In today’s issue of FUN, HOT, NO B.S. Fitness Magazine!…
Belinda Benn – VFT’s Featured Fitness Expert (International Fitness Model and Transformation Coach) –sheds light over the often very confusing topic of BCAA’s.
And shows you How To Get All the BCAAs You Need by Eating Whole Foods… along with some examples of whole foods that are good sources of BCAAs.
I hope you enjoy today’s lesson and PLEASE leave your feedback below, we love hearing from you!
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It’s no secret that bodybuilders and others who lift weights spend a lot of time talking about protein. Maybe we even obsess over it a bit. I mean who else gets so excited when we see a new tub of whey coming in the mail from bodybuilding.com?
And with good reason – proteins (and their associated amino acids) are the “building blocks” you need to create new tissue, such as muscle. Your body needs it for both growth and maintenance. Indeed, protein is second only to water in being the most abundant molecule in the human body. 1
But not all proteins are created equal. Some proteins are referred to as “non-essential” proteins, meaning that while you may find these proteins in food, you don’t need to eat these particular foods in order to get these proteins. That’s because your body is capable of producing these non-essential proteins on its own… or your body simply doesn’t need them to function optimally.
What you need to be most concerned about are the “essential” proteins. As the name implies, these are the proteins you need in order for your body to grow and maintain itself. There are nine of these essential proteins that you get when you eat a variety of foods like milk, egg whites, chicken breasts, whey and the other usual sources.
However, even the essential proteins aren’t created equally. Six of the essential proteins are linear chains of amino acids which are linked together with peptide bonds. Three of the above proteins aren’t linear – instead, they have “branches” of carbons bonding to one another.
Now, you don’t have to understand the significance of these branches, as there won’t be a pop quiz later. The reason I tell you about these branches is so that you understand where the name BCAA comes from: Branched chain amino acids. Specifically, these BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine and valine. (More about these three in a moment.)
The BCAA’s are fairly important. The average person needs about 40% of their protein intake to be comprised of branched chain amino acids. As an athlete who’s looking to maintain if not build muscle – as well as recover from all your activities – you need even more. That’s because BCAAs are shown to improve exercise performance and shorten the recovery time.2 And that’s why you’ll see various whey protein products that advertise how much BCAAs they have. Indeed, you can even supplement with products whose sole purpose is to give you the needed branched chain amino acids.
Now if you know anything about me, then you know I’m not big on supplementation. I believe you should always seek to get your nutrients directly from the source – namely, from food. So let’s have a look at the good sources of these BCAAs…
Get All Your BCAA’s Right Here…
Most animal sources of protein are considered “complete” proteins. That is, they include all the essential proteins you need, include the branch chained amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Thus eating plenty of healthy, lean meats such as chicken breast, turkey, salmon and other fish, round steak and other lean beef is a good idea.
Some plant sources are also complete. However, since most plant sources don’t have all the essential amino acids, many nutritionists recommend that you eat at least two different plant sources of protein in order to ensure you get a balance of all the nine essential proteins. Generally, this means eating two foods from the following three categories: Nuts and seeds, cereals, and legumes.
As you already know, whey protein is a good source of your non-essential amino acids, and it’s usually a good source of your BCAAs. The upside of ingesting some of your protein via whey is that it’s easily digested – and that means it goes straight to your liver, bloodstream and muscles. If you’re going to supplement with whey, the best time to down a protein shake is right after a workout, when your body needs to get it quickly.
Other than that, I suggest that you meet your daily protein requirements (about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight) by eating whole foods. Here are examples of whole foods that are good sources of BCAAs:
Some sources of leucine include:
Soy protein concentrate
Some good sources of isoleucine include:
Some good sources of valine include:
But Isn’t All This Protein Bad for the Kidneys?
You’ve probably heard these concerns before. In particular, people who aren’t athletes and haven’t done much research will parrot the claim that eating all this extra protein will harm your kidneys. If you hear it from enough people, you may start to get concerned.
But is it true? Will protein harm your kidneys?
If you already have problems with your kidneys or other health problems, then eating excess protein is indeed a concern. If that’s the case, you need to talk to your doctor to decide the best amount of protein for your lifestyle.
Secondly, if you’re taking in a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight but you do NOT lift weights or engage in other high-intensity exercises, then there’s another concern. That’s because you’re likely ingesting more protein than your body actually needs. I’m not saying this will harm your kidneys, necessarily – I’m just saying you should fuel your body more appropriately to reflect your lifestyle.
Here’s the bottom line: Despite certain media claims and those from alarmists, researchers have yet to uncover any definite link between eating more protein and having kidney problems. This is especially true when we’re referring to healthy people who lift weights or engage in other high-intensity exercise.
So relax… eat nutritious whole foods… and get enough protein so that your body can go about the business of maintaining and building your sleek, beautiful muscle! In particular, focus on getting greater than 40% of your protein intake from BCAAs. Just start eating more of the BCAA foods listed in this article, and see if you too don’t enjoy better performance and improved recovery times!
1. Hermann, Janice R. “Protein and the Body.” Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources – Oklahoma State University: T–3163–1 – T–3163–4.
2. Cambell, B., Kreider, R.B., Zigenfuss, T., La Bounty, P., Roberts, M., Burke, D., Landis, J., Lopez, H., and Antonio, J. (2007). “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2007, 4:8 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-8.