Ask Leyla: What are some good sources of BCAAs?

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| By Leyla Muedin MS, RD, CDN

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Q: I know that branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are popular supplements for people who are strength training. But I’m not a huge fan of whey.

Are there any other sources of BCAA?

sources of branch chain amino acidsA: There is a great misconception that BCAAs are only present in whey protein. However, some of the best sources of BCAAs are eggs, poultry, fish and meat. Additionally, plant sources such as beans, lentils, brown rice and nuts contain smaller amounts of BCAAs per serving.

Branched chain amino acids consist of leucine, isoleucine and valine—all essential amino acids and named for their branched molecular structure. The BCAAs are the main drivers in the synthesis and repair of skeletal muscle, making them essential post-exercise or for treating sarcopenia (diminishing muscle mass) which can occur with illness and/or advancing age.

While whey protein is an excellent source of BCAAs, individuals with dairy allergy or sensitivity are better off avoiding it altogether, as are those following a Paleo or Whole 30 program that not only eliminate dairy, but grains and legumes too.

There is a one-hour window after strenuous exercise that is optimal for taking BCAAs to promote protein synthesis in muscles and to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage. While I am a proponent of using whey protein as a source of BCAAs for my athletic clients without any known dairy intolerances, as well as my sarcopenic patients who need the additional protein and calories, you can just as easily get them eating a balanced meal of good quality animal protein and plant proteins such as beans and nuts.

To your health!

As you may know, I’ve been doing a weekly “Q&A with Leyla” podcast feature with Dr. Hoffman. Now you can get my perspective and expertise every Friday on my own episode of the Intelligent Medicine Podcast. If you missed last week’s, you can listen here. To be sure you don’t miss out on any of my important insights and information, subscribe today!

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