If you’re going to use branch-chain amino acids as a supplement, finding the appropriate dose is key. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all dosing model for branched-chain amino acids.
Essential amino acids are different from BCAAs and are only available through food and various protein supplements. There are many different sources of essential amino acids to choose from, so it’s not hard to get BCAAs in your diet.
Here are the US’s recommended amounts for the 9 amino acids. These amounts are based on 2.2 pounds (or 1 kilogram) of body weight:
- Histidine: 14 mg
- Isoleucine: 19 mg
- Leucine: 42 mg
- Lysine: 38 mg
- Methionine: 19 mg
- Phenylalanine: 33 mg
- Threonine: 20 mg
- Tryptophan: 5 mg
- Valine: 24 mg
Food Sources of BCAA
Complete proteins are foods that contain all nine of these amino acids. Some of the best sources of complete proteins are meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs.
Some plant-based options that also contain complete proteins are soy, buckwheat, and quinoa. Beans and nuts are also good sources of protein, but they are considered incomplete because they do not contain all of the essential amino acids.
For those who are on a plant based diet, the best way to get all of your amino acids is to eat a variety of different protein sources. This way, you can get the combination of amino acids you need from a variety of different sources, without eating meat.
These amino acids are absolutely crucial for nutrient absorption, protein synthesis, and tissue repair. Your body needs these amino acids to stay in good condition and function properly.
Amino acids can also prevent muscle loss, which is why they are so popular among athletes. Some amino acids can also help you lose weight, improve your mood, support healthy sleep habits, and increase your athletic performance.
Muscle Loss Prevention
We already know that BCAAs are very helpful for people with athletic lifestyles. You might also be wondering if BCAAs can help during periods where you can’t use your muscles, such as being put on bedrest or in a cast.
Periods of time like this are called muscle unloading. Regardless of your age, periods of time spent like this will result in serious loss of muscle mass. There is some indication that taking BCAAs can help during these periods of time, similar to HMB. However, they only really help when your protein intake is low, under 0.8 grams per kg of weight.
If your protein intake is over 1.2 grams per kg of bodyweight, BCAA supplements don’t seem to make much difference. Multiple studies have shown that adding supplements to a low protein diet can prevent muscle loss and fat gain.
For example, taking approximately 4.4 grams of leucine with three daily meals will help preserve muscle strength in bedridden adults only if they are consuming under 0.9 grams of protein per kg per day.
BCAAs vs. Protein Supplements
When looking for a protein supplement, many athletes look at both BCAA and whey powders. Overall, the benefits of taking a whey protein are bigger and more consistent than BCAA.
Whey protein supplements help build muscle strength and mass, and have also been shown to improve muscular recovery time after workouts and prevent soreness.
Whey protein works well because it is a complete protein that is easy for the body to digest. If whey is available, it should be your first option for a protein supplement.
BCAA Daily Dosage Guideline
- Men 12 Grams
- Women 9 Grams
- Athletes 10-20 Grams
The amount of BCAAs you should take will be entirely dependent on what your body needs as well as your personal goals. In 1985, the World Health Organization reported that the average adult needs a minimum of 15 mg of BCAA per pound of body weight, consumed every day.
Since then, research published in the Journal Nutrition has shown that this number might actually be much higher for some people. Some research suggests that number should be as high as 65 mg per pound of body weight per day for some people.
A good guideline from this recent research is 9 grams of BCAA per day for women, and 12 grams for men. BCAAs are highly present in protein, so if your diet naturally includes protein rich foods, you won’t need to supplement with BCAAs.
BCAA Dosage for Athletes
It’s important to note that athletes and people who have highly physical jobs need more BCAAs than the average person, and supplements are one of the easiest ways to make sure you get enough BCAAs.
A good supplement amount for athletes is 10 to 20 grams per day. It’s best to take your BCAA supplements before or after your workout. They can either fuel your muscles or help you recover.
If your goal is to gain a significant amount of muscle, you may want to take BCAAs in the morning or before bed. It’s not clear whether the timing of the supplement is particularly significant.
The average person only needs between 5 and 12 grams of BCAAs per day, depending on their size. You can usually get this amount of branched-chain amino acids through the food you consume.