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Why and When Should Runners Take BCAA Supplements

For decades BCAA supplements have been very popular with bodybuilders and fitness athletes. In the past decades, runners and triathletes discovered how helpful taking BCAA supplements with performance, energy level, muscle strength and health. BCAA’s can provide many benefits for shorter distance fast runners, long-distance and Ultra runners. I have been taking BCAA’s for the past 5 years, and every time I take these great supplements, I can feel all the benefits. To consume BCAA supplements pre-run, during a long-distance run and post-run for recovery can all help us maintain great muscle health and energy levels.

BCAA’s provide so many benefits to enhance our running performance.

What Are BCAA’s?

BCAA’s are made of the top three amino acids, that have shown great potential in maintaining our muscle mass

1. Leucine

2. Isoleucine

3. Valine

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They help build muscles, repair muscle damage, and regulate many biochemical reactions in our body.

While our body needs 21 amino acids, nine are essential because they cannot be produced by the body and need to be consumed from food to survive, and supplements to provide these essential amino acids. To take BCAA supplements is a good option to support and balance our entire muscle quality and strength.

Part of the nine amino acids, these three are super beneficial in maintaining muscle mass, enhancing muscle synthesis, avoiding fatigue and helping with recovery.

The three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine are known as branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs.

Complete proteins, which have all the 9 essential amino acids, are excellent sources of BCAA’s.

Natural Amino Acids Protein Foods

  • Meat

  • Chicken

  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Dairy

  • Whey protein

Plant-Based Amino Acids Protein Foods

  • Chickpeas

  • Lentils

  • Quinoa

  • Peanuts

  • Whole-grains

  • Soy protein

Benefits of BCAA’s for Runners

BCAA’s provide one-third of muscle protein and have several important benefits.

While other amino acids are metabolized in the liver, BCAAs can bypass this step and can directly go to the muscles where they are oxidized and used. This makes BCAA’s highly effective and essential amino acids for runners.

They can contribute up to 10% of the total energy while performing aerobic activities such as running, cycling, or swimming.

  • Reduces muscle soreness.

  • Decreases lactate production that is responsible for muscle fatigue.

  • Reduces muscle damage.

  • Increases time before we feel exhaustion.

  • Optimizes athletic performance by reducing the muscle’s oxygen requirement.

  • Support weight loss during calorie deficit period without compromising on the muscle mass.

  • Increases power.

  • Used as energy as they readily get oxidized in the muscles for fuel.

  • Stimulates muscle building hormones and boost muscle protein synthesis.

  • Preserves our glycogen store, resist fatigue.

  • Inhibits catabolic hormone cortisol, which causes muscle breakdown so it contributes to faster muscle recovery.

  • Regulates blood sugar levels and increases fat burning.

  • Following a physical exertion, BCAA’s help in muscle gain and muscle repair.

  • Enhances hemoglobin production.

  • Boosts immune system, which tends to get depleted following intense training or running.

  • Improves mental focus.

  • Lowers a runner’s perceived exertion, allowing them to feel better during long-distance training sessions and races.

Especially during long-distance runs or ultra runs and races, to take a BCAA supplement before the run, during the run at every 30K~ according to our body type, has so many benefits to prevent muscle soreness, fatigue and improve muscle strength. It is super helpful.

When to Take BCAAs for Runners

BCAA’s Before a Run

BCAA’s taken before running, can decrease muscle breakdown, so common with runners, and provide us with the energy that boosts our performance.

BCAA’s provide the additional amino acids to the body which have been shown to be important for protein synthesis and reducing protein breakdown.

Whether we are into endurance running or are a high-intensity runner, if we are feeling completely drained out during our long runs, BCAA’s may boost our energy level.

Therefore, BCAA’s taken 15 minutes before the run or race offers a readily absorbed energy and protein source. It will help increase our stamina and can help us go for longer distance runs without feeling energy deficient.

BCAA During a Run

Studies have stated that human performance is limited by our minds, not only by our muscles. When the brain sends a signal to the muscles that it is tired, we tend to slow down, even though we can still push ourselves.

BCAA’s increases our power output by providing instant energy that increases our time to reach exhaustion later on. This means we delay getting tired.

It has also been shown in some studies that BCAA’s may minimize the effects of the mental fatigue that seem to affect runners.

During endurance race, as both the glycogen level and BCAA levels are depleted, a high amount of tryptophan goes into the brain, where it is converted to serotonin that creates a feeling of fatigue.

BCAA’s can stop this by inhibiting the uptake of tryptophan by the brain. This delays fatigue and helps to have a better run.

During long-distance endurance running, we burn many calories. At some point, we can exhaust our muscles and our energy store.

BCAA supplements, mixed into or taken with a drink and sipped during the run can help us keep ourself hydrated and provide us with energy.

This is especially super-efficient for marathoners, ultrarunners, and triathletes who can keep up with their pace and do not break the run with these supplements.

BCAA’s After a Run

Taking BCAA’s shortly after the run can be potentially beneficial. It can help reduce fatigue and muscle soreness while speeding up our muscle recovery.

Supplementing with BCAA’s can repair the small tears in our muscles that are caused by running, reverting back to the strength that the muscle had. It becomes stronger than it was before.

Leucine, one of the BCAA’s is great at stimulating muscle protein synthesis, which signals other amino acids in the body to form muscles .

According to a study, runners who were performing regular runs and training sessions, found 33% of higher muscle protein synthesis during the recovery period and lower overall body protein breakdown when runners took the BCAA supplements.

BCAA’s also reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness), which means pain relief, reduced tension, improved recovery which helps to maximize our performance.

Taking BCAA’s after the run helps increase muscle synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown.

How Much BCAA’s to Consume

BCAA supplementation is individual specific and depends upon a lot of factors such as weight, gender, physical activity, and duration of our activity.

Even though BCAA’s are readily available from foods mainly animal products and whole grains, the extra protein or amino acid needed for a runner can be effectively met by BCAA supplements in a proper dose.

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Enjoy BCAA'S, Feel Good, Enjoy Nice Great Runs!


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