Vegan BCAAs—What You Need to Know

Vegans and vegetarians might be breaking their animal-free commitments by ingesting BCAAs if they are not careful to verify the source of the BCAAs in their supplements

What are BCAAs?

BCAA is an acronym for Branch Chain Amino Acids. There are more than 20 amino acids in existence and nine are considered “essential” because they cannot be internally produced and must be found in your diet.  Amino acids are used by your body to produce protein. Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are three of the nine essential amino acids which comprise BCAA formulas. BCAAs are found in muscles and are broken down in the muscle tissue of the body rather than in the liver like many other amino acids. Because of BCAAs relationship with muscles they are a favorite supplement of athletes looking to boost energy and aid in muscle growth and recovery.

How do you get BCAAs?

Since your body cannot produce these amino acids it is essential that you ingest them in your diet. Foods that are high in BCAAs include animal proteins, lentils, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds. However, for many athletes wanting to ensure the sufficient consumption of BCAAs to meet their fitness goals or support their workouts, supplementation of BCAAs in the form of pills and powders is a popular solution.

What are BCAAs made with?  

It is an unfortunate truth that in the past almost all BCAAs available were made from keratin harvested from the chemical processing of animal hair, hooves, and feathers. In some cases, conventional BCAA supplements are even made from human hair. If a plant-based or vegan diet is important to you but your BCAA supplementation comes from a pre-mixed blend of other supplements, you might have a hard time ascertaining if your BCAAs are vegan or not.  

Where does Nuun source their vegan BCAAs?

Nuun is committed to make all of our products as effective and accessible for as many people as possible, regardless of dietary restrictions. All Nuun products are 100% vegan, including our newest line The Podium Series which contains our plant based BCAA blend. As a result, we exclusively source our BCAAs from fermented corn—not animal products of any kind.

Why aren’t all BCAAs Vegan?

You would think with the technology available to harvest BCAAs from fermented vegetables companies would only use vegan BCAAs in their BCAA supplements, but this just isn’t the case. The original argument against the use of vegan BCAAs was the cost. Four years ago the cost of vegan BCAAs was significantly higher than BCAAs made from animal products. These days the cost difference is much smaller, but demand for BCAA supplements has increased as the importance of amino acids and their effects have before more widely understood.

Looking to understand more about how BCAAs work or when is the right time to take BCAA supplements? Click the links to read our other articles! Ready to add BCAAs to your supplementation plan? Shop The Podium Series today.    

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