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The Effects of BCAA's on Blood Glucose Levels

Hello guys!

I enjoy taking a walk early in the morning, right after waking up, as I believe it is a great way to burn off some extra fat. When doing so, I drink 5-10 grams of amino acids by coach Thib’s and other coaches reccomendation.

But, I’ve been wondering if these amino acids creates a rise in insulin, significant enough to diminish the claimed boosted fat-burning effects of fasted cardio.

I tried but failed at finding an definitive answer to this. So, I’ve bought my own glucose meter,and I will be doing some measuring on myself, along with measuring body temperature and heartbeat in the morning.

If this is something people are interested in, then I’ll post my result. I’m open for suggestions to other similliar experiments requiring a glucose meter.

Daniel.

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Post your results.

I don’t think BCAA’s would be necessary for walking though… unless you’re doing like an hour on the incline.

[quote]gabex wrote:
I don’t think BCAA’s would be necessary for walking though… unless you’re doing like an hour on the incline.[/quote]

Even then, I would question the need. I understand the concerns, but I just don’t see any real-world evidence of the body cannibalizing lean mass in response to low-intensity anything.

Now getting in some pre-workout BCAAs for a heavy lifting session, now that makes perfect sense and is backed by research.

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Some great coaches have a discussion on the topic: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_interviews/the_fasted_cardio_roundtable

and as you can read, coach Thib suggest using BCAA’s when doing fasted cardio. But I see what you mean, and that is why I’m testing it also.

And if it doesn’t counteract the enhanced fat burning effect, then there is no harm in ingesting BCAA’s before fasted cardio, as they surely will protect muscle to some degree. If they prove not to, then why not use them?

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I always take some BCAAs (Scivation xtend - great stuff btw) before a empty stomach cardio session in the morning, to help blast fat. Assuming you’ve been asleep for 6-8 hours, your body’s skeletal muscle is most likely craving some aminos. Drink lots of cold water with it as well. Cold water helps jump start the body’s metabolism. I can’t see how BCAAs would increase your insulin, unless the product you’re using isn’t sugar free.

If you’re trying to burn fat and retain muscle, try doing 20 minutes of High intensity interval training. Don’t forget to get a good meal in you after!

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I’m back with some results!

Not exactly the same circumstances as when doing fasted cardio, but I wanted to test if BCAA’s caused an increase in blood glucose levels. I’ll be doing some more tests soon on this.

The experiment:

I fasted for 18-20 hours, then took a reading. My blood glucose levels at control time “T” was 4.7 mmol/l. Then I ingested 10 grams of BCAA’s.

T+22 minutes read 4.4mmol/l (22 minutes after ingesting the BCAA’s)

T+30 read 4.3 mmol/l. (30 minutes after ingesting the BCAA’s)

This shows me that BCAA’s does not cause a rise in blood glucose levels, and therefore doesn’t intefere with the (claimed) increased fatburning effect of fasted cardio.

But, with every “scientific” expermient, I have to be able to replicate it to be sure. One possible source of error could be the time of the first reading after ingesting the BCAA’s. There is a possibility that they are absorbed by the body fasted than 20 minutes after.

Still, if they caused an blood glucose rise for only 10 minutes, it wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Note: the strips used for the readings are plasma-calibrated.

2 Likes

^^ good stuff OP, thanks for sharing

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[quote]chillain wrote:
^^ good stuff OP, thanks for sharing
[/quote]

No problem.

I’ll be doing some more experiments on this matter, but next step is testing the effects of artificial sweeteners on blood glucose levels.

We all know a can of Coke Zero is energy free, but some people claim they may actually have an effect on blood glucose levels to some degree - maybe the sweet taste has a psychological effect?

I guess most people here on T-Nation use splenda, so I’ll buy some of that for a start.

1 Like

[quote]Danny1506 wrote:

[quote]chillain wrote:
^^ good stuff OP, thanks for sharing
[/quote]

No problem.

I’ll be doing some more experiments on this matter, but next step is testing the effects of artificial sweeteners on blood glucose levels.

We all know a can of Coke Zero is energy free, but some people claim they may actually have an effect on blood glucose levels to some degree - maybe the sweet taste has a psychological effect?

I guess most people here on T-Nation use splenda, so I’ll buy some of that for a start.[/quote]

I’ve also read some theory about how people think that the experience of “sweet” could trigger an insulin response. Also, that the caramel coloring in diet sodas could trigger it. With all the diabetics out there chugging diet soda, you’d think we’d know about this by now if that’s the case. This came up in a thread awhile back, and I tried to find some scientific evidence to back up these ideas and couldn’t come with anything. Interested to see what happens with your self-experimentation.

About BCAA use while fasting, John Berardi over at precision nutrition recently wrote about fasting one day per week. As I recall, he takes BCAAs when he does a fast day with the idea that it would help minimize any muscle breakdown.

1 Like

[quote]Danny1506 wrote:
I’m back with some results!

Not exactly the same circumstances as when doing fasted cardio, but I wanted to test if BCAA’s caused an increase in blood glucose levels. I’ll be doing some more tests soon on this.

The experiment:

I fasted for 18-20 hours, then took a reading. My blood glucose levels at control time “T” was 4.7 mmol/l. Then I ingested 10 grams of BCAA’s.

T+22 minutes read 4.4mmol/l (22 minutes after ingesting the BCAA’s)

T+30 read 4.3 mmol/l. (30 minutes after ingesting the BCAA’s)

This shows me that BCAA’s does not cause a rise in blood glucose levels, and therefore doesn’t intefere with the (claimed) increased fatburning effect of fasted cardio.

But, with every “scientific” expermient, I have to be able to replicate it to be sure. One possible source of error could be the time of the first reading after ingesting the BCAA’s. There is a possibility that they are absorbed by the body fasted than 20 minutes after.

Still, if they caused an blood glucose rise for only 10 minutes, it wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Note: the strips used for the readings are plasma-calibrated.[/quote]

Because there aren’t calories, and if BCAAs caused insulin release, I’d expect a drop in blood sugar. Insulin driving blood sugar into cells without any coming in. You may still be releasing insulin which should dampen fat burning, despite glucose levels.

But I’m still trying to learn this stuff, so I could be completely off base.

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:

[quote]Danny1506 wrote:
I’m back with some results!

Not exactly the same circumstances as when doing fasted cardio, but I wanted to test if BCAA’s caused an increase in blood glucose levels. I’ll be doing some more tests soon on this.

The experiment:

I fasted for 18-20 hours, then took a reading. My blood glucose levels at control time “T” was 4.7 mmol/l. Then I ingested 10 grams of BCAA’s.

T+22 minutes read 4.4mmol/l (22 minutes after ingesting the BCAA’s)

T+30 read 4.3 mmol/l. (30 minutes after ingesting the BCAA’s)

This shows me that BCAA’s does not cause a rise in blood glucose levels, and therefore doesn’t intefere with the (claimed) increased fatburning effect of fasted cardio.

But, with every “scientific” expermient, I have to be able to replicate it to be sure. One possible source of error could be the time of the first reading after ingesting the BCAA’s. There is a possibility that they are absorbed by the body fasted than 20 minutes after.

Still, if they caused an blood glucose rise for only 10 minutes, it wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Note: the strips used for the readings are plasma-calibrated.[/quote]

Because there aren’t calories, and if BCAAs caused insulin release, I’d expect a drop in blood sugar. Insulin driving blood sugar into cells without any coming in. You may still be releasing insulin which should dampen fat burning, despite glucose levels.

But I’m still trying to learn this stuff, so I could be completely off base.[/quote]

I see where you are coming from, and I have also been wondering the same thing. I did, however, take a reading 1 hour and 10 minutes after eating my first meal in 24 hours, which showed 5.0 mmol/l. My control test showed 4.2 mmol/l.

As I see it, the insulin should come as a response to a rise in blood glucose levels, which would then lower it back to normal.

But, I’m in no way an expert on this, which is also why I can’t explain the decrease in blood sugar 20-30 mins after BCAA consumption. I’ll try out a similiar experiment again next monday, possible also some mornings in the weekend, to see if I get the same results.

I’ve also been wondering; how many mmol/l glucose in the blood is neccesary to create an significant insulin rise?

1 Like

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:

[quote]Danny1506 wrote:

[quote]chillain wrote:
^^ good stuff OP, thanks for sharing
[/quote]

No problem.

I’ll be doing some more experiments on this matter, but next step is testing the effects of artificial sweeteners on blood glucose levels.

We all know a can of Coke Zero is energy free, but some people claim they may actually have an effect on blood glucose levels to some degree - maybe the sweet taste has a psychological effect?

I guess most people here on T-Nation use splenda, so I’ll buy some of that for a start.[/quote]

I’ve also read some theory about how people think that the experience of “sweet” could trigger an insulin response. Also, that the caramel coloring in diet sodas could trigger it. With all the diabetics out there chugging diet soda, you’d think we’d know about this by now if that’s the case. This came up in a thread awhile back, and I tried to find some scientific evidence to back up these ideas and couldn’t come with anything. Interested to see what happens with your self-experimentation.

About BCAA use while fasting, John Berardi over at precision nutrition recently wrote about fasting one day per week. As I recall, he takes BCAAs when he does a fast day with the idea that it would help minimize any muscle breakdown.
[/quote]

Yes, I think it would be a psychological response, if there is one. John Beradis suggestion to use (rather large) BCAA amounts when fasting, is also what inspired me to try this out.

The fast would be greatly affected by the BCAA’s if they caused too big of an effect on blood glucose levels imo.

[quote]Danny1506 wrote:

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:

[quote]Danny1506 wrote:
I’m back with some results!

Not exactly the same circumstances as when doing fasted cardio, but I wanted to test if BCAA’s caused an increase in blood glucose levels. I’ll be doing some more tests soon on this.

The experiment:

I fasted for 18-20 hours, then took a reading. My blood glucose levels at control time “T” was 4.7 mmol/l. Then I ingested 10 grams of BCAA’s.

T+22 minutes read 4.4mmol/l (22 minutes after ingesting the BCAA’s)

T+30 read 4.3 mmol/l. (30 minutes after ingesting the BCAA’s)

This shows me that BCAA’s does not cause a rise in blood glucose levels, and therefore doesn’t intefere with the (claimed) increased fatburning effect of fasted cardio.

But, with every “scientific” expermient, I have to be able to replicate it to be sure. One possible source of error could be the time of the first reading after ingesting the BCAA’s. There is a possibility that they are absorbed by the body fasted than 20 minutes after.

Still, if they caused an blood glucose rise for only 10 minutes, it wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Note: the strips used for the readings are plasma-calibrated.[/quote]

Because there aren’t calories, and if BCAAs caused insulin release, I’d expect a drop in blood sugar. Insulin driving blood sugar into cells without any coming in. You may still be releasing insulin which should dampen fat burning, despite glucose levels.

But I’m still trying to learn this stuff, so I could be completely off base.[/quote]

I see where you are coming from, and I have also been wondering the same thing. I did, however, take a reading 1 hour and 10 minutes after eating my first meal in 24 hours, which showed 5.0 mmol/l. My control test showed 4.2 mmol/l.

As I see it, the insulin should come as a response to a rise in blood glucose levels, which would then lower it back to normal.

But, I’m in no way an expert on this, which is also why I can’t explain the decrease in blood sugar 20-30 mins after BCAA consumption. I’ll try out a similiar experiment again next monday, possible also some mornings in the weekend, to see if I get the same results.

I’ve also been wondering; how many mmol/l glucose in the blood is neccesary to create an significant insulin rise?
[/quote]

I don’t think BCAAs are supposed to stimulate insulin by raising glucose levels. I don’t know that monitoring glucose is telling you what you want to know.

2 out 3 of the amino acids in the common BCAA product are glucogenic (valine and isoleucine), which means that they can be converted into glucose through gluconeogenesis.

A rise in blood glucose would mean a rise in insulin, counteracting what we are trying to achive with doing cardio on an empty stomach: Enhanced fat burning.

This is my theory, atleast, and monitoring blood glucose is kinda the only type of experiment I can do on myself.

See http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_interviews/the_fasted_cardio_roundtable etc.

I guess it depends on what you want to accomplish via exercising while fasted. Brad PIlon’s Eat Stop Eat reports on a study that shows as little as 4g of leucine will disable autophagosis, the body’s cleanup mechanism. If true, the use of BCAAs while being fasted defeats some of the purpose of fasting, and could interfere with the processing of fat cells if autophagosis plays a role there. (I don’t know if it does, or not.) Are you in the fasted state long enough for this to matter? Since you’re not stressing the muscles, and the BCAAs don’t provide any “energy”, then why bother taking them? Save them for later.

I know Berardi promotes the use of BCAAs, but I noticed he completely ignores the hormonal response to fasting in his intermittent fasting e-book. Is the hormonal response significant? Especially for just an overnight fast? I don’t know. Brad Pilon seems to think so, but he’s no Berardi.

I use to use BCAAs extensively while fasting. The fasting still had a beneficial effect on my blood sugar. I’m now experimenting with an E-S-E style fast, so no BCAAs. I’ll let you know how the results come out.

[quote]Danny1506 wrote:
2 out 3 of the amino acids in the common BCAA product are glucogenic (valine and isoleucine), which means that they can be converted into glucose through gluconeogenesis.

A rise in blood glucose would mean a rise in insulin, counteracting what we are trying to achive with doing cardio on an empty stomach: Enhanced fat burning.

This is my theory, atleast, and monitoring blood glucose is kinda the only type of experiment I can do on myself.

See http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_interviews/the_fasted_cardio_roundtable etc.[/quote]

You are complicating it slightly. Insulin is used to drive glucose into muscle cells but it is also used to drive amino acids into muscle cells. Ingesting of amino acids causes a rise in insulin to shuttle the amino acids, not because the amino acids are getting converted to glucose.

So to clarify, you can have a significant insulin response via AA’s independent of any changes in blood sugar levels.

1 Like

[quote]Danny1506 wrote:
2 out 3 of the amino acids in the common BCAA product are glucogenic (valine and isoleucine), which means that they can be converted into glucose through gluconeogenesis.
[/quote]

I thought it was the leucine that caused the insulin response?

On this topic who thinks that a scoop of xtend (3.5g leucine, 1.75g isoleucine, 1.75g valine) mixed with 2 liters of water, consumed over a 10hr period would have an effect on insulin release in the body?

Im drinking this concoction at work to keep my water intake up during a fasting period.

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I’m going to give this one a shot- Insulin, if secreted in this situation, is not going to be able to store fat if you are in a fasted state and do not ingest carbohydrates. The BCAAs would be ushered into your muscle tissues, which is a good thing. Isoleucine and valine might be converted into glucose, but the priority would be to replenish the muscles, which would be low on glucose from being in a fasted state. As such, fasting on BCAAs should be effective, and at the least the BCAAs should prevent some muscle catabolism

It is true that the hormonal issues surrounding this are complicated, but I do not think anyone is going to argue that a few grams of BCAAs are going to prevent you from losing weight on a fast. Insulin is an indiscriminately anabolic hormone, but it is not capable of storing fat in the absence of anything to store. If insulin is secreted in response to BCAAs, the only anabolic effect that it would be capable of inducing would be in the muscle tissue; it could supply critical aminos, whilst potentially replenishing a limited amount of glucose, through gluconeogenesis of valine and isoleucine. Glucose in our muscles is a good thing!

Anyway, I’ve never tried fasting, but I’m gonna try BCAA fasting in the morning once or twice a week. I’ll take some notes.

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OP, I applaud your attempt to address this question empirically. However, blood sugar (BS) levels are a problematic (at best) biomarker for measuring insulin response. There are simply too many factors that influence BS homeostasis to assume that changes in BS correlate with changes in serum insulin concentration. To study the effect of BCAAs on serum insulin levels, those levels have to be measured directly–no easy feat outside of the lab. Fortunately, the white-coats have looked at this issue extensively. A quick check on the Magic Google Box revealed the following study you might find of interest:

“Leucine, when ingested with glucose, synergistically stimulates insulin secretion and lowers blood glucose”

But don’t let the title throw you–from the summary:

“…leucine at a dose equivalent to that present in a high-protein meal, had little effect on serum glucose or insulin concentrations but did increase the glucagon concentration. When leucine was ingested with glucose, it attenuated the serum glucose response and strongly stimulated additional insulin secretion. Leucine also attenuated the decrease in glucagon expected when glucose alone is ingested. The data suggest that a rise in glucose concentration is necessary for leucine to stimulate significant insulin secretion. This in turn reduces the glucose response to ingested glucose.”

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Thanks for all the info guys…Much appreciated.

I’m planning a 24 hour fast next week with 10g BCAA’s sipped from around 12.pm - 6.pm (solid meal at 8.pm) I’m going to do 40 minutes steady state cardio at around 7.pm to further enhance the fat burning effects.

Moog

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