T Nation

BCAA's - Recent study / Who uses??

After posting an answer to query on another forum about AA’s, I did some reading. In the recent edition of Powerlifting USA, Mario di Pasquale reported on a study (see below) concerning the use of BCAA’s in peri-/post-workout supplementation. The study found that those individuals who took in 6g (this amount was the “optimal”- less produced less of a response, more made no improvement) of BCAA’s, had a more favourable hormone response (T, IGF, GH etc), and better strength and LBM gains, than 6g protein, or placebo. The study also found that adding extra carbohydrate, or protein to this BCAA cocktail, did NOT purvey any further benefits. I find this rather controversial, especially the last point about extra protein/carbs having no effect. I did not read the article myself, so I don’t know what the rest of these individuals general diet was. I would presume their diets were pretty good outside this post-workout period to ensure anabolism was optimal(?). Di Pasquale does summarise that he would still recomend additional protein post-workout, and up to 48 hours after when the muscles are in recovery.

The reason I mention this, is because in my other posting I talked about my not using AA supplementation, preferring just lots of good quality protein. Way back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, when I was still using Weider Mega mass, and Vanadyl was the latest wonder supp. (remember then?!), I did buy into BCAA’s for a while. Did nothing noticeable for me that I could see. However it might have been the rest of my diet then (I was totally clueless compared to now), and I probably was only taking in piddly amounts (I don’t remember). Never used them since, and didn’t think much more about it till now.

So, have I been missing something? How many of you guys out there use BCAA’s regularly, and have you seen much effect? I’m thinking of starting again, but it would be a fairly big outlay for my budget currently, especially with the amount needed IMO for effect. If the response is favourable, would there be any recommended brands? I would guess that a fair amount of Glutamine, Taurine, Leucine would be important, but not being an AA guru (although I remember my senior biochemistry year vaguely) that’s just a guess. Thanks for any info, sorry for the long post. SRS.

I find that BCAA/glutamine combos work very well for recovery and more energy during workouts. I take a product called “Ice” from time to time that has both in a high quality powder. Great for times that you are dealing with a lot of stress or when you are taking your training up a notch.

So is that it? Have we all been wasting our money on BCAA’s and the like when you can get the same from prtein powder and other high quality food sources of protein? Besides, using them for a specific purpose in large doses like Power Drive or trying to raise growth hormone levels (if this even works) I guess good old fashion protein is we all need, right? Funny, I kind of figured that…

I second what Mike said. I love BCAA’s. They’re a low-carber’s best friend when trying to make it through a tough workout. Just pop about 5-8 grams RIGHT before you lift and strength is greatly increased. I also notice better pump, recovery, and an increase in LBM. In fact, I have a new bottle of Glutacene awaiting my muscle tissue as soon as I finish the Methoxy Challenge, which is going well. Read the old posts on glutacene-some people swear by it. However, I think BCAA suplementation is not always necessary. Just during extreme diets and hard training. One of those variables that only matters if everything is in check.

To second Mike, I also use ICE. I will use 7 scoops with 1L water during my workout, followed by surge after. Gotta say this is one supplement that I consider a mainstay. Fat loss, muscle gain, and recovery are all enhanced.

DiPasquale is citing the last two Tipton studies. What I do is ues 6 grams of BCAAs before and 6g right after my workout. All it takes is that small amount of essential amino acids in free form to put yourself in positive nitrogen balance. I workout 2-3 hours after my last meal so I have postprandial aminos for building blocks. I look at the positive nitrogen balance and building blocks as two separate functions of protein for workout nutrition. BTW, I have some whey isolates and hydrolysates about 45 minutes after that. As for carbs, they may not increase insulin beyond the 6g of BCAAs but they do make glycogen repenishment more efficient.

I recently head that a study was done concerning edurance. It stated that on a stationary bike those who took BCAAs before their workout got 16 minutes longer before failure. Not really sure how true that is but whatever helps.

there is little doubt that BCAA’s work. it is just more support of the evidence for the theory that the rate of protein synthesis right after a workout has more to do with the free ammino acid pool in the muscles stimulated than most other factors.

Yup, it was the Tipton study in the journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism. (283(4) if anyone wants the ref).
Brian- Couple of questions:[br]

  1. You sound like you’ve read the study- were these individuals ATHLETES? And what did their overall nutrition look like?[br]
    2)Do the BCAA’s make any difference to your workout (max’s, volume, general well-being)? I’m looking at ways that perhaps some increased work capacity allowed the BCAA supp group to prosper in the study. (Especially after seeing daStudent’s post). Not that that would be a bad thing if it worked in this way![br]
  2. You mention your strategy, but you don’t mention any results from this strategy. I’m hoping you can say that you did the Whey thing first, but it was only when you added the BCAA’s that suddenly rocketed progression. Unfortunately you probably started both whey and BCAA’s simultaneously, right? My question here is that seeing as Whey is a good source of BCAA’s in it’s own right, then could it stand alone as the sole anabolic agent, without the extra free-form BCAA’s?[br]

Interested in anyone elses comments on this. Mike, Marc, Poohbaya, thanks for the posts and the info. I’ll look into some of those supps- your experiences sound promising! SRS

I also found it interesting how you could optimize protein synthesis without the additional carbs. I came across this study a while back, but will continue to consume carbs w/ BCAAs pre/post workout for the obvious glycogen replenishment benefits. Would certainly leave them out on a keto diet, however, given this new info.


If you delve into all the protein synthesis studies done in Wolfe’s lab (i.e. the Tipton studies), then you’ll see that ingestion of enough mixed amino acids (i.e. 35-40g) provides enough to stimulate protein synthesis to close to the same extent as the 6g of Essential Aminos (which weren’t, by the way, solely BCAAs). It’s when you don’t provide enough mixed aminos (i.e. the study used 6g MAA) that you see significant differences.

I think they were atheletes, but I honestly don’t remember. It is correct that 6 grams of EAA was optimal. I use 6 grams of BCAA for the same effect on protein synthesis with the extra benefit of BCAAs, and on the assumption that essential amino acids are already in my blood stream from previous meals. I did try the whey thing first (not hydrolyzed), with and without carbs. When I first used them I was on a Ketogenic diet and I got more reps, a better pump, more mental clarity, more energy. When I started bulking, I seemed to gain muscle at a faster rate for the first couple of months. Now, that’s what I use every workout so I haven’t noticed the benefits. Quality is an issue, I think. You can’t just buy any crappy BCAA supplement off the shelves and expect it to work. Hydrolyzed whey with small enough peptides, as in Surge, will also work but it may be more expensive.