Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are highly revered ingredients in the supplement industry due to their ability to boost muscle growth, enhance exercise performance, and reduce fatigue. BCAAs consist of 3 essential acids namely Valine, Isoleucine, and Leucine.
BCAA supplements are some of the safest, but many people are worried about potential side effects of using them. The following is a detailed examination of the reported side effects in an attempt at separating fact from fiction.
Potential Side Effects of BCAAs
1. BCAA and Hair Loss
BCAA does not cause hair loss and may help prevent it. A recent theory on hair loss is that it is a result of deficiencies in the potassium ion channels of the hair follicles. BCAA supplements have shown promise in boosting the potassium ions thus helping in improving the effectiveness of hair loss medications. Hair is mostly made of protein, and a large percentage of it consists BCAAs. It, therefore, makes sense that maintaining the levels of BCAAs in the body is essential for the growth and health of hair.
2. BCAA and Acne
Acne is a common skin condition affecting close to 10 percent of the population. Acne is usually associated with the teenage years, but it has been claimed that a high intake of protein could lead to the development of acne. The Leucine present in BCAAs is believed to be the main culprit since it activates lipid production. However, more research needs to be done to verify the claims. If you experience a flare up, you can reduce the development of acne by reducing your overall intake of dairy.
3. BCAA and Stomach Problems
Users of BCAA supplements have reported experiencing stomach problems such as cramps and gas, but no evidence has been provided that links this to BCAA use. It is often an increased intake of carbohydrates and other foods that cause flatulence that is usually responsible. If this has been eliminated as the culprit, you could be among the very few people that have problems with digesting chain amino acids. If you experience this, you should try making some dietary changes such as taking certain spices such as coriander and turmeric or probiotics such as yogurt.
4. BCAA and Depression
It has been suggested that BCAA supplements can cause severe mental health problems such as depression due to some nutrient interactions. Evidence suggests that a small tryptophan to BCAA ratio is associated with depressive symptoms. However, no actual studies have lined BCAA supplementation with depression. The BCAA to tryptophan ratio can be reduced by supplementing during periods that increase the absorption of the amino acids into the muscle, such as with physical activity and increased carbohydrate intake. Depression has far more complicated sets of causes than just BCAA supplementation.
5. BCAA and Kidney Damage
It has been debated for a long time whether a higher protein diet can affect the functioning of kidneys. However, no evidence exists to link the two. Kidney function does not seem to be impacted by a higher protein intake in people with healthy kidneys. It is only for people with the early stages of kidney problems or those with damaged kidneys where dietary protein becomes an issue. BCAA supplements have been suggested as a viable way of ensuring that those with kidney disease have the required essential amino acids without the need to increase their intake of proteins.
Result : False
The Bottom Line
BCAA supplementation has been linked to many other proposed side effects such as tingling, diarrhea, rashes, and headaches in addition to the ones discussed here. However, the truth is that those claims have no basis. The only ‘real’ side effects may be a loss of motor coordination and fatigue, but this only happens in those with pre-existing medical conditions. Supplementing with BCAAs is great for improving your training and maximizing your results. The benefits associated with BCAA supplementation significantly outweigh the small likelihood of negligible side effects.