sources and while this is great for meat eaters and vegetarians, vegans have to look a bit harder. There are a few options to choose from and you can even choose what form you take your BCAA supplements in thanks to the availability of both powders and vegan-friendly capsules.
Clean Machine Clean BCAA powder is a supplement that even all-natural vegan bodybuilders may take interest in. It’s made from non-GMO, whole-food ingredients, including corn, coconut water, and sunflower seeds. If you’re more interested in capsules, Raw Barrel Extra Strong Pure BCAA tabs are a completely vegan formula that can be ingested more quickly than a powder, which you’ll probably want to stir into liquid or sprinkle onto food.
Consuming BCAAs during a workout can be a good idea, but it’s suggested most often that you ingest your daily dosage of BCAA supplement immediately following a workout. If you’re already consuming a lot of supplements post workout, you might want to just pop a vegan BCAA tablet as you’re nearing the end of your workout so you don’t overload yourself with powders.