TDF Sports wouldn’t be the brand it is without our experts. We take pride in the people that make up our team and help us move forward innovative and sustainable work.
We asked Dr. Nikole MacLellan (Dr.Kokes as her patients call her) about BCAAs–specifically for female performance. Here’s what she told us:
BCAAs and Female Performance
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are made up of three amino acids:
Leucine specifically has been known to take all of the credit as the muscle building amino acid. Although this isn’t wrong, it’s important to acknowledge isoleucine and valine, which are needed to create a full team of essential amino acids that build muscle.
I get asked a lot about BCAAs in practice and if they are actually beneficial to putting on muscle and aiding in muscle recovery. BCAAs make your water taste good and usually when your water tastes good, you are inclined to drink more. Getting more water into you, especially when exercising and training is an excellent thing. BCAAs are also ritualistic. Whatever gets your shoes on and your butt in gear I am on board with. BCAAs will aid in muscle growth when you are not taking in enough protein, and in my experience, most of us are not.
BCAAs have also been shown to increase cellular hydration better than water alone post-workout. Here is another special piece of advice I give to my female athletes: About two weeks before your period, certain hormones become elevated. This is when a lot of those lovely PMS symptoms come about. I would like to take a second and highlight that pre-menstrual syndrome is just that, a syndrome. This means that it is treatable. The symptoms we struggle with during this time can become common but certainly not the norm.
Can BCAAs Help Decrease PMS Symptoms?
During the high hormone phase, the rise in estrogen and progesterone can potentially have a negative effect on muscle growth–especially if levels are outside a healthy range. Progesterone increases can indirectly contribute to a breakdown of muscle tissue. This is when BCAAs and appropriate protein consumption become essential in ensuring recovery and gains in the gym.
As an added bonus, leucine crosses the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) quickly and during the high hormone phase, there is a significant impact on the central nervous system. As a woman, I am sure you have experienced some fatigue, mood swings, and low energy. This all happens due to the surge in hormones and their effect on the nervous system. Since leucine crosses the BBB, it can actually impact some of the neurotransmitters and reduce that central nervous system fatigue.
Hormones can be extremely complicated and have a massive impact on performance. There are so many ways to mitigate potentially negative effects of hormones, use your cycles to your advantage, and optimize performance.
Dr. Nikole MacLellan ND, RD, BSc AHN, CISSN (@SportsDocKokes)
PROActive Health & Performance Centre
Dr. Nikole MacLellan is a Naturopathic Doctor, Dietitian, and Certified Sports Nutritionist at PROActive Health & Performance Centre in Nova Scotia. Dr. MacLellan was introduced to sports at a young age and has competed in provincial soccer, national level ringette, and AUS women’s hockey for the Dalhousie Tigers.