I wish I could get back the money for all the BCAA tablets, BCAA powder & Leucine powders I’ve gone through over the Years..
I suppose it’s a good thing though, I can look back, learn from it and hopefully get this article across to you too so you don’t make the same mistakes,
So all I want to get across here is that most likely, no scrap that, most definitely – you DON’T need to be spending money on BCAA’s for your ‘Gains’ in the gym.
No matter how much your friends tell you they’re the ‘be-all and end-all’ followed by all the hype from Marketing companies – this Blog will make you see different, so let’s dive straight in.
(This blog goes hand in hand with this article here on everything Protein so if you haven’t read that yet, do that first, as it’s a precursor to this one)
DUMMIES GUIDE TO BCAA’S
If you’re lost as to what BCAA’s actually are, (if you know this, just skip to the next heading) they’re short for ‘Branched Chain Amino Acids’.
Now amino acids are basically the building blocks of Protein, and there’s 9 essential amino acids that you need to survive & thrive,
Then comes these Branched Chain Amino Acids which are a group of 3 out of the 9 essentials you need.
I won’t dive too much more into this but in a basic nutshell, BCAA’s are made up of;
(Image courtesy of ansperformance.com)
Leucine is the key player here as it directly stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis (1) and why I used to knock back plain Leucine powder that tasted horrible. I could go much deeper into this and Yes, I’m bypassing a lot of Sciency stuff as I want you to take away the meat and bones from this article.
WHY THEY’RE POPULAR
So firstly, I’ll be robbing this quote from the blog I linked above on Leucine, this is what we KNOW already;
“To maximise the anabolic response (Muscle Protein Synthesis being maxed) we need 2.5-3g of the branched chain amino acid: Leucine, because anymore isn’t necessary.” (2)
Hence why BCAA’s ARE so popular, the thinking goes, “If I keep topping with a BCAA drink in between workouts and throughout the day – the potential to Build More Muscle goes up.”
But we also know that with:
“Muscle Protein Synthesis ‘dropping’ off after 2-3 hours, it’s probably best to space meals 4-6hours apart. So here, just spread out your daily intake over 3-5 meals.”
Then comes to whole Marketing Side of it all, where companies back up their claims with studies that are highly flawed, again that’s another article in istelf If I was to get into those details, but I’ll still reference some studies below if you want to see them for yourself.
Here’s a few of the proposed Benefits from BCAA supplements;
- Improving your Immune system (3)
- Post Exercise Muscle Growth (4)
- Reduced Fatigue (5)
- Preserving Muscle Mass & Losing more fat (6) ~ Again this study was highly flawed.
So it all sounds convincing & let’s be honest, it sounds ‘cool’ to think too that if you drink this coloured drink between workouts, you’ll get better Muscle Gain Results.
Again it’s people falling for the shiny things like I’ve done numerous times over the years.
So it’s not magic fairy dust, no matter how many of the Lads & Ladies you follow drink and promote BCAA’s (Because they’re sponsored athletes. Which means they make money from promoting the stuff.)
WHAT YOU CAN USE INSTEAD (& SAVE YOUR MONEY)
If you’re getting ‘in’ enough Protein spaced 4-6 Hours apart, 3-5 times a day – you’re BCAA basis are probably covered. (A high protein diet contains a high content of BCAA’s)
If you’re struggling to get in these sources through food ~ that’s why Whey Protein Powder is so handy. Again, that’ll cover all your BCAA needs as it’s the same thing.
So instead of blowing €20-50 a Month on BCAA’s ~ Whey Protein is a much smarter option.
(Image courtesy of healthline.com)
Not rocket science is it? And that’s what 99% of anyone reading this article will need to know…
POTENTIALLY WHERE BCAA’S COULD BE USED
Now there is some potential benefits out there with science behind it all – but again, you could STILL, just take some Whey:
- Reducing Fatigue in sports like handball & co-ordination (7)
- Delay fatigue when you’re doing fasted training (on an empty stomach) in terms of Aerobic Exercise, but again, this only seems beneficial if you’re ‘Glycogen depleted’. Or in English, you’re on a low-calorie/low-carbohydrate diet. (8)
BUT – again, as I’ve said above – you could still just take Whey Protein & Save your money.
So a pretty boring article really that could be summed up with, BCAA’s are not worth the money, just use Whey 🙂
And as a little closing tip, you need to justify WHY it’s beneficial to you before you make a decision, and because it’s most likely not – there’s no point in taking it. That can go for a LOT of things in this Health & Fitness World too…
If you’ve any questions on this, I’d love to hear them or if there’s any other topics you want to see covered on this website, don’t be afraid to send me a message here over on Instagram.
If you’re a regular reader here or if this is your first time, thank you for reading this far, hopefully it’s been some help to you 🙂
INTERESTED IN A FREE ONLINE 14-DAY CHALLENGE TO LOSE WEIGHT, TONE UP & GET BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE?
Click here for upcoming details on our free online 14-day challenge & get on the waiting list: http://docfitnessonline.com/14daychallenge
1: Kimball, R, S. & Jefferson, L.S. (2006) ‘Signalling pathways and molecular mechanisms through which branched-chain amino acids mediate translational control of protein synthesis.’ Journal of Nutrition, January 2006 vol. 136 no. 1 227S-231S: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16365087
2: Lennon, D. (2016) ‘Sigma Nutrition Weekend’, www.sigmanutrition.com
3: Calder, PC. (2006) ‘Branched-chain amino acids and immunity.’ Journal of Nutrition, 2006 Jan;136: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16365100
4: Blomstrand et. al. (2006) ‘Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise.’ Journal of Nutrition, 2006 Jan;136: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16365096
5: Meeusen, R. & Watson, P. (2007) ‘Amino acids and the brain: do they play a role in “central fatigue”?‘ Int .J. Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, 2007 Aug;17 Suppl:S37-46: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18577773
6: Mourier et. al. (1997) ‘Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite wrestlers.’ Int. Journal Sports Medicine, 1997 Jan;18(1):47-55. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9059905
7: Chang et. al (2015) ‘Branched-chain amino acids and arginine improve performance in two consecutive days of simulated handball games in male and female athletes: a randomized trial.’ PLOS One, 2015 Mar 24;10(3): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25803783
8: Gualano et. al. (2011) ‘Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion.’ Journal of Sports Medicine Physical Fitness, 2011 Mar;51(1):82 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21297567
9: Dieter, B.P, Schoenfeld, B.J, Aragon, A.A. (2016) ‘The data do not seem to support a benefit to BCAA supplementation during periods of caloric restriction.’ Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition2016 13:21. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-016-0128-9