Do vegan athletes need BCAA supplements?

BCAAs are 3 essential amino acids which vegan athletes can take from food. BCAA supplements aren’t necessary, as there are so many plant-based foods high in BCAAs, such as beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.

What are BCAAs?

BCAAs are the 3 essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They have a unique structure, and they’re particularly important for athletes.

For instance, unlike other amino acids, the BCAAs can be metabolized in muscles in order to provide energy during exercise! Moreover, the BCAAs can help athletes build muscle mass, as they stimulate protein synthesis.[1]

BCAAs for endurance sports

Certainly, BCAA supplements won’t benefit vegan athletes who are interested in endurance sports. There is little evidence that the BCAAs can actually improve endurance performance. However, BCAAs may delay fatigue and help athletes maintain mental focus![1]

BCAAs for building muscle mass

Certainly, the BCAAs are particularly popular among bodybuilders and athletes who want to increase their muscle mass and strength. After all, human muscle proteins are up to 18% BCAAs!

According to many studies, about 10–14 g of BCAAs a day might increase muscle mass and strength

Athletes could easily take this recommended daily intake of BCAAs from food! Taking much higher dosages of BCAAs from supplements won’t benefit you further. It seems that BCAA supplements aren’t necessary for muscle growth.

Vitamin B12 Vegan Plant-Based Food ...
Vitamin B12 Vegan Plant-Based Food Source! [Vegetarian] [Not a supplement]

Do vegans have a high risk of BCAA deficiency?

Certainly, BCAAs are naturally present in high amounts in animal-based foods. But, there are many vegan foods that contain adequate amounts of the BCAAs as well. Vegan athletes and especially vegan bodybuilders should consume them regularly.

Vegan foods high in BCAAs

We can take BCAAs from vegan dietary sources high in protein. Beans, nuts, seeds, and whole cereals are excellent vegan sources of protein.

Furthermore, vegan athletes who want to build muscle mass should consume vegan foods containing complete protein. These foods contain all 9 essential amino acids. BCAAs, as well. Some vegan foods with complete protein are buckwheat, hemp seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and amaranth.

Additionally, combining different vegan foods, you can have a complete protein. For instance, combine protein-rich beans, such as lentils, or chickpeas with whole cereals to consume a high-quality, vegan, complete protein!

Should vegans take BCAA supplements?

Vegans who follow a well-balanced diet with foods high in protein, such as seeds, nuts, beans, and whole cereals consume enough BCAAs! Certainly, vegan athletes don’t need BCAA supplements. A vegan diet high in protein, along with a quality vegan protein, is enough. Taking BCAA supplements won’t increase your muscle mass.[2]

Vegetarian athletes could take a high-quality plant-based protein powder, though. You’ll find a wide variety on iHerb.

Supplements that help vegan athletes build muscle mass

Although BCAA supplements aren’t necessary, vegan athletes might benefit from other supplements.

For instance, vegans have a higher risk of being deficient in vitamin B12, vitamin D, taurine, creatine, or omega-3s. Being deficient in these compounds may impair athletic performance, inhibit muscle growth, and decrease muscle strength!