Get the Most out of Your Workouts by Knowing When to Take BCAAs
Whether you are looking to slim down or bulk up, BCAAs — or branched chain amino acids — can be a worthwhile addition to your fitness plan. Ensuring that your body is getting enough of these amino acids is an important step toward building or maintaining lean muscle, which helps keeps your metabolism humming and your body’s fat-burning furnace firing. Knowing when to take BCAAs may help to maximize their effectiveness.
How to Take BCAAs for the Most Benefits
When supplementing with BCAAs, how much should you take, and how often?
That’s a bit of a tricky question, mainly because the advice on optimal BCAA supplementation has run all over the place in recent years.
Here’s what we know. BCAAs are three of the nine essential amino acids:
“Research shows that BCAAs play an important role in muscle repair and growth,” says Trevor Thieme, CSCS, fitness and nutrition content director at Openfit.
Here are some considerations for deciding when to take BCAAs.
Taking BCAAs Before a Workout
While research is limited, taking BCAAs pre-workout has yielded positive results.
“One study suggests taking [9.6 g of BCAAs] before a workout may even be more beneficial for reducing muscle soreness [specifically] than taking them after,” says Samantha Thoms, RDN, MPH, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Vancouver.
Openfit Fuel, our pre-workout formula, contains 2.5 grams of BCAAs per scoop.
We recommend drinking Openfit Fuel 30 to 60 minutes before exercise.
Taking BCAAs After a Workout
There is also a case for post-workout supplementation.
“Some research shows that when we have an excess of amino acids circulating within our blood, BCAAs can help with facilitating muscle protein synthesis long after working out,” explains Emily Tills, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Syracuse, New York.
This protein synthesis is what helps build muscle after a workout.
“We see an increase in our metabolism and muscle protein synthesis when in an anabolic [muscle-building] state, up to 48 hours post-workout. Therefore, if you are taking BCAAs, it [can also be beneficial to take] them during and after your workout.”
That’s where a post-workout supplement such as Openfit Recovery comes in. “Openfit Recovery is made with whey protein, which has all nine essential amino acids, including BCAAs,” says Trevor Thieme, CSCS, Openfit’s director of fitness and nutrition content. “It can help you optimize your results from training when taken consistently after exercise.”
Does Timing Your BCAAs Matter?
Maybe, but science has yet to determine the absolute best time to take BCAAs in relation to working out. Until we know more, your best course may be to hedge your bets. “Ingesting them pre- and post-workout will help ensure that you maximize the benefits of supplementation,” says Thieme. “But it’s also important to make sure that you’re eating enough protein throughout the day.”
BCAAs: How Much Should You Take?
In the case of Openfit Fuel:
- Don’t exceed two scoops at one time
- Do not take more than twice daily
- Servings (one or two scoops) should be consumed at least 4 hours apart
See product label for details.
How Consistent Do You Have to Be With Taking BCAAs?
Here, too, the science isn’t definitive, but research suggests that when taking BCAAs — just like anything related to fitness — consistency is key.
“It is difficult to make generalizations without more research, but it may be that taking BCAAs consistently and for a long enough time to see benefits is more important than specific timing,” says Thoms.
How Can I Take BCAAs?
BCAAs are available by themselves or as part of a formulation like Openfit Fuel. They’re also a component of vegetable and animal proteins, including whey, and are especially beneficial when taken to help optimize performance and recovery in a comprehensive exercise routine.