Cue the music for another wildly debated supplement topic. When it comes to its usefulness, a whole host of people have to vary and opposing opinions about BCAA’s (or Branched-Chain Amino Acids). Some swear by it and say that they are an excellent source of muscle-building/ retention (depending on whether you’re building or cutting). Others say that they’re garbage and a complete waste of time and money.

Now the nay-sayers may quote a whole bunch of studies that show BCAA’s are not too great at building muscle and, yes, some studies have been clear in showing this. However, some studies have looked at a different focus group and found that BCAA’s were a great aid when it came to building muscle. That being said, a US study shows that BCAA’s most definitely help as an integral aid when it came to maintaining lean body mass (such as lean muscle, of course) while in a caloric deficit (1). In other words, BCAA’s are much better recovery agents than they are muscle builders.

A myriad of studies has shown the following:

      • The intake of BCAA’s dramatically increases muscle protein synthesis after a workout, especially due to the BCAA Leucine content found inside.
      • BCAA’s exhibit a noticeable difference in muscle soreness and recovery time. Some studies have even found that BCAA’s before training can help with muscle soreness.
      • BCAA’s improve strength and muscle recovery. This would result in you recovering sooner and being able to train harder for your subsequent sessions. You have to note that during a cutting phase (and most especially during contest prep) that this would be extremely beneficial due to the prolonged exposure of sitting in the caloric deficit needed to get stage ready. Anabolic hormone levels would be sitting rather low at this point as well so sufficient BCAA intake would aid with muscle recovery and retention.

Now the most notable benefit from taking BCAA’s is, that if taken between meals as a timing agent, muscle protein synthesis is extended from when you have your meals. In other words, muscle protein synthesis is an important occurrence that results in our bodies using protein to recover muscle tissue. It spikes when we eat meals (which generally have a protein source) and dips soon after. By taking BCAA’s between meals, you can extend the period of muscle protein synthesis and keep your body in a prolonged state of recovery.

Pretty awesome if you’re a competing athlete since you’re obviously looking to hold onto as much muscle as possible during your prep.

So this is how you go about dosing your BCAA’s if you’d like these prolonged recovery effects:

Take 0.03-0.05g of BCAA’s/kg of lean body mass in between meals (ideally one serving in a period somewhere between one hour after having a meal and an hour before the next meal). 

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