Currently trying to understand supplementatio with BCAA’s.

The reason is that I am toying with Leangains-style intermittent fasting, and Martin recommends the use of 10g BCAA just ahead of fasted-state training, to avoid muscle-breakdown.

So the questions I have are the following:

  1. Does it make sense to take BCAA’s as prescribed my Martin (hypothesis: yes, he seems to know what he is talking about)
  2. In what form / ratio etc should BCAA’s be taken? Should any other stuff be supplemented at the same time?
  3. Which is the best product for me?

Question 1: Does this make sense?

According to Predator Supplements (my bold)

Branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) is the name given to three of the eight essential amino acids needed to make protein: leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are called branched-chain because their structure has a ‘branch’ off the main trunk of the molecule. The combination of these three essential amino acids makes up approximately one-third of skeletal muscle in the human body. In order to get energy, the body can actually break down muscle to get these BCAAs. Therefore, by supplying them during or after a workout, muscles and other tissues are spared from breakdown, which occurs as a natural part of metabolism.

Here some quotes from EliteFTS

there is little scientific evidence to support the idea that in a hypo-caloric state, increasing BCAA content above what is obtained from food is necessary or of any consequential advantage in increasing synthetic rates.

There may be some accumulating evidence now that supports the idea that orally-ingested BCAAs have an anti-catabolic effect during and after exercise.

D Moore

I believe in their benefit so much (especially around weight training sessions) that I formulated my own product called Anatrop. Anatrop contains specific amounts of BCAAs and L-leucine, which I feel creates a higher level of anabolism when the body is most receptive to those nutrients.

J Harris

No, you get plenty off BCAAs from food protein sources, especially whey protein. There’s nothing showing any benefit of excessive dosing. Because BCAAs are very glucogenic, they will most likely end up in your bloodstream as glucose. Bodybuilders who eat piles of protein and consume BCAAs on the side are throwing money down the drain.

M Berkhan

No, supplemental BCAA is not necessary unless you’re not consuming enough high quality protein. Bodybuilders get marketed to death about the benefits of free-form BCAA when there’s no objective evidence of their benefit over the pre-existing BCAA within the matrix of real food.

A Aragon

BCAAs have been shown in scientific research to increase protein synthesis and reduce protein degradation. However, many people suggest that one can just increase their consumption of whey protein, which is rich in BCAAs. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The BCAAs in whey are peptide bound to other amino acids and must be liberated through digestion and absorbed into the bloodstream in order to exert their effects. Even though whey protein is relatively fast digesting, it still takes several hours for all of the amino acids to be liberated and absorbed into the bloodstream. However, BCAAs in supplement form are free-form BCAAs and require no digestion. Therefore, they are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, spiking blood amino acids to a much greater extent than peptide bound amino acids.

Even a few grams of BCAAs will spike plasma levels to a much greater extent than a 30 gram dose of whey protein. It will also impact protein synthesis to a greater degree. The reason a supplement has such a powerful effect on the blood levels of BCAAs is that unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are not metabolized to a significant extent by the small intestine or the liver. Therefore, an oral supplement is almost like a BCAA injection because it reaches the bloodstream so rapidly.

L Norton

Answer: as usually, I don’t know for sure. Opinions are split. Having said this, there does seem to be an argument that this could indeed work (and is probably not harmful) and that BCAA’s are better than whey protein (or at least, that whey protein should be taken a bit earlier than BCAA’s to give it a chance to be digested)

Question 2: Form / Ratio

The most common form seem to be 2:1:1 L:IL:V which happens also to be the ratio to be found in whey protein (at least in the one I am using); some people say that Leucin is the most important, hence the 4:1:1 product I suppose. Most BCAA products contain not much else – mainly vit B6 (which seems to help in metabolising the BCAA), and citrulline malate:

Citrulline Malate is a unique combination of the amino acid citrulline and the organic salt malate that offers athletes a potential method of improving performance, delaying fatigue and accelerating recovery. It is particularly useful for people involved in high intensity exercise such as weight lifting and sprinting.

Citrulline aids in the removal of toxins such as lactic acid and ammonia, which are by-products of intense physical activity, protein metabolism and catabolic states. Unfortunately, these by-products can seriously hamper exercise performance but Citrulline can go some way to reducing their effects.

Citrulline Malate can be used with Taurine to produce excellent pump and vascularity.


Not sure if I am so keen on CM latter one – I want BCAA’s, not an all-singing-dancing performance enhancement product

Which products to buy

A couple of products in my shortlist – all BCAA products except the last one which is my current protein shake (note – the links are not affiliate links)

  • Scivation Xtend: £0.60/10g BCCA; + vit B6, glutamin, citrulline malate, others (sucralose, colors, flavours, …)
  • Fitmax BCCA: £0.69/10g BCCA; + citrulline malate, aspartame/acesulfame, citric acid
  • Olimp Xplode: £0.80/10g BCCA; + sucralose, others (colours, flavors, …)
  • Precision Engineered BCCA: £0.63/10g BCCA; + vit B6 (NO sweeteners, colours, flavours,…)
  • Maximuscle ProMax (whey shake): £1.54/10g BCCA (£0.35/10g protein); + other AA’s (BCAA~23%), taurine, sucralose, others (colours, flavours, …)

And the winner is: Precision Engineered BCAA. Why? It is what it says on the box (ie there seems to be nothing else in it) and it is cheap. I might also use my ProMax, but the bang for the (BCAA-)buck does not seem to be there


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