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Can You Build Muscle Fast With BCAA and What Are The Benefits

A lot of people ask me what are the BCAA benefits?  Or will taking Branched Chain Amino Acids help me build muscle and stay lean?  Well I found a couple of good articles for you to help guide you.  I found the following article on notyouraveragefitnesstips.com.


Today I’d like to discuss branched chain amino acids.  You may have heard of BCAAs before but do they really live up to their claim of being effective for losing fat and gaining muscle?  While I’d say there are many benefits of BCAAs, whether you decide to supplement with them will depend in part on when you exercise and how restrictive your diet is.  For fasted training, I’d highly recommend using branched chain amino acids to help prevent muscle loss while maximizing fat loss.  Any other time, there’s probably only a marginal benefit at best.


I found this good video on BCAAs.  It’s has an advertising @ the end..skip over that part.

Okay…now back to that article.

Branched Chain Amino Acids

2073476514 d4c618617b m Can You Build Muscle Fast With BCAA and What Are The BenefitsLet’s start with the basics.  What are branched chain amino acids?  In short, they’re the best building blocks of protein (essential amino acids known as valine, leucine, and isoleucine).  While your body cannot produce BCAAs on its own, you’re likely getting plenty of these amino acids from your diet, primarily through protein.  However, anyone pursuing a calorie restrictive diet knows that increasing protein intake leads to an increase in calories eaten as well.  Therefore, the primary benefits of branched chain amino acids in raw form are that they are essentially free of calories and provide your body with the materials it needs to build and preserve muscle.

BCAA Benefits and Side Effects

There have been a variety of studies done on BCAA benefits.  Here are some of the key findings associated with branched chain amino acids:

  • Reduction of cortisol levels when combined with weight training
  • Increase metabolism and fat loss
  • Improve exercise performance and reduce fatigue
  • Preserve muscle mass during endurance training
  • Taking BCAAs after a workout may increase lean muscle mass
  • Taking BCAAs before or during a workout may decrease soreness, help repair damaged muscles, and reduce breakdown of muscles
  • Improve immune system

As with any supplement, there’s always the potential for side effects.  I haven’t found any definitive research that shows serious short or long term side effects.  One key recommendation is to stay hydrated.  Otherwise, it’s really no different than eating a lot of protein.  To be safe, I wouldn’t use these in excess (30g per training day should be more than enough for the average person) and maybe cycle off every couple months just to make sure.

Benefits of BCAAs During Fasted Training

With all the benefits of branched chain amino acids listed above, BCAAs are most valuable when you’re performing fasted training or eating a calorie restrictive diet in general.  It’s those times that you might not be getting an adequate amount of amino acids where supplementation can be important for preserving muscle mass while you focus on burning fat.  Because they are essentially calorie free, BCAAs only produce a minimal insulin response (if any) allowing you to gain the all the benefits of fasted training without the potential for muscle breakdown.

This is important because you can ensure your muscles have the proper building blocks in place while still training in a fasted state.  In a fasted state, your body is primed to burn fat since glycogen levels are low.  One concern, although modest in my opinion, is that you may risk losing muscle by performing fasted training or early morning cardio.  Think of BCAAs as an insurance policy.  There’s no guarantee but why not give yourself the best chance to preserve muscle while taking advantage of the fat burning that comes from fasted training?  In fact, this article shows how 12g of BCAAs taken around workout time is enough to significantly reduce muscle breakdown which is especially important if you are in a calorie depleted state.

Timing of BCAA Supplements

So when should you take branched chain amino acids?  Personally, I like the approach advocated by Martin Berkhan on Leangains:

  • 10g of BCAAs right before early morning fasted training
  • 10g of BCAAs 2 hours later
  • 10g of BCAAs another 2 hours later (4 hours after first serving)
  • Post workout meal 2 hours later

It’s a great method for fasted training whereby you can maximize fat burning while preserving muscle.  When I do morning cardio, I’ve been having 5-10g right before training, 10-15g 2 hours later, and then breakfast 1-2 hours after that.  This allows me to maximize the HGH release from an intense HIIT workout while the steady flow of branched chain amino acids prevents muscle loss.

Branched Chain Amino Acid Supplements

You have a couple choices for branched chain amino acid supplements.  My preferred drink is Scivation Xtend.  While the old formula was drinkable, the new formula is outstanding.  To me, it’s like drinking Gatorade with the essential building blocks of protein, no calories, and no sugar.  Honestly, when I first opened the new formula tub, the smell from the powder was not appealing.  However, once mixed with water, I loved all three flavors I tried (grape, orange, and lemon lime).  I recommend getting a few different flavors so that your taste buds get a nice variety over the course of a couple days.

Another consideration is to take BCAAs in pill form.  This may require taking a lot of pills if you follow the fasted training routine above.  However, it’s unclear how many grams of BCAAs you really need to prevent muscle loss.  Depending on how many branched chain amino acids you get from your daily diet, you might only need a few additional grams around your workout to get the maximum benefit.

Bottom Line on Branched Chain Amino Acids

There are no absolutes when it comes to training and branched chain amino acid supplements.  I think claims of losing fat and gaining muscle just by ingesting BCAAs on their own may be overstated but it’s hard to say definitively.  In my opinion, the biggest benefit of BCAA supplementation is during fasted training or when you’re engaged in an overall calorie restrictive diet.  The branched chain amino acids provide your muscles with the essential building blocks of protein ensuring that your muscles are adequately nourished.  The lack of calories allows you to maintain the fat burning effects after an intense workout.

Source: notyouraveragefitnesstips.com


That’s a great article from Not Your Average Fitness Tips.  He has a ton of good stuff on there.

If you want more information I found a great top 10 of BCAAs and their benefits.  Check out the table at the end of the article.  It’s good stuff.  This article is from Muscle And Body Mag.


Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs can be used directly by your muscles for fuel. Also, BCAAs are known to enhance muscle growth and strength by directly stimulating muscle protein synthesis.

Rule #1: 
Know Your Three BCAAs. 
The BCAAs are comprised of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Each of these amino acid molecules has a section that builds off of the amino acid and forms a branch structure. This is why they are referred to as “branched-chain amino acids.”

These three aminos alone make up about one-third of the total amino acids in muscle. The human body has about 20 amino acids, so this should give you a sense of just how important these three key BCAAs are. Essential amino acids are those that your body cannot make itself; they must be provided by the diet, and that’s another reason why BCAA supplementation is so important.

Rule #2: 
Learn Why The BCAAs Are Special Aminos.
The BCAAs are not just important because they are essential aminos or because they make up a good proportion of muscle protein. The reason these three are super-special aminos is because of how they are handled in the body. Most amino acids go directly to the liver after being digested, where they can be broken down if the body needs them for energy. On the other hand, BCAAs tend to be spared by the liver and go directly to the muscles intact. Another thing that makes the BCAAs special is that muscle can use BCAAs directly for fuel, unlike with other amino acids. This is crucial for helping to strengthen, build and repair muscle tissue that has been stressed by weight training.

Rule #3: 
Use BCAAs To Energize Your Muscles.
Besides boosting energy by being used as a direct fuel source for muscle fibers, BCAAs also enhance energy by reducing the amount of tryptophan that gets into the brain. Tryptophan produces a metabolite known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP) or serotonin. During exercise, serotonin notifies the brain that the body is fatigued and causes it to reduce muscle strength and endurance. The BCAAs, namely valine, compete with tryptophan for entry into the brain. Research studies confirm that taking BCAAs before workouts lowers the amount of the amino acid tryptophan that gets into the brain, and therefore lowers the amount of fatigue you feel. In addition, BCAAs can also help to boost brain function by reducing brain fatigue.

Rule #4: 
Master The Ways BCAAs Can Boost Muscle Growth And Strength.
Of all the benefits that BCAAs offer, the most interesting for M&B readers is their ability to enhance muscle growth and strength. They do this by directly stimulating muscle protein synthesis, which is the buildup of muscle protein. Of the three BCAAs, leucine appears to be the most critical for stimulating muscle protein synthesis, yet all three are important for optimizing protein synthesis.

BCAAs also work to enhance muscle growth and strength by altering levels of anabolic and catabolic hormones. One anabolic hormone the BCAAs boost is insulin. This is primarily caused by leucine, and it leads to further enhancement of muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs have also been found to increase levels of growth hormone.

Another advantage that comes (albeit from the other direction) is that BCAAs also blunt levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol, particularly during exercise. Since cortisol normally increases muscle breakdown and inhibits testosterone’s anabolic actions, blunting cortisol works to increase muscle growth and strength gains.

Rule #5: 
Use BCAAs To Help Cut Fat.
Another benefit of BCAAs is their ability to enhance fat loss. Research on leucine alone has shown that this amino acid can increase metabolic rate, and therefore the amount of total calories and fat burned.

In addition, research shows that leucine helps to blunt hunger. It is theorized that leucine is used by the brain as an indicator of the levels of total amino acids in the bloodstream. Having more total amino acids in the blood signals your brain that you are well-fed, which means hunger should be reduced to prevent overeating, and your metabolic rate can be set on high without the concern that energy levels will run out.

Rule #6: 
Learn When To Take BCAAs. 
When it comes to BCAAs, timing is crucial (see chart at right).

For those interested in gaining more muscle mass, strength and energy, the most critical time for taking BCAAs is around workouts. For best results, you should take one dose within 30 minutes before your workouts along with your preworkout protein shake and carbs and another dose within 30 minutes after workouts along with your postworkout protein shake and carbs.

Working out also increases levels of cortisol. Supplementing with BCAAs before and after workouts keeps cortisol levels low, which encourages greater muscle growth. A dose of BCAAs right before workouts will provide your muscles with the energy they need to stave off fatigue throughout the workout. Additionally, research confirms that taking BCAAs around workout time will help to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which comes on after intense workouts.

Another critical window for taking a dose of BCAAs is as soon as you wake in the morning.  Taking a dose of BCAAs first thing in the morning gets aminos immediately to your muscles to use as fuel and for repair, which will stop the continued breakdown of your hard-earned muscle from your night-long fasting. and help build it back up.

The fourth time of day you should take a dose of BCAAs is late in the day with dinner or with your last meal. This helps to keep protein synthesis and GH up, and cortisol down throughout the next day.

In addition, you may want to consider taking additional doses of BCAAs between meals to keep hunger down and metabolism up for optimal fat burning.

Rule #7: 
Learn How To Stack BCAAs With Other Supplements. 
To maximize their effectiveness, take BCAAs with protein and carbs, such as a whey protein shake and Gatorade (after workouts), eggs and toast (for breakfast), or steak and a sweet potato (for dinner). Taking BCAAs with protein and carbs will help to drive more of the BCAAs into your muscles thanks to the greater insulin boost.

For those following a low-carb diet, you will obviously not want to eat carbs every time you take a dose of BCAAs. That’s fine, because the leucine will help boost insulin on its own. In addition, you can take BCAAs with supplements, such as alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), that enhance insulin’s release and its action at muscle cells. Take 300–500 mg of ALA when you take a dose of BCAAs to further enhance insulin’s actions and get more BCAAs into your muscles.

Rule #8: 
Learn How To Dose Your BCAAs.
M&B suggests you get a minimum of 5 g and up to 10 g of BCAAs per dose. Start off with just 1 or 2 g of BCAAs per dose to allow your stomach to get used to them. Then slowly increase the dosage (by about 1 g per dose every three or four days) as your tolerance allows until you’re up to at least the minimum dose of 5 g.

Rule #9: 
Take The Most Effective Ratio Of BCAAs. 
Be aware that the ratio of leucine to isoleucine and valine is also critical for optimizing its benefits. You should look for BCAA supplements that provide leucine at a dose that delivers a ratio of leucine to valine and leucine to isoleucine of 2:1. For example, if you take a 5-g dose of BCAAs, you try to get about 2.5 g from leucine, 1.25 g from isoleucine and 1.25 g from valine.

Rule #10: 
Use The Best Form Of BCAAs.
BCAAs typically come in capsules or tablets that you swallow or as a powder that you mix. Both forms are similarly effective. Most capsules or tablet forms of BCAAs provide about 500–1,000 mg of BCAAs per pill.

Since you’ll be taking a minimum dose of 5 g of BCAAs about four times per day, you may not want to swallow a total of up to 20–40 pills per day. This is where powders have an advantage. While it used to be that BCAA powders were chalky and flavorless, today they often come in a variety of flavors that should please anyone’s palate.

Of course, if you can’t find a flavor you like, using a pill form of BCAAs could be your best bet. Another advantage of pill form is that they’re easier to travel with, such as taking them to work, school, the gym or when you travel. Try both versions to see which works best for you.

Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs can be used directly by your muscles for fuel. Also, BCAAs are known to enhance muscle growth and strength by directly stimulating muscle protein synthesis.

  Just Say When
When and how you take your BCAAs has a major impact on their muscle-building effects. This table gives you the times of day that you should supplement with BCAAs, and it tells you the primary benefit for supplementing at each time of day.
 Time  Benefits
 First thing in the morning  Stops breakdown of muscle from the night-long fast
Boosts energy
Reduces hunger
Promotes fat burning
 Between meals  Boosts energy
Reduces hunger
Promotes fat burning
 Last meal of the day  Reduces hunger
Reduces muscle breakdown during the night
Promotes fat burning
 Before workouts  Boosts energy
Promotes muscle strength
Promotes fat burning
 After workouts  Aids muscle recovery
Promotes muscle growth
Reduces DOMS
Promotes fat burning

Source: http://www.muscleandbodymag.com/article.php?ArticleID=5287


Wow… that is a ton of BCAA information.  Do you take BCAA’s?  Have you noticed any BCAA benefits?  Join in the conversation…would love to hear from you.



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