BCAAs for Women: How They Can Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals

BCAA for women: woman using a resistance band

BCAAs for Women: How They Can Help You Reach Your Fitness Goals

If reaching your fitness goals is important to you, it’s time to learn more about branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These unique amino acids are especially useful if you take part in intense exercise, athletic performance, or bodybuilding.

While they can be helpful for both men and women, there are some particular benefits of BCAAs for women, including muscle building, muscle recovery, and fat loss.

Let’s look at why BCAAs for women are so important and how much you should consume to see results. We’ll also look at how to choose a high-quality BCAA supplement that helps you meet your health and fitness goals.

What Are BCAAs?

Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein, and when you consume protein, your body breaks it down into its component amino acids. These are recombined through protein synthesis to create new proteins.

Your body then uses those new proteins to build your entire physical structure and your tissues, including muscles, bones, and organs. Protein is also used to produce hemoglobin, enzymes, and hormones to strengthen your immune system and keep up your energy levels.

Branched-chain amino acids are a category of essential amino acids. They’re “essential” because your body can’t make them. As such, you must get them from your diet, specifically from protein. The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Benefits of BCAAs for Women

BCAA for women: group of people exercising using a kettlebell

BCAAs for women have very specific functions. For example, leucine activates muscle protein synthesis, valine and isoleucine help produce energy, and isoleucine also helps manage blood sugar levels. Let’s look at some of the most important benefits of BCAAs for women.

Muscle Building

While all amino acids are involved in building protein, the BCAAS are especially critical for muscle protein synthesis.

When you’re doing high-intensity resistance exercise with the goal of building muscle and gaining strength, you’re essentially creating small tears in your muscle tissue. When this muscle damage is repaired, it creates bigger and stronger muscles.

Because testosterone is involved in building muscle, and women have less testosterone than men, it’s harder for women to build muscle mass. BCAAs increase testosterone, helping women with muscle building.

To boost muscle growth, make sure you get enough of all the BCAAs, especially leucine, which activates the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway and triggers muscle protein synthesis.

Prevents Muscle Breakdown

To maintain your hard-won muscle gain, you need to counteract the process of catabolism, otherwise known as muscle breakdown. Catabolism happens when you’re in a fasted state — in other words, you haven’t eaten for a while — while exercising intensively. For example, you may be doing endurance exercise or a lot of cardio during a training session.

Even if you load up on carbohydrates in preparation for an endurance session, at some point you’ll use up all the glucose that’s freely available in your body. To keep you fueled, your body then starts to break down your muscle tissue to access the glycogen stored there, which can result in muscle loss. To avoid that, you need to top up your BCAAs, giving your body the resources it needs to keep going and maintain your muscle mass. 

Less Fatigue, More Muscle Recovery

BCAA for women: athlete planking while using a kettlebell

That feeling of muscle fatigue you get after a long and intense workout is caused by a hormone called serotonin. To produce serotonin, your body uses tryptophan. BCAAs compete with tryptophan for uptake to the brain. As such, if you take BCAAs as a pre-workout supplement, you’ll feel less fatigued and be able to keep going for longer, enhancing your performance.

BCAAs for women also help improve muscle recovery and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Basically, if you boost your BCAAs before you exercise intensively on training days, your body will thank you afterward.

Fat Burning

If your goal is weight loss, you’re probably restricting your calories as well as working out. That means you need to be careful not to lose muscle mass to catabolism. BCAAs can boost fat burning while helping you maintain your carefully cultivated lean muscle.

As a bonus, lean muscle mass speeds up your metabolic rate, helping you burn even more fat. And because any protein you eat helps to keep you feeling full for longer, BCAAs also reduce the urge to snack, making it easy to keep your calorie count down. 

Best BCAA Supplements for Women

Woman preparing her protein shake

You can get BCAAs from complete protein sources like beef, chicken, eggs, dairy, quinoa, hemp, and chia seeds. If you’re training intensively though, you probably need more than you can get from whole foods.

High-quality whey protein powders and amino acid supplements do contain BCAAs, but in those forms, the BCAAs are bound to other amino acids. If you want a fast-acting BCAA supplement for women that your body can quickly digest, absorb, and then put to work building muscle, you’re probably better off with a pure BCAA powder supplement.

When researching BCAA products, make sure to check the amount of BCAAs it contains. Although most of the research has been done on men, you probably need 10-20 grams of BCAAs in total per day, in a ratio of 2:1:1 of leucine:isoleucine:valine — perhaps a bit more if you’re exercising intensively.

Also, check the label for other ingredients you may prefer to avoid in your supplements, such as sugar, gluten, artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives.

For best results, choose a high-quality brand like Ingredient Optimized ioBCAA, which has been independently proven to be more bioavailable than non-optimized BCAA supplements. You can find ioBCAA partner products at your local retail store or online soon.

This product has a neutral taste, which means it’s easy to add to your favorite pre-workout or post-workout smoothie or snack. You could also consider adding other helpful ingredients to your smoothie, like electrolytes to help with hydration, and creatine and glutamine for an extra boost of energy and muscle power.

Side Effects of BCAAs for Women

BCAAs appear to be safe for most people, but there is some research that indicates it might be risky to take them if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s also best to avoid BCAAs if you have the rare but serious condition known as Maple Syrup Urine Disease.

If you have any other health conditions, consult a professional healthcare practitioner before taking any new supplements.

Note: Because BCAAs suppress serotonin — which helps regulate your sleep — you probably want to avoid taking it just before going to bed.

Do You Need BCAAs?

BCAAs are essential amino acids that help women build and maintain muscle, recover quickly from intense exercise, and manage body composition. You can get BCAAs from whole foods but if you’re working out a lot, you may need a fast-absorbing BCAA supplement.

Make sure you choose a high-quality supplement that gives you the results you’re looking for. After all, BCAAs for women can keep you going strong and help you maintain those hard-earned muscles.