I get asked a lot of questions about BCAA. Such as this one I received just yesterday:
“Doc, I want to take some BCAA to my pre and post workout, so I can gain more muscle and also lose fat. how many grams should I take? Also, does the stuff even work? I trust you, so please be honest because it can get expensive. I wanted to take 5 grams. what do you think?”
So, I’ll keep today’s topic short because BCAA isn’t new and there isn’t anything really special about them.
How Do BCAAs Work in Building Muscle and Losing Fat?
First, BCAAs consist of 3 amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. And of the 3, leucine is the most important one for building muscle and losing fat. BCAAs can be both anabolic and anti-catabolic at the same time. When used at the correct dose, they can raise GH (anabolic) and insulin (anti-catabolic).
Additionally, taking BCAA prior to a workout and during as well, can help increase testosterone levels post-workout.1
Thus, the main benefits are from positive hormonal changes.
How Much BCAA Do I Need?
However, many of these studies, facts, and figures are based on HIGH doses of BCAAs. About 0.2 grams per lb of bodyweight. Thus, if you weigh 200 lbs, you need about 40 GRAMS of BCAAs to get the full benefits.
That’s VERY expensive and a total rip-off in my opinion.
So if you aren’t going to take that big of a dose, don’t bother.
And yes, I’ve tried this high of a dose and it’s disgusting and it made me light headed. But I did feel some benefits and more energy.
And I’ve also used 5-10 grams of BCAA and haven’t noticed much of anything.
Certainly, nothing to justify the high costs.
And I did all of this for at least a month to see what I would actually see and feel.
As I said, BCAA is nothing new and in the early ’90s, the magazines advertised how amazing they were. Just as they still are doing now.
In fact, I remember when HMB came to the market, which is a metabolite of leucine – the most powerful amino of the BCAAs.
HMB is clinically proven to help build muscle and so forth.
And I’ve tried high doses of this when I worked with EAS in the ’90s.
Still, nothing amazing happened, certainly NOT at the regular doses.
The Best and Most Cost-Effective Way
If you want to take BCAA, I suggest you simply take 25-50 grams of a good whey protein isolate.
25 grams of whey protein has about 5 grams of BCAAs. PLUS, you get all the other amino acids as well (essential and non-essential). And it’s at a fraction of the price of BCAA’s.
So instead of taking 10 grams of BCAA, take 50 grams of a good quality whey protein isolate. Mix it up, maybe even add in 5 grams of glutamine in it. Then slowly sip some of it before, during, and after your workout.
It has “whey” more benefits at a fraction of the price of BCAA’s.
Like I said before, building muscle and losing fat is all about genetics and hormones. You can’t really change your genetics, but you CAN optimize your hormones.
And the most powerful muscle building hormone is testosterone. This is why men are bigger and stronger than women. It’s not growth hormone, peptides, or anything else. It will always come down to steroids and the best, safest, and more natural is testosterone.
With that said, learn how you can naturally boost your testosterone levels and at the same time, decrease negative, “catabolic”, muscle killing hormones.
- Carli et al. (1992)