Branched-chain amino acids, commonly known as BCAAs, have gained popularity for their potential to boost muscle growth, exercise performance, post-workout recovery.
Consuming BCAA supplements is generally considered to be safe. But, are BCAAs good for kids?
When it comes to children and adolescents, questions arise about the benefits, safety and appropriateness of using BCAAs as a supplement.
I. Are BCAAs Good for Kids?
Yes, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) can be good for children and adolescents. In fact, supplementing with BCAAs may benefit kids involved in high-intensity athletic activities and endurance sports such as running or soccer.
The nine essential amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valineScienceDirect: An Overview on Essential Amino Acids and Branched Chain Amino Acids, play a vital role in muscle protein synthesis and overall muscle health.
BCAAs can also help support cognitive health and improve focus during physical activities, making them a great supplement for children and adolescents.
Ideally, regular diets should provide enough BCAAs for kids, as these essential amino acids can be found in various food sources such as eggs, dairy products, fish, and poultry.
However, it is crucial to approach BCAA supplementation(non-food supplements) for children with caution and under appropriate guidance.
II. When do kids need BCAA supplements?
1. Intensive Athletic Training: Kids engaged in intense and prolonged athletic training, especially in sports like gymnastics, swimming, or distance running, may benefit from BCAA supplements to aid in muscle recovery and reduce fatigue.
2. Limited Protein Intake: If a child follows a vegetarian or vegan diet with limited protein sources, BCAAs can help ensure they receive essential amino acids crucial for growth, muscle development, and overall health.
3. Underweight or Malnourished Children: Kids who are underweight, malnourished, or have difficulty consuming a balanced diet due to medical conditions may benefit from BCAA supplementation to support their growth and development.
4. Recovery from Injury or Surgery: Children recovering from injuries, surgeries, or medical treatments may require extra BCAAs to aid in tissue repair, muscle regeneration, and overall healing.
5. Medical Conditions affecting Muscle Mass: Certain medical conditions like muscular dystrophy, where muscle wasting is prevalent, may necessitate BCAA supplementation to preserve muscle mass and function.
6. Endurance Sports Participation: Kids participating in endurance sports such as cycling, long-distance running, or triathlons may benefit from BCAAs to enhance endurance, reduce muscle soreness, and improve overall performance.
III. When Should You Avoid BCAAs for Kids?
While BCAAs are generally safe for children, there are some situations where you should avoid giving them to kids. These include:
1. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): BCAA supplements have been linked with lung (pulmonary) health issuesNational Library of Medicine: Does branched-chain amino acid supplementation improve pulmonary rehabilitation effect in COPD? and higher death rates when used in patients with ALS. If your child has ALS, do not use BCAA supplements until more is known.
2. Diabetes: BCAA supplements might affect blood sugar levels. Watch for signs of low or high blood sugar. Monitor your child’s blood sugar carefully if they have type-II diabetes and take BCAA supplements.
3. Other medical conditions: Children with certain medical conditions, such as maple syrup urine disease, should avoid BCAAs.
Related Article: Do BCAAs Expire?
IV. BCAA Dosage Guide for Children
The recommended dosage of BCAAs for children varies depending on the age of the child and the purpose of supplementation. Below are the BCAA recommended dosages for kids of different age groups:
|Age Group||Recommended BCAA Dosage (grams per day)||Recommendation (When to consume)|
|2-5 years||1-2 grams||Mix in water or a favorite beverage to aid growth and development.|
|6-9 years||2-3 grams||Incorporate BCAAs into post-activity snacks or meals for muscle support and energy.|
|10-13 years||3-4 grams||Divide the dosage into morning and post-activity to support pre-teen growth and recovery.|
|14-17 years||4-6 grams||Consume BCAAs around workouts or athletic activities for muscle recovery and enhanced exercise performance.|
Note: Always consult a healthcare professional for appropriate dosage levels before adding supplements to a child’s diet.
V. Risks and Considerations
While BCAAs offer potential benefits, there are certain risks and considerations associated with their use in children and teens.
1. Lack of Extensive Research on Younger Populations
One of the major concerns is the limited research on the long-term effects and safety of BCAA supplementation in children and adolescents.
Most studies around BCAAs have been conducted on adult populations. Therefore, the impact of BCAAs on growing bodies is not fully understood. It’s important to proceed with caution and consult with healthcare professionals before putting kids on a BCAA supplementation plan.
2. Balanced Diet vs. BCAA Supplements
A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of protein-rich foods can often provide sufficient BCAAs naturally. It’s essential to prioritize a balanced diet before considering supplementation, especially for growing individuals.
3. Individual Health Conditions and Allergies
Children with specific health conditions or allergies should be particularly cautious about introducing supplements, including BCAAs, into their diet. Consulting a healthcare provider before starting any supplementation is critical to ensure safety and appropriateness.
VI. What are some natural food sources of BCAAs for kids
The best and the safest way to provide your child with the BCAAs required for optimum growth is via healthy and balanced diet. Make sure that your child consumes foods that are naturally rich in proteins in general and BCAAs in particular.
Here are some natural food sources of BCAAsNASM: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): Do You Need To Take Them?for kids:
- Meat: Chicken, beef, and turkey are all good sources of BCAAs, particularly leucine. Encourage your child to eat a variety of meats to ensure they are getting enough BCAAs in their diet
- Eggs: Eggs are a great source of BCAAs, particularly leucine. Encourage your child to eat eggs for breakfast or as a snack to support their muscle growth and recovery
- Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, and Greek yogurt are all good sources of BCAAs, particularly leucine. Encourage your child to eat a variety of dairy products to ensure they are getting enough BCAAs in their diet
- Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are a good source of BCAAs, particularly isoleucine and valine. Encourage your child to snack on nuts and seeds or add them to meals for an extra boost of protein and BCAAs
- Legumes: Beans and lentils are a good source of BCAAs, particularly isoleucine and valine. Encourage your child to eat a variety of legumes to ensure they are getting enough BCAAs in their diet
While BCAAs have been shown to have many benefits, they are not a substitute for a healthy diet. Children should get their nutrients from a variety of foods, including high-protein foods like meat, dairy, and legumes. If you are considering giving BCAAs to your child, it is important to talk to their doctor first to make sure it is safe for them.
|↑1||ScienceDirect: An Overview on Essential Amino Acids and Branched Chain Amino Acids|
|↑2||National Library of Medicine: Does branched-chain amino acid supplementation improve pulmonary rehabilitation effect in COPD?|
|↑3||NASM: Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): Do You Need To Take Them?|