What Is BCAA?
The branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are considered essential amino acids because human beings cannot survive unless these are present in a daily diet.
Vegan BCAA is entirely plant-based, whereas standard formulas might actually have some, if not all, of their aminos sourced from duck feathers or human hair.
BCAA are the primary force behind muscle repair and building. They have multiple properties that enhance the growth process above and beyond normal amino acids.
5 Benefits of Vegan BCAA
They not only stimulate muscle growth, but they also create an anabolic environment in the body, providing energy to muscles and helping the body burn fat and build muscle simultaneously, as well as improve recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
1. Boost Hormones
Of all the methods we provide each month to help you get big, boosting the levels of hormones in your body that lead to muscle growth while minimizing those that chew it up might seem overly complicated. But when combined with resistance training, BCAA supplementation increases testosterone and reduces cortisol to create a favorable anabolic environment. We also know from studies that leucine stimulates insulin release, further increasing the capacity for growth.
2. Nutrient Partitioning
The benefits to your “get-ripped” phase don’t stop at preserving muscle. Branched-chain aminos have also been associated with the simultaneous reduction of fat and the growth of muscle in a phenomenon known as nutrient partitioning, which may be the most promising of all the recent findings on BCAA. In this scenario, BCAA are stealing energy from fat cells and giving it to undernourished muscle tissue.
3. Fuel for Your Muscles
Leaning out is a balancing act of losing fat and keeping muscle, usually involving a calorie-restricted diet. This mild state of starvation means you’re often in an energy deficit, which can induce an alarming amount of muscle shrinkage because catabolic enzymes will break down muscle protein just to get to the BCAA.
4. Pain Killers for Muscle Soreness
You’ve no doubt experienced soreness after training that grew worse as the days progressed, known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Although there are different schools of thought as to why that happens, BCAA seem to significantly help reduce the condition.
5. Recover Faster, Train Harder
Let’s point out the obvious: the faster you recover from a workout, the more quickly you can get back in the gym. Dr. Carwyn Sharp, professor of exercise physiology at the College of Charleston, says he recommends BCAA to his athletes before and after training because they enhance the repair and growth of muscle. This applies to everyone, regardless of whether your goal is size, power, or endurance. “With optimal recovery, you can train with more volume and intensity, which equates to greater adaptations,” he adds. In short, that means more muscle growth.
Vegan BCAA Supplements
- ALR Industries Chain’d Out
- Dymatize Elite Recoup BCAA
- Gen-Tec BCAA
- MRM BCAA+G
- NOW Foods BCAA
- PVL Maxx Essentials BCAA
- Xtend BCAA
How to Supplement
Most vegans won’t be able to get enough BCAA sufficient for building mass through food intake only. Vegetarian bodybuilders have the option of eating eggs, dairy, and whey protein powder, and don’t necessarily need to take BCAA supplements (I don’t typically).
We get into further discussion about optimal supplementation with our vegan bodybuilding supplement guide.
Take 5-10 grams with breakfast
Take 5-10 grams immediately before, during, and immediately after training
Take 5-10 grams before bed
Note: Whey protein has the highest level of BCAA compared to all other available types of protein powder.
Food Sources of Vegetarian BCAA
Most amino acids come from meat protein sources, and generally speaking, getting enough aminos and protein is one of the more challenging aspects to bodybuilding as a vegetarian. Here is a quick list of how to get BCAA from protein-rich vegan food sources:
Leucine: soybeans and lentils
Isoleucine: almonds, cashews, and chickpeas
Valine: peanuts, sesame seeds, and lentils
"Thus, combining plant proteins that are lower in lysine yet higher in methionine (e.g., wheat, rice, hemp, and maize) with plant proteins that are higher in lysine yet lower in methionine (including black bean, oat, soy, lentil, potato, and pea) may augment the anabolic properties of plant-based protein intake."
J Nutr. 2015 Sep;145(9):1981-91. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.204305. Epub 2015 Jul 29.
The Skeletal Muscle Anabolic Response to Plant- versus Animal-Based Protein Consumption.
van Vliet S, Burd NA, van Loon LJ.