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Do you need to supplement with BCAAs?

Are BCAAs Good For You?

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m sharing the truth about BCAAs, including are BCAAs good for you, and do you need to supplement with BCAAs?

What are BCAAs?

The term BCAA’s is an acronym for branch chained amino acids.

BCAAs are comprised of 3 of the 9 essential amino acids including:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

These amino acids are considered essential, since the body cannot produce them on it’s own.

Unlike non-essential amino acids, BCAAs must be consumed via food or supplementation.

5 Main benefits of BCAAs:

Do you need to supplement with BCAAs?

#1. BCAAs can help burn more body fat:

An excellent strategy to burn more body fat for energy, is to follow a well structured resistance training program, while consuming a lower carbohydrate diet.

The reason is simple.

When you consume carbohydrates, the body stores them in the form of glycogen, in the muscle and liver cells, or in the fat cells if glycogen stores are full.

However, when it comes to resistance training, glycogen, not stored body fat, is the preferred energy source.

By following a lower carbohydrate diet, it keeps muscle glycogen low, that way your body uses stored body fat for it’s primary fuel source.

However, overtime, training with low glycogen levels can potentially burn into lean muscle tissue, thus losing muscle mass.

This leads me to my next point where BCAAs can help.

#2. BCAAs can help protect and prevent muscle breakdown:

One of the main issues people face when training in a fat loss phase is it’s difficult to build or at least maintain muscle.

BCAAs help increase protein synthesis and protect your muscle when you’re in a calorie deficit.

They do this by acting as an ozone layer to protect your muscles from being burned for energy, thus preventing muscle catabolism.

It’s very important to maintain muscle during your fat loss phase.

You can protect muscle when going lower carb, by eating foods high in protein and BCAAs, and following a resistance training program.

3. BCAAs can help build muscle

All 9 essential amino acids are required for muscle building.

However the most important amino acids for muscle building, are BCAAs, especially leucine.

BCAAs are responsible for stimulating protein synthesis, which is required to repair and build muscle tissue.

This is extremely important for sustainable weight loss, as muscle is the key driver of a healthy and fast metabolism.

BCAAs may also help improve your work capacity by reducing fatigue during your workouts, thus allowing you to work harder.

4. Faster recovery and reduced muscle soreness

Eating foods high in protein or supplementing with BCAAs can help reduce muscle soreness and help increase recovery after tough workouts.

This helps to safely increase training frequency, without increasing the risk of overtraining.

5. Reduce cortisol levels

If you’re completing long workouts, supplementing with BCAAs during training may help reduce cortisol levels.

Excessive cortisol levels can lead to:

Do you need to supplement with BCAAs?

What are the best foods high in BCAAs?

No surprise, the best foods high in BCAAs are those found in animal protein.

These include:

You can also increase your consumption of BCAAs by supplementing with BCAA powder.

So this brings us to the next question.

Do you need to supplement with BCAAs?

It depends.

If you’re consistently eating enough of these foods high in protein, and eating frequently enough throughout the day to increase protein synthesis, you probably don’t need to supplement with BCAAs.

Research shows the general population should consume a bare minimum of 1.6g of protein/kg of bodyweight.

However, if you’re working out with weights regularly, and are more active then the general population, which all of you probably are, start off by aiming for 1 gram of protein for every lean pound of body mass.

Plus, to maximize protein synthesis, aim to eat at least 20g of protein, approximately every 3-4 hours.

If you’re doing all of this, you should be good and probably don’t need to supplement with BCAAs.

Here are the people who should be supplementing with BCAAs:

BCAA supplements are no longer just for bodybuilders.

In fact, most bodybuilders probably get enough BCAAs from their food.

However, supplementing with BCAAs are very important for people who are:

  • Older: as you age, protein synthesis declines, and muscle breakdown becomes a real issue.
  • Women: a good percentage of women do not eat enough protein to provide the sufficient amounts of BCAAs required in their diet.
  • Vegans: plant based proteins are lower in BCAAs, and in many cases, lack a complete essential amino acid profile, especially leucine, which is important for protein synthesis.
  • Intermittent fasting: I’m a fan of intermittent fasting when it comes to fat loss. But I’ve found it much more challenging to build and maintain muscle, especially if you workout fasted in the morning.
  • Cardio junkies: BCAAs can help protect your muscle from breakdown and help reduce fatigue during long duration cardio.
  • Recovering from an injury: since you’re not training to build muscle, BCAAs can help keep you out of the catabolic state, and minimize muscle loss, while you’re recovering.
  • Post workout muscle soreness: if you’re always suffering from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after your workouts, BCAAs can help reduce muscle soreness.

If any of these circumstances apply to you, this is where BCAA supplementation can help.

Bottom line: do you need to supplement with BCAAs?

So with all this said, the question is do you need to supplement with BCAAs, or are they a waste of money, if you’re eating enough protein.

Well I’d say, invest your money into foods high in protein.

When you’re consuming enough protein, and eating them frequently enough to trigger protein synthesis, you probably don’t need to invest in BCAAs.

However, if you are older, not consuming enough protein, or if you’re following intermittent fasting protocols, or training fasted, BCAAs can help.

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Thanks for watching and keep Living Lean.

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23 responses to “Do you need to supplement with BCAAs?

    1. Hey Daniel, you’re right it does, and I looked over the study but it didn’t surprisingly give a timeline. If you had to choose between protein and bcaas, go protein. a good whey isolate should have a decent amount of BCAAs included in it already.

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