In this blogpost I’ll clarify some things about how usefull BCAA’s are as a supplement.
Right off the bat, I don’t see a need for them and the majority of people do not need BCAA’s. You’re better off using the money for food. Based on recent data and anecdotal evidence from top coaches that work with supplements.
No evidence to show that BCAA supplements do anything when consuming sufficient amounts of protein (except from burning a hole in your pocket) – Joseph Agu, M.Sc.
Most of the studies that are done are saying that if you’re eating a moderate-high protein diet, you’re not going to see any benefits from branched-chain amino acids for the majority of people.
Branched-chain amino acids are absolutely essential in high quantities in your diet for building muscle, anabolic signaling and particularly leucine. The thing is however, that you don’t necessarily need to supplement them to get the benefits. You get the exact same benefits from regular food. Most people are simply not eating a low enough protein diet, particularly in the western world, to benefit from BCAA’s.
Instead of recommending BCAA’s, I recommend whey protein because it contains other anabolic amino acids and is also very high in BCAA’s. It actually is more cost effective that one.
If someone really felt that they need BCAA’s for whatever reason than a simple whey protein supplement could yield all of the benefits of BCAA supplements but also other side benefits added in for less money.
Whey protein is an overall more cost effective and tastier way to do it. Or you could just do it with whole foods.
The Only Group That Benefits
I can see the need for BCAA’s for a certain type of competitive athletes that are trying to gain a very small edge.
Those are athletes that do: very large amounts of endurance work, athletes that are doing really intense weight training for an hour straight followed up with 2 to 3 hours of cardio later in the same day, and athletes that are doing large amounts of volume spread over multiple weight training sessions a day.
Something like bulgarian type training with 2 to 3 max-effort training sessions a day for 6 days a week.
Only for those people BCAA’s might be usefull to take intra-workout and in between workouts to give them maybe an edge of 0,5% over the competitor who isn’t. For the people that are competitive and trying to win it might be worth it to spend 20-40€ on BCAA’s every month.
We’re talking about the same type of competitive athletes for whom Post-Workout Glycogen Replenishment is important.
This doesn’t mean the average lifter should use it. If your idea of training is doing 1,5 hours of weight training 4 times a week with doing cardio on your off days, you don’t need BCAA’s as a supplement.
If You’re Vegan
I’ve also said in the past that vegans with very low protein diets can benefit from BCAA’s for muscle protein synthesis without having to increase their protein. Because the protein intake might not be sufficient for muscle protein synthesis for an ideal anabolic response.
If you’re a vegan runner that is only eating 50 to 60 grams of protein a day, BCAA’s will give you a noticeable benefit. It has a clear benefit.
- No evidence to show that BCAA supplements do anything when consuming sufficient amounts of protein.
- BCAA’s can be beneficial for a certain type of competitive athletes that are trying to gain a very small edge.
- If you’re a vegan runner that is only eating 50 to 60 grams of protein a day, BCAA’s will give you a noticeable benefit.
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