Are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) keto-friendly? The main feature of the ketogenic diet is it’s a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) program. This requires people to avoid certain foods like grains, and sugary fruits, and starchy vegetables. You also might wonder whether if bcaa on keto gets a thumbs-up from health experts.
When picking foods and supplements while on keto the key is to stay in the state of ketosis. This causes the body to get energy from stored fat and “ketone” molecules instead of carbs. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which is critical to determine if they cause blood sugar spikes.
However, it’s worth noting that supplements aren’t whole foods. Besides containing the amino themselves, in theory, they could contain additives that might cause blood sugar spikes like white sugar and refined carbs. That’s the main issue when determining whether or not all BCAAs are actually keto-friendly.
What Exactly Are BCAAs?
The two main types of amino acids are “essential” and “non-essential.” The body produces NEAAs naturally but EAAs must be consumed from food and supplements. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are made up of three EAAs: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
You can consume BCAAs in different ways. For example, “complete proteins” contain all EAAs you need during the day. They include foods like meat, eggs, quinoa, soybeans, and dairy. That includes enough BCAAs for the day. Real food is always the best source of nutrients.
You can also get BCAAs through dietary supplements. In fact, these have been some of the most popular amino supplements in recent years. That’s mostly based on their benefit for muscles including muscle building and repair. These are critical benefits for athletes, weightlifters, and bodybuilders in particular.
BCAAs can also provide other benefits. They include preventing muscle breakdown, reducing exercise fatigue, and treating liver disease. These are other benefits you can get from BCAAs whether it’s from tablets, protein powders, or extracts.
When on a low-carb diet like Keto the main issue is whether foods/supplements are low-carb. This helps to avoid glucose (blood sugar) spikes. What’s the big deal? Ketogenic diets are designed to hack the body’s normal process of getting energy from carbs. In fact, this is the body’s first choice.
However, in the case of low-carb diets the body transitions to energy from two other sources in the state of “ketosis.” First, it starts breaking down fat. Each pound has 3,500 calories so you can get nearly 2 days’ worth of calories from a pound of fat when going low carb.
Another energy source is from liver-produced “ketone” molecules. When the boy goes into ketosis. The ketones mostly provide mental energy, although they can also help to fuel the body. Low-carb diets can help to keep people in ketosis.
BCAA on Keto: Is It Allowed?
When weighing if certain supplements are Keto-friendly the big question is whether they cause blood sugar spikes. BCAAs are amino acids, so they’re the building blocks of protein. When avoiding insulin/glucose spikes the macro-nutrient you’ll want to watch out for is carbohydrates.
So the amino acids themselves are Keto-friendly. However, there’s a caveat. Unlike whole foods, dietary supplements are produced in a factory. This is why it’s always critical to read ingredient labels. Manufacturers often add ingredients that could cause insulin spikes that cause glucose spikes—which would make them Keto unfriendly.
It’s also an issue when purchasing BCAA supplements. The reason is BCAAs are quite bitter. This results in supplement makers adding artificial sweeteners to their products to make the supplements easier to take.
The two main options are natural and artificial sweeteners. For example, a monk fruit extract is a good option since it’s a naturally low-carb food. Meanwhile, you should try to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose.
There’s another issue to consider. Some BCAAs also include fillers since the amino acids don’t dissolve in water. This helps the amino acids to mix better into liquids. These substances can cause insulin spikes, which can kick you out of ketosis.
So it’s important to check these artificial sweeteners and fillers to avoid blood sugar spikes. Besides taking you out of ketosis they’re not generally unhealthy so stuff you should try to avoid anyway.
Besides these specific ingredients, you should watch for any added sugars/carbs in BCAA supplements. This provides all the benefits of BCAAs minus possible blood sugar spikes. The good news is there are various BCAA supplements advertised as “Keto-friendly” so they can definitely help you stay in ketosis.
Keep in mind that your BCAA intake should be mostly based on real food like animal/plant-based sources. Some good vegan sources include:
More Top Supplements for Keto Dieters
The dietary versions are known as “exogenous” (external) ketones. These supplements can help you get into ketosis faster. Studies show they might also help to decrease appetite and speed up muscle recovery.
This might be surprising since dairy products are allowed on Keto. Going on keto won’t cause a lack of Vitamin D per se. However, Vitamin D deficiency is a common one in general. So it’s a good idea to boost your levels to make sure you’re getting enough of the vitamin. This is especially true for middle-aged/senior people who are more likely to have a deficiency.
Fish/krill oil contain fatty acids including EPA and DHA, which can benefit health in several ways. Studies show they can help to prevent the risk of mental decline and heart disease. Since Keto is a high-fat diet it’s important to maintain a high ratio of omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids.
This is especially critical during the first few weeks on Keto. Electrolyte supplements can help as the body adjusts by getting energy from fat instead of carbs.
This is a type of omega-3 that’s high in foods like dairy products and coconut oil. The liver breaks down MCTS quickly so they can then fuel the muscles/brain. MCT supplements provide a higher dosage of MCTS versus food. They can quickly boost fat intake, which also boosts levels of ketone molecules.
Studies show that MCTs can provide several health benefits. They can help you feel full and increase weight loss, which is helpful if you’re on keto to lose weight.
This mineral provides several health benefits including energy boosts, blood sugar regulation, and immune system boosts. Fun Fact: Up to 50% of the US population has a lack of magnesium. Factors for this condition include highly-processed food and prescription meds.
The Keto diet might add to the problem. That’s because foods like sugary fruits, beans, and peas are swapped out, which boosts the need for bcaa on keto.