T Nation

Leucine & BCAA: Recommended Use?


The article written on Leucine recommends:

'Furthermore, it seems the change in Leucine concentration in the blood may be more important than the actual amount of Leucine in the blood, so you don't want to take Leucine non-stop.(1) It's better to take a scoop of it (about 5 grams) with a meal, let blood levels drop, and then take another scoop about 4 hours later.'

But Dr. Tim Ziegenfuss suggests:

'Here are two possibilities: 1) spike each meal with ~2.5-5 grams (0.5 to 1 scoop) of leucine and continue taking 4-6 BCAA tabs in between meals; or 2) eat one �¢??normal�¢?? mixed meal every 4-6 hours and then supplement with �?�½ scoop of leucine (2.5 g) + 3 BCAA tabs b/t meals. All things being equal, the net effect on body comp would probably be very similar from both approaches since they both yield a total leucine intake of ~ 40g/day. Personally, I like the first one better b/c I think most guys do not get optimal amts of leucine in every meal.'

These comments contradict each other.

Is it best to take BCAA in between meals or should we let blood leucine levels drop as much as possble in between meals?


BCAA in between meals when cutting for anticatabolic affect, otherwise I would let blood levels drop.
For me BCAA is used ONLY when cutting. Leucine = staple.


I'd go with this.

From what I have been reading recently it is the spike that is important not so much a sustained level of amino's. So allowing the level to drop in the blood near baseline and then spiking it very high again seems to be the new and improved method to see significant gains.

The one exception is that CT believes for steroid users the steady flow of amino's is actually beneficial since they are pretty much never entering a catabolic state.


Using BCAA this way when in dieting makes sense, this is what I was thinking.


CT's (et al) theory is that you supply a steady stream of ALL amino's necessary for protein synthesis. This (as mentioned by 'Way') allows one to stay in a positive nitrogen state. When in a dieting stage the calories would amount to too much, so BCAA are perfect for this.

The Leucine protocol dictates that the change in level is more important than the actual level.. SO one could easily dose protein or BCAA throughout the day, netting maybe a steady stream of maybe ~3g leucine in the blood. Add to this 3x10g doses of Leucine throughout the day and you have both, a positive nitrogen balance AND 3 separate spikes of high leucine (compared to 'normal') levels.

So i would (and do) do both.



The latest Biotest-sponsored research actually appears to state that neither is now optimum. My reading of the current protocol, as outlined by CT, is that casein hydrosylate (CH) ALONE is the optimum way to spike protein synthesis. BCAAs are almost redundant, the exception being 45-60mins pre-workout (and even then that does not appear necessary if one has access to Anaconda, FINiBARs, etc).

As stated earlier in this thread, an exception to this protocol is if you are cutting. Then, a steady state of aminos appears better than spiking. Therefore, BCAAs taken throughout the day would be beneficial.

The previous protocol of taking 3-5g of leucine before each solid meal also appears now redundant under the new pulsing programme, with CT suggesting the spike should be CH 30 mins before food making the additional 5g leucine intake 5 mins before the meal surplus to requirement.

So I'm not surprised there is some confusion on this topic. I have monitored the amino pulsing stuff since it first appeared on T-Nation. In my opinion the goalposts are moving almost daily. First CT stated the optimim pulse was dervived from 3 CH spikes per day and 3 meals per day (he said that's what he was doing personally). He has since advocated the pulses 30 mins prior to solid food, e.g. now 6 pulses per day?. Previously whey hydrolysate, or even leucine on its own, could substitute CH; now he has stated it "may" only be CH that can achieve the spike and nothing else may work.

Although I appreciate nutritional insight into these topics is constantly under review, it would be better if T-Nation members were getting at least information based on some results, e.g. from CT's trainees who have been experimenting with the protocols. At the moment it feels distinctly more like laboratory theory than cutting edge practice.

I've been pulsing with hydrolysed whey and leucine for the past 25 days, most of which time was on a cutting phase. This consists of one spike 30 mins before breakfast and another 3-4 hours later (and 2 hours before a solid meal). I'm sticking with this because I'm confident body comp has improved. But if I had modified it every time the latest pearl of wisdom was announced I don't have a clue what version I'd be on by now.


Good advice JB. If people keep jumping from one program to another w/o allowing the proper time to evaluate how a given protocol works for them, they'll NEVER know which program is optimal for their body/circumstances.


I don't care what CT says, there are several studies out showing Protein, Leucine and dextrose are more effective post workout then just protein and carbs. You don't need CH so lets just cut the crap. And by the way you ever think of crediting natural progression for your body comp improvements?


Studies aside I think it will be a while before people can be confident that these suggestions are really significant, unless it comes out that it was all too anal. For now though I will trial these things and see if I can see a difference in my recovery and results.


Yeah I think it's way to anal. And another thing, If you use any workout drink at all containing Beta alanine you are going to feel like you can workout forever. It's pretty amazing in my opinion.


Of course, and I sincerely believe the naturally low calorie/carb diet with plenty training is the obvious core reason for the transformation. What I can't accuratley assess is what role the pulsing played in this, other than I got the results doing what I was doing - and pulsing was part of what I was doing.


It will never catch on.. !



I'm guessing the adjustments in the amino pulsing protocol are just shades of difference, and all the approaches are effective to varying degrees... good/better/best. Bottom line, pulsing is probably an improvement over what the average trainee is doing, no matter what the precise timing is.

I'm on board with the logic of pulsing, since macro (day/week) cycles of protein/carb manipulation are effective, and the body is incredibly sensitive/responsive, it makes sense to me that positive effects would be seen on an micro (hourly) basis as well.