BCAAs for Women: What You Need to Know

By Alex Hoffmann on June, 2 2021
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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

Do you, as a trainer and health professional, need to learn specifically about BCAAs for women? Does gender play a role in how they work in the body?

First, it’s important to remember what BCAAs are and why they matter. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a subset of three essential amino acids: leucine, valine and isoleucine. The unique chemical structure of BCAAs differentiates them from the other six essential amino acids.

BCAAs are composed of one carbon atom nucleus with three or more adjoining carbon atoms
that branch out from the center. Since the human body cannot produce BCAAs on its own, they
must be absorbed from nutrients in the diet. The average daily BCAA intake recommended for
most healthy adults is as follows:

  • Women: Minimum of 9 grams per day
  • Men: Minimum of 12 grams per day

Women and men benefit from this valuable protein source, but what do you need to know about
BCAAs for women? Keep these factors in mind when working with female clients.

Keep Reading: Prenatal Nutrition for Active Women

Set yourself apart: Earn your degree in fitness!  

 

BCAAs Promote Muscle Growth and Repair

Athletes who consume BCAAs before a strenuous, intensive workout are shown to recover
optimally from the damage to their muscle fibers caused by exercise, according to Nutrients
Journal. This is due to a process called muscle protein synthesis which these essential amino
acids stimulate during post-workout recovery.

Protein synthesis works to repair microtears in the muscle tissues to alleviate soreness and
fatigue, as well as increase the size and strength of your muscles overall. This can be especially valuable for your female clients because the Frontiers in Nutrition research found that BCAAs can protect against muscle loss that occurs with age in many women.


BCAAs Help to Regulate Metabolic Function


A slow metabolism can make it difficult to lose excess fat and maintain a healthy weight. Over
time, this can increase your risk of chronic medical issues such as cardiovascular disease,
hypertension and obesity. However, the concentration of BCAAs in many high-protein diets can
help the body metabolize fat enzymes and glucose sugars more efficiently to promote lean
muscle mass and reduce fat storage accumulation, explains the Nutrition and Metabolism
Journal.

This makes BCAAs for women valuable because the females tend to have a slower metabolism
than their male counterparts thanks to muscle mass and body size. As such, increasing protein
intake can aid in weight loss for women, specifically supporting a reduced hip to waist ratio.
BCAAs Help Maintain Hormone Balance

The right balance of hormone secretion allows each physiological function to occur as it’s
designed to. In many cases, BCAAs help contribute to hormonal balance, according to the The
British Journal of Pharmacology.

The journal suggests that these amino acids increase the hormones leptin, adiponectin and
glucagon which moderate appetite, convert fat cells into energy, and sustain blood sugar levels.
Additionally, BCAAs can stimulate the release of hormones to fight viral or bacterial infections,
as well as manage the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries and mental health conditions.

Women naturally experience hormonal imbalances throughout their lifetime. When this
happens, they may experience a drop in energy, which can affect their ability to stay active.
BCAAs can be a valuable support tool in managing this health challenge for your female clients.

Keep Reading: Intermittent Fasting 101 – What you need to know

BCAA Sources: Whole Foods and Supplements

While BCAAs for women can’t be ignored, like any area of fitness and health, it’s important to
consider best practices. For example, it’s best to consume most BCAA intake from whole food
sources if possible, suggest registered dietitians Melissa Majumdar and Lisa Bonci in Runner’s
World. Animal proteins have all nine essential amino acids, including BCAAs, but if you adhere
to a vegetarian diet, you can combine various plant-based proteins for an adequate amount of
BCAAs as well.

The whole foods sources below contain all three branched chain amino acids, according to Majumdar and Bonci:

Animal Proteins

  • Poultry
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Milk
  • Eggs
Plant-Based Proteins
  • Tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Red Lentils
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Peanuts

If your clients want to boost your BCAA intake with supplementation, there are a few factors to
keep in mind: the quality of ingredients, the supplement form (capsule or powder), and the dosage amount for your nutrition and fitness needs. Let’s break these down further:

 

Ingredient Quality

The ingredient list should also contains leucine, valine and isoleucine with no artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors or preservatives. To ensure this product is safe for consumption, verify that it’s been tested by a reputable third-party such as the NSF Certification for Sport.

 

Supplement Form

This is a matter of preference. Clients can choose the kind of supplement that’s easiest and most convenient for them to take. BCAA powders can be used as extra bulk for a smoothie if you want a complete meal, whereas swallowing a capsule is quicker. When choosing a capsule, your clients should look at the BCAA concentration first. They may need to take more than one to equal the amount in a powder.

 

Dosage Amount

The right amount of BCAAs for women will differ from the average RDA depending on exercise level, body weight and nutrient deficiencies. The National Institutes of Health report that, in most cases, it’s safe to supplement with 20g of BCAA daily for six weeks, but recommend that clients consult with a physician to be sure.

It’s important to know that too much BCAA consumption (more than the average RDA) can lead
to insulin resistance which is a risk factor for Type-2 diabetes. Women should also consider that
research recommends avoiding BCAAs in the early days of pregnancy. Isoleucine can interfere
with the hormones responsible for a healthy fetus growth in utero.

 

BCAAs Are Part of a Healthy, Balanced Diet for Women

The potential wellness benefits of BCAAs for women are extensive. Whether your clients want
to build lean, strong muscles, balance their hormones or develop a more efficient metabolism,
BCAAs can be a valuable tool. Always recommend your clients consult with a doctor before
using any supplements as requirements and cautions can differ from one person to the next.

It’s time to take your fitness education to the next level : Earn your degree!  

 

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

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