What are BCAAs? Where are vegan BCAAs sourced from? Read this article to learn more and know what you’re putting into your body.
What are BCAAs?
In the supplement industry you hear a lot about BCAAs, but what are they? And what about vegan BCAAs? BCAA stand for branch chain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Protein is a part of every cell in your body and responsible for many processes that occur in the body during every second of the day.
The 20 amino acids that make up proteins are known as the eleven non-essential amino acids – meaning they’re synthesized by your body, and you don’t need to get them from your diet and nine essential amino acids (EAA) – meaning your body needs to get them through dietary sources. There are also conditionally essential amino acids which are non-essential, however, they can become depleted under certain circumstances and then require supplementation. When we look at EAAs we need to get through our diet, three specific amino acids stand out due to their structure, these are referred to as branch chain amino acids or BCAAs.
Should I supplement with BCAAs?
Supplementation with BCAAs has been shown to decrease perception of muscle soreness after exercise (1), reduce the muscle damage associated with endurance exercise (2), decrease perceived exertion and mental fatigue, show an increase in anabolic response in recovery period, and improve immune response after training (3). For athletes who follow a vegan diet, supplementing with vegan BCAAs could be even more beneficial in response to the potential lower amounts of BCAAs and total protein being consumed through diet alone.
Where are BCAAs sourced from?
When looking for a BCAA supplement, not all are created equal. Most non-vegan BCAAs available are made from raw materials sourced from overseas, including human and/or animal hair, duck feathers, and animal skin. But why are these sources used? Hair, feathers, and animal skin are all high in keratin – a compound which is rich in protein, and therefore, amino acids. Through a manufacturing process, various solvents and chemicals are used to break down the keratin and extract the amino acids which can be used in other products, such as sports nutrition supplements.
Looking at this from a manufacturing standpoint, it’s easy to understand how using byproducts and waste of other manufactured products could be seen as a good idea. Less waste is good, but less waste because you’re able to use that waste in another product is even better – right? Well, maybe for the bottom line, but it introduces other potential issues that can be passed on to the consumer.
One concern that arises with using raw materials such as duck feathers, is contamination of heavy metals and water pollution. This begs the question, why are animal-based BCAAs still being used when the manufacturing process of fermented and plant-based BCAAs has become more efficient over the past few years? Arguments have been because there is no difference between animal and vegan BCAAs and plant-based BCAAs are more expensive. The problem is that’s not necessarily true. Newer techniques such as nitrogen isotope composition analysis, have been developed to limit false claims regarding vegan BCAA products. Manufacturers have been caught labeling products as plant-based when in fact, they are conventional animal-based products (4). In the past, the manufacturing cost claim may have been true, but as production processes have improved over time, the cost to manufacture has become more in-line with that of conventional BCAA products.
Luckily, we are seeing a shift. There has been a rise in the creation of vegan BCAAs made from fermented corn. Soy is also sometimes used in the manufacturing process of fermented plant-based BCAAs, however, it is a common allergen. Instead, by using fermented corn, TDF Sports provides the highest quality, allergen-free, environmental and animal-friendly product. Along with being more sustainable, vegan BCAAs are effective in enhancing performance for athletes. That’s why our pro-athletes love the product so much. TDF Sports plant-based BCAAs taste delicious, are sugar-free and have a great ratio of nutrients that is perfect for rehydration and helping your recovery period. Like our BCAAs, all of TDF Sports products are sustainable, NSF certified for sports, clean, and plant-based.
Shop TDF Sports line of vegan supplements, ideal for athletes or everyday people making healthier choices.
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