It's only 1 or 2 days after an intense workout and you can barely move. Those 3 rounds of deep lunges you did? Yup, you can definitely feel them today in your glutes. Using the restroom isn't so easy. It's more like falling on the toilet seat rather than sitting on it. Or falling in to the car rather than getting in to the car. A tough as nails workout is gratifying, but the aftermath? Not so much.
You'll often find fitness pros preaching the powerful recovery properties of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), but do these powdered products live up to the hype? They sure do. Don't expect a miracle after 1 or 2 doses. Supplements are one of those things in life that require consistency over time to reap the benefits. And even then, the "effects" are not going to just appear one day like "oh wow, there are the results I was looking for." What will happen however is that you'll notice you're not so sore after a tough workout, you feel stronger, you have more energy for your workouts and you may not get sick as often. But that's only if you're taking BCAA's regularly.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the leaders in the field, BCAA's have been touted to aid in exercise recovery due to their ability to promote protein synthesis (muscle building), decrease protein degradation (breakdown of muscle tissue), aiding in glycogen resynthesis (assisting in energy production), delaying fatigue, and improving mental toughness during exercise. The ISSN recommends taking BCAA's before, during and after an intense workout. For the full breakdown of ISSN's protein and BCAA recommendations, click here.
Over the years I've used BCAA's on and off consistently in a few different ways. Here are your options:
1. Take 5g three times a day (first thing in the AM, 30 minutes prior to lunch and 30 minutes before bed OR first thing in the AM, 30 minutes pre-workout and immediately post-workout).
2. Drink it during your workout (mix 5-10g BCAAs in water and drink throughout your workout).
3. Take 5g in the morning and drink it during your workout.
4. Take 5g any time you remember to.
Brands you may want to try:
Scivation Xtend One of my favorite brands, I used BCAA's consistently over 4 or 5 years when I was competing. It's only lately that I've been feeling like I should grab a jug again in an effort to improve my own exercise performance. Don't be fooled by the name, Xtend is a blend of BCAAs and Glutamine making it the perfect powder for recovery, energy production, and improved immune function. It's also sugar-free, caffeine free and carbohydrate free - perfect for women! Added bonus? It comes in a handful of delicious flavors. Some of my old favorites were Green Apple Explosion and Watermelon Madness. Good prices for Scivation Xtend are found here and here.
Muscle Pharm Amino 1 Recently I came upon this product with interest. After reading it's profile, it looks to be a solid BCAA product. Like Xtend, it's sugar-free and caffeine free, it mixes easily in water and comes in various fruity flavors. At this point, the biggest difference is that Amino 1 uses a 3:1:2 ratio of BCAAs, is packed with electrolytes for rehydration and does not contain Glutamine. If you're looking for a basic BCAA caplet instead of a powder you mix in water, Muscle Pharm also makes BCAA 3:1:2. Good prices for Muscle Pharm Amino 1 are found here and here.
Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy I've tried this product before. The Orange flavor tastes like an orange drink - super yummy. Essential Amino Energy contains all essential amino acids including branch chains, but what it also contains is caffeine. This product is great for a morning or early afternoon workout, but you may have trouble getting to sleep at night if you take it later in the evening. Good prices for Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy are found here and here.
If you're unsure of what BCAA product is best for you, a simple Google search can help you with your decision. Be sure to read reviews on the products before making your final choice. The three products I have listed here are not the only products on the market, they are just products I am familiar with and feel confident promoting.
P.S. Any of these products would make awesome stocking-stuffers for the fit-fanatic in your life!
Have you ever tried BCAAs? If so, tell us about your experience? What brands do you recommend?