Do You Need More Energy During Your Workout?

If you are one of those workout enthusiasts who really pushes themselves, it’s not uncommon to become fatigued and lack energy during your workout. Many people have been told that they needed to consume carbohydrates in order to get their energy back. This is why so many people drink Gatorade or other carb drinks during or after exercise.  What if you are trying to consume a low carb diet? What if you are trying to run your gas tank empty?  You definitely don’t want to be consuming carbs.

Have you ever thought about consuming branch chained amino acids (BCAA) instead?

What are BCAAs?

WebMD explains:

Branched-chain amino acids are essential nutrients. They are proteins found in food. Your muscles "burn" these amino acids for energy.

The specific amino acids that make up the branched-chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The term branched-chain simply refers to their chemical structure.

The late Charles Poliquin, recognized as one of the World’s most accomplished strength coaches, explains:

Unlike other amino acids, branch chained amino acids (BCAAs) are used as a form of energy by muscle cells and can be used during trining to increase the quality of the workout.  BCAAs have numerous other benefits for athletes, including modifying hormone profiles to increase muscle mass.

What foods contain BCAAs?

    • Whey, milk, and soy proteins

    • Beef, chicken, fish, and eggs

    • Baked beans and lima beans

    • Chickpeas

    • Lentils

    • Brown rice

    • Almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews

    • Pumpkin seeds

When you are working out, you cannot consume milk, meat, nuts, or seeds without needing to digest those foods. Instead of consuming these foods, you would mix a powder form of BCAAs with water.  The convenience of drinking the BCAAs is that they do not need to be digested. They are simply absorbed quickly.

Could BCAAs help with athletes?

Huntington College of Health Sciences discussed the benefits of BCAA consumption below.

Prevention of fatigue and BCAA’s with athletes occurs in two primary ways. First, the loss of ATP or cellular energy occurs with the loss of stored glucose in the form of glycogen. ATP levels are maintained by BCAA’s degradation and fatty acid utilization after glycogen depletion. The effect of BCAA’s as energy is approximately 3-18% and possibly more depending on duration and or intensity of the workout. Muscle tissue can oxidize leucine for energy or convert leucine into glutamine or alanine for blood energy. Glutamine or alanine can be converted into glucose. Also isoleucine and valine can be converted to Krebs cycle components for energy as well; making all three BCAA’s a valuable source of muscle energy.

 

The second primary fatigue fighter for BCAA’s is seen with BCAA’s ability to prevent central fatigue in the nervous system. Central fatigue happens with the uptake of tryptophan by the brain increasing the levels of serotonin. Serotonin increases tiredness and fatigue demanding reset. BCAA’s inhibit the brains ability to uptake tryptophan decreasing the brain levels of tryptophan. BCAA’s do prevents sleep apnea in normal adults.

 

For endurance athletes the use of BCAA’s before and after the workout has shown to be effective in reducing total time for events. Cyclist and marathoners have shown positive effects when using BCAA’s immediately before events and during an event. Improvements in mental performance and reduction in times have been noted. The reduction of lactic acid levels have been shown in some studies (reduced burn). Muscle mass loss has been shown to be reduced also. Two weeks of supplementation has shown improvements in time-trial cyclist, with trained athletes.

In a 2013 Korean study, researchers concluded that BCAAs benefited specifically endurance athletes

It is presumed that an intake of the BCAA can lower the concentration of serotonin, a central fatigue substance, during endurance exercise, which subsequently can reduce the concentrations of muscle damage.

In other words, consuming BCAA will cause a hormonal reaction thus preventing fatigue and muscle damage from occurring.

Personally, I do not know how anyone works out without BCAAs.  When I drink them outside of the workout, I admit, the flavor is just fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, during the workout or immediately following the workout, it is the single greatest thing my body craves.  Even before I found out about BCAA’s energy benefits, I always said I got extra energy from them. This isn’t just a short burst of energy like you would get from drinks like Gatorade. The energy I get from BCAA’s is sustainable.

One of the products I recommend using are Life Time’s Amino Complex.  It has 1.25g leucine, 625mg isoleucine, and 625mg of valine. The second BCAA I recommend is Life Time’s Recovery.  It has 3g leucine, 1g isoleucine, and 1 g of valine. More BCAAs are in the recovery in order to aid the body in the repair of the broken down muscle fibers.  

Here is the breakdown I recommend with clients with consuming BCAAs

    • 1 scoop of Life Time Amino Complex 10-30 minutes prior to exercise

    • 1 scoop of Life Time Amino Complex during workout

    • 1 scoop of Life Time Recovery immediately following workout

What can you do?

Whether or not you are doing group fitness workouts, lifting weights, circuits, sprints, or endurance training, everyone can benefit from incorporating BCAAs before, during, and for recovery.  Since BCAAs are not digested, they will absorb within minutes and be readily available for the body to utilize for energy. BCAAs will be oxidize them for energy, prevent nervous system fatigue, or lowering your concentration of serotonin.  In other words, they are your best friend at workout time.

If you want to purchase pharmaceutical grade BCAAs, simply follow the steps below:

  • Go to https://shop.lifetimefitness.com/
  • Search: "BCAA"
  • Click on “Login”
  • Enter your name and password from your myLT profile, and click on the “my autoships” tab.
  • Enter Trainer ID “ 10963 “ to receive an additional 15% off your purchase.

 

Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified

Youth & High School Track & Football Coach

Health and Fitness writer for Goals.com

2 comments
  • Leigh Williston
    Leigh Williston
    1 follower
    Definitely something to consider! I've always felt depleted when I exercise but never looked into it.
    April 10
  • Daniel Chen
    Daniel Chen
    4 followers
    Interesting. What's the difference between using this and pre workout powder?
    April 10