The Truth About BCAA’s
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) have caught on as a supplement that allows you to train on an empty stomach without risking muscle loss. However, as with protein, taking more BCAA’s does not necessarily lead to better results, and I think the mega dosing some guys resort to is a mistake.
BCAA’s consist of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, usually in a 2:1:1 ratio. Leucine is the most important component, since by itself it is known to be an “anabolic factor,” signaling a muscle-protein synthesis. When calories or protein are low, this signal can help prevent muscle-protein breakdown.
So while you absolutely should take in BCAA’s (10 grams is a typical serving), especially during fasted exercise, your need depends on how much protein you eat overall. BCAA’s are high in leucine, but so are all sources of complete protein. Whether you are drinking a protein shake or eating a steak, you are getting BCAA’s.
So here is my take. If you are struggling to eat protein because you are traveling or on a restrictive diet, BCAA’s are a great option. But if you are already following a high-protein diet, don’t pound BCAA’s on top of it with the hope of getting an edge. BCAA’s offer no extra benefit.