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What you Need to Know About BCAAs in Plant-based Protein Powder

By Bridgette Clare, RHN on March 20, 2018, categorized in Active Living, Strength + Conditioning

What you Need to Know About BCAAs in Plant-based Protein Powder

Acronym; a long word with a short purpose. Acronyms and abbreviations r sups helpful but IRL they can be totes confusing, right? I mean, did that last sentence even make sense?

If you’ve never learned what “BCAAs” is short for, it’s hard to know what they are, and why you’d want them. So let’s change that.

What are BCAAs?

All protein is made of amino acids. Some are essential (ones you need to get from your diet) and some are non-essential (ones your body has the ability to make out of other amino acids). BCAAs is short for branched chain amino acids, which are three essential amino acids that help support protein synthesis:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

Protein is important for many reasons, one of which is that it’s the building blocks for muscle tissue. These amino acids, in particular leucine, are especially important in helping to support post-workout muscle recovery and  protein synthesis.

Why do I want BCAAs?

These three amino acids, specifically leucine, can help to support protein synthesis, during post-workout muscle recovery Pasiaskos, Stefan et al. (2011). Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 94(3);809-818. Accessed on 2/10/2018  from:  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/94/3/809.long , which is why many athletes will use BCAAs either during or post-workout.

Back it up – what’s protein synthesis?

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? That applies to muscles too.

Muscle tissue grows by repairing micro tears that happen during exercise. After you’ve stopped your workout, your body works to repair these micro tears and, in the right conditions, with quality building blocks, they can be repaired. Protein synthesis is the process of repairing and building muscle tissue.

How much of BCAAs do I need?

If you have specific nutrition or fitness goals, you know what I’m going to say – it’s always best to work with your health care practitioner or a qualified sports dietitian to find a plan that’s right for you.  I say that because how much you need will be determined by many factors, including your body weight. Your body and your goals are so unique to you that developing a plan as special as you are is the best way to achieve your goals. And as goals change, you can work together to make the appropriate changes to your nutrition plan.

Currently, research suggests that 10g of essential amino acids, including about 2 grams of leucine is needed to help support muscle recovery. This is typically found in about 20-25g of high quality protein Glynn, et al. (2013). Addition of Carbohydrate or Alanine to an Essential Amino Acid Mixture Does Not Enhance Human Skeletal Muscle Protein Anabolism. The Journal of Nutrition.

Koopman, et al (2007).  Coingestion of carbohydrate with protein does not further augment postexercise muscle protein synthesis. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Staples, et al. (2011). Carbohydrate Does Not Augment Exercise-Induced Protein Accretion versus Protein Alone. MEDICINE & SCIENCE IN SPORTS & EXERCISE

What foods have BCAAs?

With a few exceptions, all whole foods have protein. So if you’re eating a variety of whole foods, you’re already getting some BCAAs. How much total protein and how much of each amino acid you get will all depend on what foods you actually are eating and the quantity you eat.

These are some plant-based foods to look for United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. USDA Branded Food Products Database Nutrient list: Leucine

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/report/nutrientsfrm?max=25&offset=0&totCount=0&nutrient1=504&nutrient2=&nutrient3=&subset=0&sort=f&measureby=m :

  • 1 cup raw oats + ¼ cup almond butter in oatmeal (2.5 grams leucine)
  • Trail mix that contains 3/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds and ¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds (2.55 grams leucine)
  • 1 cup tempeh + 1 cup brown rice (2.8 grams leucine)

NYK all the 411 on BCAAs! TTYLY!

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