You might have been told you should be taking Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCAAs) to help your performance and recovery, or to help you lose fat or gain strength. But why?

Are BCAA’s just another fickle fad that’s going to lose steam quickly? Or is there some truth to this branch chain amino acid propaganda?

Though you may only have learned about supplementing with BCAAs recently, these supplements have been around for a long time. They have been studied a ton, and the science says there’s lots to love about BCAAs.

What are they exactly?

BCAAs are made up of three of the nine essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. More than 30 percent of your muscle tissues are made from these three amino acids. One of their main roles is to help with protein synthesis in the body. In other words, leucine, isoleucine, and valine help create newer, stronger protein in the body to replace the old protein.

For you, this means more strength and muscle mass gains!

Two ways to get these all-important amino acids are: In your food or from BCAA supplementation.

Food sources that have them include beef, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts and seeds. That being said, often we don’t get enough of them in our diets, which is why supplementing with BCAAs can be very useful for more reasons than just building strength and mass.

Other benefits of BCAAs include:

•Boosts growth hormone in the body: Leucine, specifically, does this. More growth hormone = more muscle growth.

•Helps recovery and prevents fatigue: Tryptophan (one of the reasons, other than the ridiculously high volume of food you eat, why you get super tired right after a big turkey dinner) is a chemical that helps you feel relaxed, in a sleepy way. The amino acid valine stops tryptophan from going into your brain and making you feel fatigued.

•Prevents muscle breakdown: BCAAs stop our muscles from breaking down when we work out by inhibiting cortisol production (the stress hormone). Cortisol is also responsible for muscle breakdown and for stopping testosterone production. In other words, you don’t want too much cortisol, and BCAAs ensure you don’t overload yourself with it.

•Helps DOMs: Delayed-onset muscle soreness is often inevitable after a big training session, but it is believed that BCAAs at least help decrease this soreness. DOMS comes from putting stress on and ripping your muscle fibers (when these fibers recover, they recover stronger than they used to be). The presence of BCAAs decreases the pain your feel from stressing your muscles out from a hard workout.

On top of this, there’s also evidence that BCAAs help you lose fat!

What to look for before you buy:

One important thing to look for is the ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine. The best ratio is 2:1:1. This is what has been proven to be best for protein synthesis.

BCAAs come in both powder form and tablet/pill form. Both work, unless you’re not into swallowing 8 pills at once.

How much to take?

Current research says take between 150-200 mg per kg of body weight.

So, if you weigh 200 lb. (90 kg), your dose would be between 13.5 g and 18 g per day.

This, however, is just a guide, and much depends on your activity level, your performance goals, as well as how many BCAAs you’re already getting from your diet.

To help you out, here are three brand options: