In this day and age, there seems to be hundreds of options for energy boosting, nutritional supplements. Finding the right combination of nutritional supplements for yourself is always down to the individual, even if the nutrients we need are all the same. Some people focus solely on diet, while others turn to specialized products like shakes, pills and more.

One nutrient that is especially important for building and maintaining muscle is branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs).

BCAAs are essential amino acids that account for over thirty-five percent of the essential amino-acids in our bodies. They are defined by having an “aliphatic side-chain” and a branch composed of a central carbon atom bound to three or more other carbon atoms. In simpler terms, BCAAs are super-food for your muscles, assisting in energy storage, muscle recovery and retention.

The three main BCAAs necessary for our bodies are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. None of those three are produced by the body itself, so its up to each person to find them through their diet or supplements. All of these BCAAs occur naturally in foods, but if you don’t know what you’re eating, they can be easy to miss. Many companies offer supplements that contain all three essential BCAAs.

Let’s go over in more detail the benefits BCAAs for your body, and review where you can get your BCAAs from.


What Good Do They Do?

I took this straight off of Wikipedia: “BCAAs fill several metabolic and physiologic roles. Metabolically, BCAAs promote protein synthesis and turnover, signaling pathways, and metabolism of glucose.”

Let’s break that down a little.

“Protein synthesis and turnover” is how your body makes proteins, which are necessary components of cell structure and function. No proteins = a body that is falling apart. Your body needs amino acids, BCAAs included, to assist during protein synthesis. Think of the amino acids as the building blocks of proteins. They are there every step of the way, helping to make new proteins, assisting in replacing old ones, and managing the process throughout. Without BCAAs, your muscles would simply degrade. They are as necessary as vitamin C, fiber, or any other nutrient.

An additional benefit of BCAAs has to do with the “metabolism of glucose,” or put in another way, energy. You see, BCAAs have an insulin-like effect on glucose. BCAAs can be oxidized and stored in skeletal muscles (that’s muscles like biceps, calves, basically any muscle that’s attached to a bone). When you use those skeletal muscles, whether that’s doing push-ups or going about your daily agenda, the stored BCAAs will serve as a little energy pack to assist you in your activities. This reduces the process of glycogenolysis by which your liver produces glucose. So the more BCAAs you have stored in your muscles, the less glucose your body needs to produce to create energy.

Another benefit of BCAAs is the reduction of creatine kinase. To skip over any more fancy jargon, I’ll just say this: creatine kinase means your muscles recover faster. You will be less sore after a workout, meaning you can get back to your exercise regimen and maintain your body’s level of productivity (no matter what activity you are engaged with) more efficiently.

BCAAs are without a doubt the wonder food of muscles.


So What Are My Options?

Since BCAAs are not produced naturally by the body, a person has to consume foods or beverages that contain them. This includes meats like beef, chicken, and tuna, as well as dairy, like yogurt and cheese. Soy also has large amounts of BCAAs. Eating regular portions of food rich in BCAAs should provide your body with all the muscle-assisting BCAAs it needs. For most people, this is no problem

However, for those with dietary restrictions, finding regular amounts BCAAs in the foods you eat can be more of a challenge. Vegans, vegetarians and those with food allergies have to plan their meals out to match their body’s nutritional needs. That’s where protein supplements and drinks made with BCAAs can come in.

Companies such as Nocco (short for “no carb company”) are making BCAA products that are both convenient to drink or eat, and don’t fill your body with other harmful components like sugar, carbs, or additives. A BCAA drink, such as Nocco, which comes in a can, takes out all stress over dietary management by making BCAAs as easy to consume as drinking your morning coffee or having an afternoon tea. Ideal as a morning super-starter or pre-workout energizer, Nocco is also a great option for anybody with specific dietary restrictions that make it hard to get BCAAs from normal sources like meat and dairy.

I tried the “Caribbean” flavor, expecting something along the lines of a Red Bull or Monster energy drink. I opened up the can right after I woke up, replacing my usual morning two cups of coffee with it to see if I noticed any difference in my energy levels.

The flavor was much better, in my opinion, than other energy and pre-workout drinks I have had; the natural grapefruit flavor is definitely a hit. It was not overly sweet, sour or bitter. Often, energy drinks and pre-workouts are a chore to drink but this was closer to pleasure. Not bad at all. The carbonation was light enough to be refreshing without it feeling like a soda. Despite being sugar-free, the Nocco did not have an artificially sweet taste either.

I was impressed with the energy I felt from the drink. While some energy drinks can leave me feeling jittery and over-stimulated, Nocco gave me a steady boost similar to drinking a cup of coffee. My body and mind both felt light and ready for work. Best of all, that steady feeling of energy lasted all day. I could see myself replacing my coffee with a Nocco once or twice a week, especially if I was planning a big morning hike or had a long day ahead of me.

On top of all the benefits from the branch-chained amino acids in Nocco, each can also has fifty percent of your daily value of Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Biotin, and Niacin, making it an all around nutritional drink.

BCAAs are essential components to body nutrition. Using a product like Nocco can ensure that you are giving your body the necessary ingredients to succeed. Hopefully you now know what the benefits of branch-chain amino acids are and what you need to do to make sure they are a part of your diet.

By Aldo Moreno