T Nation

BCAA's All They're Cracked Up To Be

What I think really stinks is that how does anybody really know BCAA’s are doing anything for them?

Unless your are at the peak of your genetic potential I don’t see how it is possible to feel that it is working. Plus how can somebody use something like measurements or body fat to prove it? There are so many other countless contributing factors. Am I missing something?

Well they’ve done studies with and without supplementing BCAAs to measure their efficacy. And since when do you have to “feel” something working for it to be effective? I don’t “feel” protein working for me but I know it does because I’ve built muscle with it.

[quote]DanErickson wrote:
What I think really stinks is that how does anybody really know BCAA’s are doing anything for them?

Unless your are at the peak of your genetic potential I don’t see how it is possible to feel that it is working. Plus how can somebody use something like measurements or body fat to prove it? There are so many other countless contributing factors. Am I missing something? [/quote]

Try getting lean. Then try getting lean while supplementing with BCAA’s before/after training and in between meals.

You’ll feel it then.

I find I feel so much better on a reduced calorie diet if I’m using BCAA’s.

But beyond cutting, they are fantastic as a recovery tool, and that’s enough for me to include them as a staple.

Great question. I wish that more people asked this before they jumped on every supplement bandwagon.

Aside from creatine, and the side effect of beta alanine, you can’t feel that a supplement is working. Good call.

I use BCAA’s because of the strong theoretical basis for their use (although it has not escaped me that glutamine had a similarly strong theoretical basis), and the results that I have had with clients who use them.

[quote]DanErickson wrote:
Unless your are at the peak of your genetic potential I don’t see how it is possible to feel that it is working. Plus how can somebody use something like measurements or body fat to prove it? There are so many other countless contributing factors. Am I missing something? [/quote]

So I know Dave that you are a proponent of before and after workouts as well as in between meals.

Some lifters like to pop some large amounts in between sets in the middle of a session. If I remember correctly you don’t believe they are utilized well this way. If you were on a limited budget, what would your priority of this list be?

  1. Post workout
  2. Pre-workout
  3. Between meals as a mini-snack
  4. After waking
    5… Before bed
  5. During workout
  6. After meals

These seem to be a confusing topic and I always enjoy your input on things.

[quote]DanErickson wrote:
What I think really stinks is that how does anybody really know BCAA’s are doing anything for them?

Unless your are at the peak of your genetic potential I don’t see how it is possible to feel that it is working. [/quote]

I get what you’re saying. Most people who “feel” supplements working are morons. “Man, I popped a hand full of BCAAs and am totally pumped! Time to shadow box in the gym!”

But I’ve been on a sub 2,000 cal low-diet with and without in-between meal BCAAs. I feel less like shit. When on a diet, additional BCAAs help with recovery: I feel less sore. These are subjective feelings, of course, but I’m not sure that it means they are invalid.

As an experiment, I told my friend after his workout: “Take these pills” and gave him 10 grams of BCAAs. He didn’t know what they were.

The next day he said: “Hey, were those pills you gave me supposed to help with recovery? Because I’m a lot less sore today than I usually would be.”

Lots of things are measured based on subjective factors. Pain is subjective. Imagine if someone said: “How can you know if a pain reliever works when all of these freaks are just reporting their subjective feelings with this.” Of course, there is always the placebo elephant in the room. But saying that you can’t base things on feelings is quite different from saying those feelings might be influenced by the belief that whatever you are taking will lead to result x.

My life is generally the same week-by-week. Unless something really drastic happened (like my dad died or I lost a major source of income), I wouldn’t have any more or less stress in my life.

I think most people have a lot of “sameness” in their lives. So you can often pin down cause-and-effect.

So if I start Supplement X and notice I can do two extra sprints, I can rationally attribute that the Supplement X.

While it’s true man does not live in a vacuum, most of our lives are pretty stable on a week-by-week basis.

Since incorporating them into my supplementation regimen consistently for over a year now my body-fat level has dropped considerably, my endurance during workouts has risen dramatically, my muscle mass has increased, and my strength levels have risen.

I have used androgens and pro hormones in the past with good results, but for the past roughly half year or more, I have only used good whole food, Metabolic Drive products, BCAA’s and BETA-7, and cycles of Alpha Male and Carbolin 19 in addition to standards REZ-V, Creatine, and Flameout. My gains come slower but steadier and I feel healthier then I have in a long time. For me it’s not even a question if they give results.

D

I notice a huge difference if I miss BCAA’s PWO after an intense endurance session. My recovery without BCAA’s is much longer with more soreness…this is particular true in a high intensity lactic session.

Not sure if the science backs me up but I get great recovery and I ‘feel’ it, although I train like a sprinter not a bodybuilder (who I think often feel the need to consume more supplements than their body can use). IMHO

Smug

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:
As an experiment, I told my friend after his workout: “Take these pills” and gave him 10 grams of BCAAs. He didn’t know what they were.[/quote]

Man, your friend must trust you an awful lot to just take some pills you handed him without knowing what they were or asking any questions beforehand. I seriously doubt most people would try to hurt their friend in this way, but I wouldn’t even take something my own mother gave me without asking or researching it first.

Oh yeah, to the OP: as others have said, try a calorie-restricted diet with BCAAs and without. That’s probably when you’re most likely to see a difference. If they work for you, great; if they don’t, move on.

It’s an odd question. How much do we injest that we can “feel” working? You eat a steak or a salad, and can just feel the nutrients entering your system? Obviously not.

The best way to discover the effectiveness of something is to experiment. Do your thing without, and then do your thing with, and note the difference, if any.

As others have mentioned, BCAAs noticably affect recuperative rates. Ive worked out without and with BCAAs and cannot see myself ever doing without, unless Im cycling off.

Am about to do the same with creatine. Ive been working out without, now will workout with and note the difference, if any.

Instead of saying “I don’t know how it is possible to feel it working” I should have worded it, “I don’t know how it is possible to know it is working”.
Feel was a word I used because I didn’t really know how else to describe what I was thinking.
Sorry for the misunderstanding.

It is a definite recovery tool for me and seems to help prevent DOMS. I have been using 40g during my workouts and maybe another 15g throught the day. Also including about 20g of glutamine in my PW drink.

I have no issues now doing high volume training multiple times in the week where in the past those workouts have near crippled me …think 6x6 squats to be repeated the next day at 8x8.

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:
As an experiment, I told my friend after his workout: “Take these pills” and gave him 10 grams of BCAAs. He didn’t know what they were.
[/quote]

You made a guinea pig out of your “friend”?

We used to do this to each other in HS. “Here take these pills, come talk to me after 5th period. I need a good laugh.”

[quote]DanErickson wrote:
What I think really stinks is that how does anybody really know BCAA’s are doing anything for them?

Unless your are at the peak of your genetic potential I don’t see how it is possible to feel that it is working. Plus how can somebody use something like measurements or body fat to prove it? There are so many other countless contributing factors. Am I missing something? [/quote]

        Cal Law put it nicely, I too am on a calorie deficit akin to his as far as numbers, and IMO that's when you "notice" it the most.
     You feel better, even though you're dieting. Myself, I have felt much better during the workouts, and afterwards not as "burned out". As far as physically seeing results, I also see less muscle being lost in the overall process as well...as far as when cutting...

      Anyway, it's great thing, give it a shot and you should notice positive results. I go with about 30gms, during and after wkout, with a steady ingestion of 7.5 in between meals also. Non training days, I still take 5-7.5 btw meals and that is working great for me.
          good luck,
          ToneBone

I love my Biotest BCAA’s and would feel lost without them.

I take them immediately upon rising before cardio, preworkout, during my workout and after my workout. I also like to carry them around for a quick fix if I am late having one of my meals.

Olesya

BCAAs have absorption kinetics that whole protein can’t compete with. I discuss this topic in more depth with Hector Lopez, MD in the most recent Max-Out Radio.

Pre-workout, before bed with fat, upon waking with carbs. Otherwise it’s all the same.

[quote]mtd25 wrote:
So I know Dave that you are a proponent of before and after workouts as well as in between meals.

Some lifters like to pop some large amounts in between sets in the middle of a session. If I remember correctly you don’t believe they are utilized well this way. If you were on a limited budget, what would your priority of this list be?

  1. Post workout
  2. Pre-workout
  3. Between meals as a mini-snack
  4. After waking
    5… Before bed
  5. During workout
  6. After meals

[/quote]

Here’s a question to the group since we’re discussing BCAAs.

A lot of coaches and trainers advocate taking BCAAs during training to optimise the increased blood flow to the muscles and mitigate the catabolic nature of training. With that in mind, we also know that digestion during workouts isn’t optimal and the likelihood of those nutrients reaching the muscles during training may be inhibited.

So my question is there merit in taking BCAAs during training? Is the bio-availability of BCAAs fast enough to make a difference? I won’t complicate the question with the glucose question but I am curious about this as well.

And before I get inundated with links to articles with Poliquin, etc, I have read them.

Cheers,

Sasha

This was just discussed on another thread, but I can’t remember which.

You’re exactly right in that consumption during a workout is suboptimal.

[quote]SashaG wrote:
So my question is there merit in taking BCAAs during training? Is the bio-availability of BCAAs fast enough to make a difference?[/quote]

There was an endurance article on here about a week ago, the author or interviewee stated he consumes 6-8g BCAA’s, the equivalent of 18-20g Whey & you dont get the “cottonmouth” feeling etc…