Women are busier than ever these days. Not only must they succeed in their careers, but modern women must also balance family, friends, health and mental wellbeing. As such, when you hit the gym, you must get the most out of your workouts. You also need to recover quickly.

Branch chained amino acids are all over the news. Could it be that the key to workout progress is as simple as taking a BCAA for women supplement? Are there any negative side effects of these amino acids? Do they function differently in men and women? We know you have a lot of questions, so we did the research for you.

In this article, we take an in-depth look at BCAAs for women. To give you the most reliable information possible, we read through dozens of articles and medical journals. We also considered the opinions of professional fitness trainers, workout enthusiasts, and dieticians.

If you are thinking about changing your diet or taking a supplement, you should consult with a dietician or medical provider fist. This is specifically important if you have any illnesses or medical disorders that a change in diet could aggravate. Continue reading for everything you need to know about BCAAs and the female body.

What Are BCAAs?

To understand BCAAs, you must first understand glycogen. Glycogen is a substance stored in muscle tissue and other places. You can think of it as stored fuel. When you exercise, your body uses glycogen to produce the energy that gets you through physical activity. As you may suspect, your body does not have a limitless supply of this fuel. At some point, it runs out. What happens next is important to understanding BCAAs.

After your exercise depletes your glycogen supply, your body uses three types of amino acids for energy. Together, the amino acids, valine, leucine, and isoleucine are known as BCAAs. It's great that your body has a backup plan for delivering energy during physical activity. The catch, though, is that the human body is incapable of producing this backup power on its own. If you want to continue exercising after glycogen is gone, you need to have ingested BCAAs before your workout.

What Are the Benefits of BCAAs?

Fit women have long recognized the many benefits of BCAAs. Some credit the three amino acids as being the key to being both lean and strong. While all women are different, you may see the following benefits from adding BCAAs to your diet:

  • Improved training enthusiasm
  • Less fatigue
  • Faster recovery after a workout
  • Reduced muscle soreness
  • Less visceral belly fat
  • More muscle

Since scientists and physicians have studied these amino acids for years, the medical literature is extensive. Some studies show that consuming BCAAs contributes to longevity. This could be due to the fact that they tend to lower body fat and increase muscle. Some physicians also think that there could be some benefit for diabetics and others who have insulin sensitivities with glucose uptake. While this information is promising, you should talk to your doctor before relying on BCAAs to improve diabetes or any other medical conditions.

Where Can You Get BCAAs?

tuna dish

Like most nutrients, BCAAs are found in many common foods. You must eat a diet rich in valine, leucine, and isoleucine since your body cannot produce them on its own. Fortunately, they are probably hiding in the foods you already eat. If you want more BCAAs, you must eat more of these foods. For greatest effect, you must choose foods that have all three amino acids.

Fish commonly have leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Not all types of seafood have them, though, so you must be careful which foods you consume. Here is a list of BCAA-rich fish:

  • Trout
  • Whitefish
  • Wild salmon
  • Tuna
  • Haddock
  • Cod

We realize that not every woman loves eating fish. If you prefer to get nutrients from land-dwelling animals, there are plenty of BCAA-rich meats. Here are some:

  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey breast
  • Flank steak
  • Lean beef

If you are a vegetarian, you probably aren’t excited about loading up on BCAAs by eating fish or meat. You have options, though. Here are some fish-free and meatless offerings that have BCAAs:

bcaa for women
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Eggs

Consuming BCAAs as a vegan can be more challenging. While none of the following have all the BCAAs you need, each has a significant amount of essential amino acids:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole Wheat
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Chickpeas
  • Lima beans

Regardless of your eating habits, the fish, meat, vegetarian and vegan options for consuming BCAAs are considerably varied. If you need some help whipping up a delicious entrée, there are hundreds of recipes that use BCAA-rich ingredients. You can also find BCAA supplements online or at a nutrition center.

Are BCAA Supplements a Good Alternative to BCAA-Rich Foods?

We understand not everyone is fond of fish, chicken, lean beef and eggs. If eating these foods isn’t your thing, you may be wondering if you can get sufficient BCAAs by taking a daily supplement. The simple answer is yes. Of course, not all supplements are created equally. It is important to find the best BCAA supplement for you.

Liquid supplements usually take effect faster than their pill counterparts. With pill supplements, you have to wait for your digestive system before you notice any benefit. In some cases, pills pass through without digesting at all. As such, workout enthusiasts often choose to consume a BCAA supplement as part of a daily workout mix. Fortunately, there are some excellent liquid options on the market today. These usually come mixed with either soy or whey protein, giving you more bang for your buck.

When shopping for a BCAA supplement, you must keep a few numbers in mind. Usually, supplement manufacturers list BCAA ingredients in a ratio. The first number is leucine, the second is isoleucine and the third is valine. You will likely see these numbers represented as either 3:1:1 or 2:1:1. These are the best combinations of the amino acids. If you choose a 1:1:1 mix, you likely aren’t consuming enough leucine for your supplement to be effective.

Also, whenever you shop for supplements, it is important to know exactly what you are consuming. Unfortunately, many products are full of unnecessary colors, chemicals, and other additives. Some even have toxic substances in their ingredient list. If you have trouble understanding what your supplement contains, ask an expert. Online forums are full of them. Alternatively, do a quick internet search to make sure you aren’t swallowing something you’d rather not.

If you are pregnant, are nursing or have a medical condition, you should be careful about taking supplements. The best strategy for staying healthy is to discuss your fitness and dietary goals with a physician before taking any supplements. This isn’t a bad idea for all women.

How Many BCAAs Do You Need To Consume?

More fitness experts recommend women consume a three- to a five-gram serving of BCAAs every day. That’s about a normal-sized serving of one of the proteins listed above. Also, most women-targeted supplements list recommended daily values on the packaging. Check the nutritional label to make sure you are getting enough BCAAs to increase your odds of seeing fitness improvements.

As important as consuming enough BCAAs is, consuming them at the right time is also critical. If you get your BCAAs from food, eat an amino-acid-rich meal 45 minutes to an hour before your workout. For supplements, taking your pre-workout mix 20 minutes before physical activity should do the trick. You must remember, though, that every woman is different. You may need to tinker with serving size, timing or both to get the most out of BCAAs.

The Verdict: BCAA for Women Can Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals

woman doing yoga pose

If you are like most women, you have a busy life. Trying to stay fit and navigate a hectic existence can be challenging. It isn’t impossible, though. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle or increase energy, BCAAs may be an effective component in your overall strategy.

The health benefits of BCAAs are hard to ignore. Not only can they help you shed belly fat while increasing lean muscle, but they may also extend your life. They may even help you better manage certain health conditions. Again, you must discuss dietary and fitness changes with your doctor to know how best to proceed.

For most women, consuming three to five grams of BCAAs every day is all it takes to notice fitness benefits. If you want to incorporate more into your diet, you have a variety of options. Chicken, turkey breast, some fish and lean beef all contain essential amino acids. For full effect, eat BCAA-rich foods 45 minutes or an hour before physical activity.

If you want to take a BCAA supplement, choosing a liquid one will probably give you the maximum absorption rate. You can also likely find a soy or whey protein shake or mix with included BCAAs. Choosing a 3:1:1 or 2:1:1 makeup is usually best.  Also, be sure you consume any liquid amino acid supplement about 20 minutes before your workout for full effect.

The verdict on BCAAs for women is clear. Simply put, they can probably help you reach your fitness goals.

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