BCAA supplements are well known for their ability to increase muscle growth while helping lose unwanted body fat, thus helping you build a gorgeous, lean, toned figure.
They not only help build new muscles when taken as part of your fitness routine, but they also help retain your muscles during a weight loss program, making it one of the most popular supplements among bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts.
If you are attempting to lose weight, and need a booster to speed up the process, then BCAA supplements may be just what you are looking for.
Let’s take a look at how BCAA can help you in your weight loss journey, as well as, how to use BCAA for weight loss.
What are BCAAs?
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are the three amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are essential amino acids that are not produced naturally in the body and should be obtained from your diet (1).
Animal products such as meat, poultry, and eggs, along with nuts, whole grains, and lentils are good sources of BCAAs (2).
BCAAs are available in powder and pill form as a nutritional supplement and are an easy way of intake. These supplements are extremely convenient as they reach the bloodstream extremely quickly and start working instantly.
Summary: BCAA is a combination of three amino acids; leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are mostly found in animal proteins and are available as a supplement that is absorbed faster in the body.
9 Benefits of BCAAs For Weight Loss
BCAA has become extremely popular among gym-goers, fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and athletes who want to reduce weight without compromising on their muscle mass. Let’s have a look at how it works!
BCAAs are Low in Calories
In addition to that, BCAAs can also be a great supplement for a workout during a fasted state.
BCAAs when consumed, trigger a very small insulin response which is not sufficient to cause an insulin spike. Thus, its intake does not switch your body out of the fat-burning state that occurs during a fast.
In fact, it offers instant energy to boost your exercise without taking you out of the fasted state, proving itself to be the best supplement promoting weight loss.
Summary: BCAAs have very less calories that make it ideal for any weight loss diets and workout in a fasted state. In fact, it supports the workout by providing energy without taking you out of the fasted state.
Reduces Sugar Cravings And Binges
Sugar craving stems from an imbalance in your blood sugar level. When you eat sugar, your blood sugar goes up, which results in insulin release by your body (3).
This insulin promotes the cells to take in the sugar and use it for energy. This lowers blood glucose to a safer level and ensures a proper sugar balance in the body.
However, if the insulin drops your blood sugar level a bit too low, the body starts to crave sugary foods to balance this sugar level. This can lead to binging.
Two of the BCAAs, isoleucine, and valine, can be converted into glucose and provide extra energy when required. BCAA supplementation enhances blood sugar production during exercise and prompts the liver to release BCAA continuously thereby keeping the blood sugar steady (6).
This suppresses the dip in blood sugar and stops your cravings of sugary and highly processed foods, resulting in a healthy food habit.
Summary: BCAA prevents blood sugar dip that normally leads to sugar cravings and binging. It does that by regulating glucose metabolism in your body.
More Intense & Effective Workouts
The primary fuel in your body is glucose, which is used for energy. During the workout, when the blood glucose becomes low, the BCAA can get converted to energy easily in the muscles and help maximize your workout (7).
By regularizing a continuous flow of glucose, BCAA ensures you a longer period of exercise. It helps you perform in a sustained manner that allows a greater fat burn in the body.
Additionally, BCAA helps increase your endurance during a workout by lowering the serotonin level in your brain. This reduces fatigue which is caused because of high serotonin production (8).
BCAAs can lower this by limiting the entry of tryptophan that helps produce serotonin.
In other words, it increases your ability to work out more which may lead to weight reduction.
Summary: BCAA ensures sufficient energy and stamina for an intense and effective workout. It also boosts your endurance level by reducing fatigue, resulting in a more intense and effective workout.
Avoid Muscle Soreness & Workout More!
Most of us feel sore for a day or two after our workouts, especially when we are just starting out or attempting a new exercise.
Such soreness results from tiny tears in our muscles. BCAA can help in reducing the muscle damage that leads to muscle soreness.
This, in turn, boosts the repair and building of new muscle tissue.
As your soreness reduces, your capability to train harder and for longer duration increases. This maximizes your workout, resulting in weight loss.
Summary: BCAAS can help reduce muscle soreness after a workout. It does so by reducing the muscle damage and promoting repairing and building of the new muscle tissue.
Helps Maintain Muscle Mass
The gorgeous, lean, toned figure that we talked about earlier can be possible through extensive workouts such as cardio supported by a balanced diet.
However, depending on your present weight, most of the time you may need to reduce the calorie in your diet, to reach your expected weight.
This calorie deficit diet can lead to glycogen depletion while exercising. The body starts breaking down muscle protein to meet this energy need.
BCAA supplements can benefit immensely under these conditions by supplying your muscles with essential nutrients that can halt the process without compromising the weight (11).
This means muscle proteins don’t break down and muscle mass is maintained while you work towards your expected weight.
Summary: BCAA preserves your muscle mass by supplying the required nutrients for the muscles while in a calorie-deficit diet to lose weight.
Gain More Muscle
BCAAs are popularly used to increase muscle growth. Leucine, one of the BCAAs, activates the pathway that stimulates protein synthesis, which is the process of making muscle (12).
BCAA helps build those bigger and stronger muscles. As these bigger muscles start working more during a workout, the harder they push, and more energy is consumed each minute (13).
If you are building your muscles, it is not only the workout but also the muscle growth that consumes energy and burns calories. Remember that muscle tissue is more active and burns more calories than fat tissue (14).
Challenging exercises do not just increase your energy consumption during the workout or intense activity, it continues further as your body works to restore and adapt itself for the next workout challenge (15). It is also known as after-burn-effect (16).
It is the additional energy expenditure post-exercise and can extend from a few hours to beyond 24 hours after exercise. So, the more muscles you have, the bigger is your resting energy expenditure which is, the body burning more calories while doing nothing (17).
Summary: BCAA, especially leucine, helps in muscle growth. More muscle means more resting energy expenditure and increased calorie burn which may result in weight loss.
Maintain Hormonal Balance
Hormones are very important in both weight gain and weight loss. An imbalance of hormones in your body increases the risk of gaining weight and losing muscles.
Anabolic hormones such as testosterone, insulin, and growth hormone (HGH) help in building muscles. On the other hand, catabolic hormones such as cortisol are responsible for the breakdown of muscle tissue (18).
During intense exercise, the levels of testosterone and cortisol change drastically resulting in hormonal imbalances (19).
This may lead to water retention, fat gain, low energy, and food cravings leading to weight gain.
BCAA can help regulate this hormonal balance during and after an intense workout by increasing testosterone secretion and decreasing cortisol production (20).
Summary: BCAA supplements boost the release of the anabolic hormone. When taken pre-training, it shows a positive impact on your work-out. It also reduces cortisol production and inhibits protein breakdown.
Help You Train Slow and Long
Low-intensity exercise such as jogging, swimming, rowing, and step aerobics is a perfect way to burn calories and lose weight (23).
You should be in your target heart rate zone where you should be able to talk comfortably with your exercise partner.
This helps build your endurance base and helps enhance recovery which means frequent activity without stopping. This is the right choice when your goal is to reduce weight.
Summary: BCAA gives you energy and boosts endurance that enables you to train slower and longer. This is perfect for burning calories and weight loss.
Helps Increase Satiety to Promote Weight Loss
Satiety is the feeling of fullness and satisfaction you get after having food. Low-calorie weight loss diets often leave people feeling unsatisfied and this causes them to crave unhealthy food choices later on.
BCAAs can give out signals that may help reduce your food intake by making you feel full. Leucine activates mTOR, which is required for our brain to respond to leptin (a hormone that tells our body when we have had enough food).
This results in lower food intake which definitely helps with weight loss.
Summary: BCAA suppresses appetite by activating leptin, which is a hormone that suppresses appetite. It also enhances GLP-1 release which slows down gastric emptying and makes you feel full.
The Best Time To Take BCAAs For Weight Loss
As per your requirement, BCAA can be taken before, during, or after a workout.
Pre-workout: BCAA as a pre-workout supplement reduces muscle fatigue, improves strength during the workout, promotes muscle protein synthesis, and boosts endurance when doing cardio like running, cycling, and swimming. This enhances weight loss and fat burn (26).
During Workout: BCAA taken during workout improves speed and endurance resulting in a better workout, and effective weight loss (27).
After Workout: Taking BCAA supplement post-workout supplies your body with essential amino acids that help build muscles. This helps in muscle recovery in less time (28).
All these factors boost your workout. The more is the physical activity the better is your weight loss.
Summary: BCAA can be taken as a pre-workout supplement to improve endurance and reduce muscle fatigue. BCAA taken during workout helps increase the stamina of exercise and BCAA as a post-workout helps in muscle recovery and reduces soreness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Should I Take BCAAs During a Diet?
Yes, you can take BCAAs during a diet. BCAAs have very few calories and as long as you don’t overdose on them, your body won’t come out of the fat-burning state. You continue doing so even after BCAA intake.
Although a small insulin response is triggered by the intake of BCAA it is not significant enough to make a difference.
However, BCAAs do help reduce fatigue which is one of the hardest barriers to overcome while fasting. It is all the more important if you are exercising in a fasted state.
BCAA can be used in weight loss diets such as the keto diet as it will not kick you out of ketosis. They can also be used in intermittent fasting regimens although it’s best to time your BCAA intake during the eating window.
Can BCAAs be Used in Cut Diets for Bodybuilders?
Yes, BCAA can be used in cut diets for bodybuilders.
Bodybuilders aspiring to develop and maintain a lean, muscular physique may tremendously benefit from this diet. In this “cutting phase” or “cut diet”, they focus on losing fat while maintaining muscle mass that they develop during the bulk phase (29).
This is usually achieved by restricting your carbohydrate and calorie intake. But, calorie restriction may lead to nutrient deficiency, decreased athletic performance, increased illness, and injuries while training.
Insufficient protein may lead to muscle wasting rather than growth. Studies have indicated that preserving muscle mass requires high-quality protein intake (30). BCAA can definitely be of great help by providing the required nutrients.
How to Take BCAAs for Weight Loss?
To maximize your weight loss, combine BCAA with an intense exercise regime. The weight loss will be through fat loss and BCAA will ensure muscle mass preservation.
You can take BCAAs before your workout as they will help you exercise with more intensity and for longer durations thus helping your burn more body fat.
You can mix BCAA with just water or add them to a fruit smoothie to make a tastier drink. Just keep an eye on the total calories as the more the ingredients you add to your drink the higher the calories.
Does BCAA Burn Fat?
Yes, BCAA does burn fat, especially belly fat.
A study done in the College of Charleston in the USA observed that consuming BCAA supplements resulted in 2.5 times more body fat reduction than the participants who consumed a carbohydrate sports drink and 50 percent more than those who had a whey protein drink (31).
The Final Note
BCAA is excellent as supplements that optimize your fitness plan. Low in calories, they can help you with intense and prolonged workouts.
They increase endurance and stamina, reduces muscle soreness and speeds up recovery. BCAA increases muscle protein synthesis and provides sufficient energy for an ideal workout.
In addition to this, it maintains a hormonal balance that is right for muscle formation and growth. All these factors result in weight loss that occurs due to increased workout or activity.
BCAA also promotes weight loss by decreasing food cravings and suppressing appetite. With just 4 calories per gram, BCAAs are the perfect low calorie protein addition to your weight loss program.
Keep in mind that BCAAs are not magic weight loss pills or powders. They work as weight loss boosters when taken as part of a weight loss and fitness routine. So make sure to combine with a nutritious, balanced diet, a calorie-burning workout routine and an active lifestyle.