Should I Be Taking BCAAs?

BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids (not blockchain as my tech brain is conditioned to think haha) are these amazing little things help mend your muscles, recover faster from your workouts, crush it harder, be better at your fitness game, and could even help you burn fat faster. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? BCAAs were a bit intimidating to me at first – seemed like something that someone who was way more advanced than me would need. I was a beginner, what did I know about ‘workout supplements’? So, I did my research.

What are they? There are three types of BCAAs – leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which fuel your body when your glycogen (a molecule used to store glucose, the sugar that gives you energy) runs low. They’re not regularly made by your body, which means they come from your diet. Some research has shown that leucine could help promote fat burning and balance your blood sugar levels (if they’re imbalanced, it could lead to weight gain).

When should I take them? It’s recommended to take them during ‘intense exercise’, where your muscles are tearing and repairing and growing stronger. Think interval and strength training.

How did they help me? There have been a few reasons why I started taking and have continued to take BCAAs. First, I work out in the morning and have ‘fasted’ all night while I was sleeping, so sometimes would feel like I had low energy – drinking BCAAs during my workout has really improved energy levels. The same for when I do a spin class after work – if I can’t get food into my system before had, I’ll make sure to have some BCAA to drink during class so I don’t feel like I’m going to pass out! The other big change I saw was a decrease in the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) – I used to get really sore after an intense spin or heavy lift and it was usually delayed by a day or two. Since taking BCAAs, I’ve been able to ‘bounce back’ quicker, with less sore muscles.

My non-pro, pro tip: Be aware that some BCAAs have caffeine in them (which I wasn’t a fan of). If you don’t mind the boost, go for it! As a non-coffee drinker, I try to avoid caffeine so I love AMRAP. Another great thing about AMRAP is that it has a high ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine (they’re 4:1:1, whereas some I tried were only 2:1:1). If supplements isn’t your thing, you can also get BCAAs through your diet by eating foods like chicken, lean beef, flank steak, tuna, salmon, haddock, cod, turkey, eggs and low-fat greek yogurt.

 

As always, you should talk to a doctor or professional before you make any changes to your diet or supplements! 

Does More Sweat Equal a Better Workout?

I both an avid spinner and weight trainer – both leave me feeling totally different afterward. When I spin, I leave the studio dripping with sweat and out of breath (it’s also a closed-in studio with 43 other people and clearly high on the cardio scale). But with weightlifting, depending on what muscle group I’m working, I could leave the gym dry, as if I haven’t worked out at all. So, does this mean that my weight training isn’t giving me a good workout?

Not really. There’s a definite misconception that if you sweat more, you worked out better and harder, but that’s not always the case.

Why do I sweat? You sweat to lower your body temperature (so it makes sense that when I spin, I sweat more because I’m so damn hot) – then the sweat evaporates and your skin cools down, lowering your temperature.

Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different – so depending on lots of factors (temperature, humidity or even how in shape you are), how much you sweat will vary.

So, if I sweat more, do I burn more calories? Was my workout more effective? Hate to say it, but nope! After a sweaty run outside or a hot yoga class, you might notice your weight go down a bit but that’s just due to water weight, which will come back. They’ve even done research in heated yoga classes + the number of calories burned by men and women. The number was lower than some might think, but that’s because the heat helps muscle flexibility, not intensifying the workout.

Okay, so how can I make my workout more effective if I’m not measuring my sweat? Focus on how long your workouts are and how intense they are. If you’re looking to lose weight (aka burn more calories) – increase the duration of your workouts or the amount of cardio you’re doing. If you’re lifting weights, focus on the amount of weight your lifting and how many reps you’re doing.