Imagine if, by the time you are ready for retirement, you had lost over 30% of your muscle mass. Your risk for slips, falls, and injuries have skyrocketed, and you’ll lose your independence soon after. What would you do?
While it seems unreal, this scenario is all too common for many older adults thanks to sarcopenia or the natural loss of muscle due to aging. If you’re a physically inactive person, you can lose up to five percent of your muscle tissue every ten years starting at age 30. Experts also link an increase in injuries and loss of independence to sarcopenia.
Aside from beginning and maintaining a comprehensive resistance training program, one of the best ways to prevent muscle loss and to maintain strength is with branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs.
What are BCAAs?
Look at the back of any nutrition label and you’ll see three macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Each gram of protein is made up of amino acids. There are twenty total amino acids, but only three of those have received attention for their role in muscle and strength-building. These three are known as branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs:
Featured in many studies, leucine is the most famous of the BCAAs. It has been scientifically shown to increase the creation of muscle protein or growth.
This BCAA can assist with glucose uptake, providing your muscles with energy for strength-focused workouts and the ability to recover faster.
Considered the protector of the BCAAs, valine has also been shown to be anti-catabolic. In other words, it protects muscles from being used as fuel.
Benefits of BCAAs for the Elderly
It’s easy to see why BCAAs are a popular workout supplement, but what benefits can they provide for older adults?
Paired with a resistance training program, a BCAA supplement has been shown to prevent muscle wasting. Remember that sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss is responsible for dramatic increases in falls and injuries for older adults. BCAAs can help to maintain and even build stronger muscle mass, ensuring that you avoid becoming a statistic.
Whether it’s using bodyweight exercises or weightlifting, if you stick with resistance training, you’re going to see an increase in strength. Studies show that BCAAs can support your strength gains and improve power levels during and after your workouts.
Being able to maintain muscle mass and build functional strength is going to mean holding on to your independence a lot longer. Sarcopenia unfairly robs older adults of an enjoyable retirement because of injuries and fractures. By starting a resistance training program and supplementing with BCAAs, you’ll be able to care for yourself well into your golden years.
How to Use BCAAs
At only 10 to 15 calories per serving, you can use a branched-chain amino acid supplement throughout your day whether you’re exercising or not:
- If you like to skip breakfast, be sure to drink one serving of BCAAs to protect muscle from breakdown due to fasting.
- On your workout days, drink BCAAs during or immediately after your workout.
- On rest days, you can have a serving at any point in your day.
As always, check with your doctor before consuming any dietary supplement.
Have Questions About BCAAs?
Want to know more about BCAAs? Not sure if they are right for you? Need a recommendation on which BCAA to buy? Let us know in the comments below.
David Sautter is a NASM certified personal trainer and a NASM certified fitness nutrition specialist who has worked in the fitness industry for over 12 years.
During his time in the fitness industry, David Sautter has conducted many fitness workshops, trained hundreds of clients, and has written extensively for a variety of companies. He has been a featured fitness writer on many high-profile health and fitness websites. Aside from producing weekly articles, David has been the writer of several e-books and training guides.