What are BCAA’s
3 of the 8 essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein: leucine, isoleucine and valine.These amino acids may have a positive influence on muscles if taken at the right times. It follows that BCAA’s are a popular workout supplement, usually ingested before or after a strenuous workout.
The BCAA Claim: BCAA”s will help build muscle, prevent the breakdown of muscles (anti-catabolic effect), and aid in recovery.
There has been a lot of research into BCAA’s. The studies do show BCAA’s have a positive effect on muscles.
- BCAA’s may prevent muscle breakdown after exercise by suppressing the proteins involved in muscle catabolism a study points to ([1. Borgenvik M, Apró W, Blomstrand E. Intake of branched-chain amino acids influences the levels of MAFbx mRNA and MuRF-1 total protein in resting and exercising human muscle. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2012)])
- BCAA’s may also reduce physical and mental fatigue by a very small amount in prolonged outdoor activities (skiing, hiking, and sailing) several studies found. The benefit was slight, however. ([2. Portier H, et al. Effects of branched-chain amino acids supplementation on physiological and psychological performance during an offshore sailing race. Eur J Appl Physiol. (2008)])
- BCAA’s may reduce mental fatigue in some aerobic activities ([3. Blomstrand E, et al. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on perceived exertion during exercise. Acta Physiol Scand. (1997)])
- BCAA’s do not reliably deliver actual performance enhancement for aerobic activities, though some studies have shown untrained (i.e. new) individuals to that activity may note performance increases. ([4. Blomstrand E, et al. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on perceived exertion during exercise. Acta Physiol Scand. (1997)])
- BCAA’s may promote fat loss and lean mass gain with strength training over time. This is supported by one 8 week study with 14grams of BCAA’s taken daily along with a weight lifting routine, though the study had some questionable variables. ([5. Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss])
- BCAA’s increase p70s6k after a workout.This further supports the point above in that BCAA’s creates a favorable environment for protein synthesis (and therefore muscle development)
BCAA’s do provide benefits when doing endurance work by preventing muscle breakdown and with strength training by possible contributing to more lean muscle mass. The effects are small, however.
BCAA’s are one of the most researched supplements on the market and the scientific studies do show evidence that BCAA’s can be beneficial in preventing muscle catabolism and the promotion of lean tissue (muscle).
BCAA’s can prevent muscle breakdown after exercise. Some studies do show that BCAA’s can slightly reduce mental and physical fatigue in long endurance type activities. There is also evidence that BCAA’s can promote lean muscle gain with a weightlifting routine.
Some of the claims and hype surrounding BCAA’s appears to be true. However, the benefit for most people, however, is slight and likely much less than the promotional hype surrounding the supplement make them out to be. You may see some small benefit, but it won’t be groundbreaking. If you supplement with protein powder, you are likely getting the same benefits as taking BCAA’s directly
SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT WITH BCAA’s
Some benefit if you strength train and/or do plenty of cardio and want to keep lean muscle mass.
BCAA’s do work, according to the research, but more along the lines of preventing muscle breakdown when you train cardio AND perhaps giving a boost to lean muscle mass gain over time. You won’t gain a performance benefit in the gym or in training. However, if you supplement with protein already you are getting plenty of BCAA’s already. BCAA’s alone do work well with the intermittent fasting diet protocol as they are a good way to get amino acids into your body when you workout without the calories.
SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT WITH BCAA’s For Muay Thai?
if you are engaged in intensive training (say training in Thailand twice a day with running or training for a fight). You may see some benefit from BCAA’s if you are, specifically helping you retain muscle while doing heavy cardio (cardio often catabolizes muscle gains). Even more so if you are also engaged in a strength building routine.
Studies show BCAA’s may prevent muscle breakdown after exercise if ingested before or during activity. It’s debatable whether BCAA’s will aid in fat loss and muscle building, but there is some evidence (the study given) which suggests it may offer some benefit.
if you have a balanced diet and adequate protein intake and are NOT engaged in long, grinding endurance training and strength training but just casual Muay Thai a few times a week, it’s unlikely BCAA’s will benefit you much.
BCAA’s are recommended if you engage in a fasted workout routine, such as the Lean Gains protocol (IF). You can read why BCAA’s are beneficial here (http://www.leangains.com/2009/12/fasted-training-boosts-muscle-growth.html)