BCAA Supplements: Required or Just Overrated?

BCAA Supplements: Required or Just Overrated?

BCAA Supplements: Required or Just Overrated?

  • Under the HOOD of a BCAA supplement
  • A Protein rich diet vs BCAA supplements?

The Supposed Benefits

With all the research done on various subject groups supplemented differently over the years, we cannot deny the following overall benefits:

How does each element actually work?

  • Leucine offers the biggest physiological benefits as compared to the other two BCAAs. Leucine has been found to be an important source of calories, and is superior to many of the carbohydrates as a fuel source. Leucine also stimulates insulin release, stimulating protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown.
  • Isoleucine promotes muscle recovery, regulates the blood-sugar levels, stimulates Growth Hormone release, helps in wound healing, and assists in hemoglobin formation.
  • Valine produces energy when the body is under severe stress such as excessive training, post surgery and illness etc. Valine is metabolized mainly by muscles and is involved in their preservation and construction.

Hang on!! What is the generic nature of research? Because we notice some important facts which are generally hidden:

Studies that commonly indicate muscle gain related benefits of BCAA supplementation are normally done on subjects staying on a protein starved diet.

Its generally not mentioned that these subjects with an average weight of 75-80 kgs are kept on a 60 – 70 gms of daily protein and an overall 1500 calorie intake. On top of that, these subjects trained fasted.

Now, this is quite less as athletes who are looking to preserve lean muscle mass while on a low calorie diet should take atleast double that amount of protein. Moreover, at the mentioned nutritional specs a BCAA supplement offcourse will do its magic by default.

So How can a Protein rich diet make up for BCAA supplements?

For a professional athlete, a typical dose would be 35-40 gms of BCAAs per day divided in 4 doses of 10 gms each (intra & post workout). For an average weight training enthusiast 20- 25 gms of BCAAs per day would be enough.

Now, Whey proteins typically contain 22 – 25% of BCAAs. Hence, for a fitness enthusiast – 1.5*bodyweight gms of protein per day should do the job.

Hydro Whey might be a good replacement for BCAA supplements as it contains almost 30% BCAAs and gets absorbed much faster as compared to Whey Isolate and Concentrates.

Apart from our protein shakes, we can source good amount of BCAAs from meat, legumes etc. This table shows the average BCAA content of popular foods.

FOOD SERVING PROTEIN BCAAS BY % LEUCINE ISOLEUCINE VALINE
CHICKEN BREAST 6OZ 36G 6.6G 18 2.9G 1.8G 1.9G
95% LEAN BEEF 6OZ 36G 6.2G 17 2.8G 1.6G 1.8G
CANNED TUNA 6OZ 33G 5.6G 17 2.5G 1.5G 1.6G
WILD SALMON 6OZ 34G 5.9G 17 2.7G 1.5G 1.7G
FLANK STEAK 6OZ 36G 6.2G 17 2.8G 1.6G 1.8G
TALAPIA 6OZ 34G 5.9G 17 2.7G 1.6G 1.6G
TURKEY BREAST 6OZ 40G 5.2G 13 2.8G 1.1G 1.3G
EGG 1 6.3G 1.3G 21 0.54G 0.3G 0.4G
EGG WHITE 1 3.6G 0.8G 23 0.3G 0.2G 0.3G
ROASTED PEANUTS 6OZ 12G 6.8G 14 3.1G 1.7G 2G

 

Who All need BCAA supplements and When?

BCAA supplements are not really necessary for beginners or for average trainees. At the same time, for certain athletes they can prove beneficial:

  1. During a focused period of very low calorie intake and rapid fat loss.
  2. During intense athletic training periods when weight maintenance is difficult. Especially for ectomorphic athletes who engage in very intense or very high volume trainings. This is more for MMA fighters, Wrestlers, Endurance Athletes, etc. Remember, these guys are extreme athletes.
  3. If you are a vegan or vegetarian that does not regularly consume high quality protein sources.

THE POINT is

We cannot really say that a protein rich diet can 100% suffice for all BCAA needs & for any kind of athlete. BCAA supplements are NOT useless always. 

However, before consuming them one needs to be aware of his/her own fitness needs, the current level of workout (say beginner / average / professional), workout regime, daily diet etc.

References:

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