BCAAs, more commonly known as branched chained amino acids, are the “building blocks” of protein and consist of three key essential amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. These “essential” amino acids are crucial for the human body and without them, we cannot survive.
Not only are BCAAs among the most beneficial supplements for your overall health, but they also make up a whopping 35% of your muscle mass and must be present for molecular growth and development to take place.
BCAAs, especially leucine, stimulate pathways in your body that activate protein synthesis—the main mechanism behind building muscle and reducing muscle breakdown.
Although BCAAs are an extremely popular supplement, especially within the sports nutrition industry, few people are aware of the specific differences between brands.
Just like not all protein powders are created equal, and often vary in type and quality of different proteins; the same can be said for BCAAs.
There are many different ways in which a BCAA supplement can differ, including:
- The quality of the actual BCAA
- The ratio of the three BCAAs
- Additional ingredients and fillers used
- Sweeteners and colors
1) QUALITY OF THE BCAA PRODUCT
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, not all supplements are created equally. There are various ways for companies to produce BCAAs, with the most common and cheapest method being an unfavorable, time-consuming extraction process. This process begins with the hydrolysis of proteins to create the BCAA product and usually involves several hours of heating and commercial chemicals. This process also creates hydrolysates, the by-products of amino acids. These by-products require filtering before the product is fit for human consumption. This artificial manufacturing process decreases the quality and increases the allergen and intolerance risk of the product.
In fact…. Most BCAA products found on the market today are made from duck feathers and human hair. Just as it’s important for our health to take in natural whole foods, it’s equally important to make sure the supplements we are consuming are natural and something our bodies are designed to process.
Anything synthetic has a higher chance of being rejected/excreted from the body whereas natural, fermented products are digested without issue.
2) RATIO OF THE 3 BCAA
The most optimal serving of BCAA products is 2:1:1. Thus, a 4g serving should provide:
- 2g of Leucine
- 1g of Isoleucine
- 1g of Valine
Why is the ratio important you ask? Well, our muscles naturally contain a 2:1:1 ratio, meaning we should supplement with BCAAs to replenish our natural stores. Since all 3 amino acids play an important, integrative role, they should be consumed as a complete product. Leucine is the key amino acid for stimulating protein synthesis, because of this many companies market ratios such as 4:1:1 or 8:1:1 as being superior. In reality, when the ratio of leucine increases, you’re basically taking a leucine supplement, not a BCAA. Upon further research, scientists found that supplementary Leucine post workout was less effective than complete 2:1:1 BCAA product. The other two essential amino acids, Isoleucine and Valine, also provide benefits. For example, Valine helps to reduce fatigue. Research has shown if you dose one specific BCAA too high you actually deplete the other two, which is counterproductive and can cause negative effects.
3) ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS AND FILLERS
Many companies add in additional ingredients such as minerals to “enhance” their BCAA product. Just as marketing BCAAs with extreme ratios is a common marketing, this is as well. While this may be the case with effective doses, most companies typically only add about 10% of what is needed to be considered an effective dose. By adding 1 gram of this and 1 gram of that, companies easily sell a 500g tub of BCAAs for more money. To the average individual, while it may seem like you’re getting more value for your money, you’re really just paying double the price for your BCAAs.
4) SWEETENERS AND COLORS
There’s a multitude of reasons why added sweeteners and colors are bad for your health. When supplements and sweeteners are combined, common issues can include:
- Digestive issues
- A decrease in fasting blood sugar levels (This can cause fatigue and weakness during exercise)
- Impaired gut function over time
- Artificial colors are constantly being banned by the FDA, with research linking them to mood, behavior, and skin issues
That is why at EC Sports we make sure our ingredients are of the highest quality, potency, and purity. Our BCAAs are fermented BCAAs, meaning they don’t go through any harsh extraction process with chemicals, and are not derived from duck feathers or human hair.
More so, at EC Sports you’ll get the proper, recommended ratio of BCAA, 2:1:1 and you’ll find that our BCAAs contain absolutely no sweeteners or artificial coloring.
We make the best, so you can take the best.