BCAAs are the building blocks of protein and are essential whether you’re an average Joe or a competitive bodybuilder. But for vegans they are even more important thanks to the drawbacks of living on a vegan diet. Don’t be concerned if you are a vegan however, we’ve created this one stop guide to make sure you know everything you need to about the mysteries of Branched Chain Amino Acids.
What are BCAAs?
BCAA stands for Branched Chain Amino Acid, and these amino acids are the building blocks of protein and muscle growth. There are 20 amino acids in total, with 11 of these being produced by the body naturally. These are referred to as non-essential amino acids (we don’t need to supplement them). The other nine are not produced by the body and must be supplemented through diet for us to get them. These are the essential amino acids.
The nonessential amino acids are; alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. While the essential amino acids are; histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Three of these essential amino acids make up BCAAs
These three are particularly important to our muscles, as they help them grow, develop, and maintain their size. The three BCAAs are isoleucine, leucine and valine, with leucine being the key to protein synthesis and muscle development. For vegans getting these into the diet can be tough as they are mainly present in red meats or milk, but they can be supplemented directly.
BCAAs are most known for their positive impact on repair and recovery. They target muscle inflammation and soreness to reduce the effects. This allows you to feel less and get back into the gym quicker. Thus, enhancing your ability in the gym and the results which follow. Failure to consume the correct amount of amino acids can lead to soreness, muscle tightness, as well as overall fatigue.
For vegans getting BCAAs into their diet can be tough thanks to where they come from, but with correct diet planning day-to-day vegans can easily hit their daily recommended values.
BCAAs and Plant-Based Nutrition
BCAAs are clearly key to diet and nutrition. Unfortunately for those on a plant based diet, you could be missing out. Because vegans cut meat out of their diet completely, they are missing out on a number of key nutrients vitamins and minerals.
Cutting meat out of the diet drastically reduces the amount of protein being consumed. Meat eaters for example get as much as 25g of protein from one chicken breast. This has a direct effect on the amount of amino acids being absorbed by the body every day. This shouldn’t be much of an issue however as vegans can easily up both their protein intake and their amino acid intake.
Plant based protein powders are much like their animal powder contemporaries. Vegan protein sources don’t come much more obvious than a vegan protein powder, these powders are made up of a combination of soy, rice and pea protein, as well as a number of key nutrients. You can take one of these three individually but there are benefits to consuming this combination.
The easiest way for vegans to increase the amount of amino acids they are consuming is through a vegan protein protein source.
Pea, rice and soy proteins combine to create a complete protein, and usually offer over 22 grams of protein per serving. Complete proteins are those which contain sufficient levels of all nine essential amino acids. Adding these three plant proteins together helps to provide a full amino acid profile and will have just as much positive effects on building muscle as a whey protein. So to answer the age old question of does vegan protein powder build muscle as well as meat based protein? The answer is yes, and in fact it does it just as well as any other protein powder.
Protein can also be added to your diet through vegan protein bars or protein snacks. These bars come high in protein, with ones like the Oatein Millionaire Crunch delivering as much as 15g of protein. Most will also have no added sugar and be completely gluten free. Protein bars may not be as effective as a protein powder but they do still provide a protein boost in a tasty snack form.
You can also get extra protein into your diet naturally through vegan foods which are rich in goodness and protein content. There are a number of high protein plant based foods with nuts and seeds like chia seeds. Grains like quinoa are also great. Stir frying them with some other vegetables is a tasty option for adding protein. Vegan peanut butter is a great choice for adding to toast.
The best source of vegan BCAA is to supplement directly through a BCAA powder. These powders offer all three BCAAs in one powder and give enough to hit your daily recommended targets in one serving. Be extra careful to find yourself a vegan BCAA powder however as many have origins in things like human hair or duck feathers, not worth any health benefit if it means consuming that...
As well as protein and BCAAs, it is important to supplement other nutrients, vitamins and minerals to make up for the lack of meat. Vitamin B12, Iron and Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in making sure your body is functioning correctly.
Show Me The BCAA
So for vegans supplementing Branched Chain Amino Acids can be slightly more important than for meat eaters, but not in the way that you may think. BCAAs are important for everyone and because they are nonessential amino acids they have to be supplemented by everyone thorough diet or powder (or capsules).
But vegans don’t need to consume more because plants are evil, they just need to consume more because their diet doesn’t contain as much. That’s why it is key as a vegan to make sure you are getting the right amount of all twenty amino acids as well as the other key vitamins and minerals that can be lower in plant based diets.
For quick and easy ways to add more vegan protein take a look at our vegan protein range of take a look at our latest series of posts on vegan diets:
The advice for vegans is always the same; make sure to properly plan your diet day to day and week to week. This way you will cut out fatty processed foods, get a better all round nutrition plan, and can make sure you are getting the right amounts of all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need.