Watching the hype around the BCAA in recent years in the sports nutrition market, one can unwittingly become interested: are they really that effective? What do the results of recent scientific research say about this? We'll find out the answer from an industry insider with years of experience Chris Lockwood.
At the end of the summer of 2017, for about 72 hours, I received a flurry of emails, SMS and calls from colleagues, clients, friends and those whom I call beggars: these that pretend to be your friends or potential clients, but really just They want to squeeze as much information out of you for free. All these people wanted to know my opinion on a new review article by Robert R. Wolfe, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, entitled “Branched Chain Amino Acids and the Synthesis of Muscle Proteins in the Human Body: Myth or Reality?”.
Many of those who have read this article have concluded that it is not in favor of using branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). The author’s conclusion is as follows: “BCAAs alone do not contribute to the stimulation of muscle anabolism.” It is argued that to increase the level of muscle protein synthesis, only a complete set of essential amino acids (EAA) is effective. The effect produced by the article has not abated to this day: the posts “BCAA do not work” began to appear in social networks, and the subsequent objections only added fuel to the fire.
There are also many videos on the topic - Why BCAAs do not work.
Wolf is the director of the Center for Translational Research in the Field of Aging and Longevity of the Institute for Research on Aging. Reynolds. He conducted extensive research in the field of muscle metabolism. He is also a consultant to TriVita Wellness, a multi-level marketing company promoting a product called MyoHealth, which contains a patented combination of essential amino acids, one of which is also developed by Wolf. Looking ahead, I agree with Professor Wolfe's above conclusion that the EAA complex is better or at least a more complex solution for muscle growth and recovery compared to BCAAs. But this is only part of the truth. I suggest looking at the situation as a whole, and here is what you need to know for this.
The principle of "all or nothing"
With the disappearance of at least one of the necessary components, the whole process stops.
For example, to enhance the growth of leg muscles, the exercise in itself is an excellent “catalyst”, but if the body does not receive the corresponding complex of amino acids (as well as cofactors), then the missing amino acids will be extracted from other muscles. This can lead to the fact that the volume of microtrauma of the muscle fiber caused by the training action will exceed the response synthesis of muscle protein, and instead of an increase in muscle mass, you may find yourself in a state of negative nitrogen balance.
As mentioned above, the effectiveness of the isolated BCAA intake is lower in comparison with the full EAA kit. BCAAs include leucine, valine, and isoleucine — three of the nine essential amino acids that the human body must receive from food sources. The other six are also important. In addition, depending on the diet and training intensity, there may be a need for the so-called conditionally essential amino acids.
However, it should be borne in mind that the advantage of the EAA complex over BCAA may vary depending on a number of factors, including the total amount of amino acids and other nutrients circulating or still metabolized as a result of the last meal (or supplement) of amino acids. If you used a protein shake or high-quality protein-rich food before training, it is unlikely that taking an additive containing all EAA will affect muscle growth intensification worse or better than an isolated BCAA.
If the pre-workout meal was “vegan” and the body did not get enough leucine, then the effectiveness of taking BCAA and a complete set of essential amino acids will be the same. That is, creating a surplus of all essential amino acids and other vital nutrients is the most effective strategy for intensifying muscle anabolism of the whole body, but additional intake of BCAA or all EAA can make an additional contribution, depending on the diet.
So do BCAAs work at all?
In short, yes.
“Energy and proteins / amino acids combined with strength training are key to muscle growth, and EAA complexes, like whey protein, are very effective here,” states Juha Hulmi, Ph.D, one of the world's leading researchers in email correspondence. Muscle Protein Synthesis, Associate Professor, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He adds: “In turn, BCAAs can be useful in situations where the diet is deficient (for example, to make up for the leucine deficiency in the vegan diet) or as a supplement to a low-protein diet, and also for bedtime, which is important for very busy people, as well as a component of a pre-competitive diet, as is the case with prominent bodybuilders. ”
The conclusion of the author of the work mentioned at the beginning convinced many who read it that there was no evidence that supplements containing BCAAs were able to positively influence the synthesis of muscle proteins when consumed in the postabsorption period, at least four hours after ingestion of food (or its substitute ) This is not true.
Lab Vs. Gym
Even when taken in an absorbent digestive period, BCAAs can be effective for healthy people. Maybe not to the extent that a whole set of EAA or whey protein, but still it is much better than taking only leucine or nothing at all.
But have you ever heard a recommendation for a bodybuilder or some other athlete to train intensively in the absorptive period in order to increase muscle mass or develop motor qualities? Unlikely. I think even from those experts who joined the BCAA do not work campaign.
I believe that anyone who has studied at least a bit of mass recruitment or sportsmanship, on the contrary, has come across information about the need to take supplements or foods rich in protein and other nutrients 1-2 hours before class. It is under these conditions, when all the necessary nutrients are available to working muscles, albeit in a limited way, that BCAAs are mainly used, but not instead of the food or protein supplement mentioned.
The Effectiveness of BCAA Is Within the Limits of Reasonable
Radical critics of BCAA supplements often do not understand the difference between their practical use and the experimentally set conditions, or they build criticism based on some loud BCAA advertising.
Of course, any “expert” who claims that BCAAs are a complete, independent tool for stimulating muscle anabolism is wrong and reprehensible. But to argue about the inability of BCAAs to promote the synthesis of muscle proteins under any conditions is just as erroneous.
For some reason, advocates of the “BCAA don't work” position ignored research that proved the BCAA’s ability to improve a number of indicators. For example, in a 2014 review article published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrcion Hospitalaria, it was concluded that BCAA intake before or during endurance training reduces fatigue, the perception of pain and stress intensity, the trauma of muscle tissue, increases the anabolic and immune response to load, accelerates recovery processes in the body.
A later systematic review published in Nutrients concluded that when taken at a dose of 91 milligrams for every 454 grams of body weight for at least 10 consecutive days, before a high-intensity ("destructive") workout, BCAAs contribute to significant reduce the number of markers of skeletal muscle damage.
According to the author of these lines, BCAA is quite advisable to use between main meals or during training, when they can provide additional stimulation of anabolic processes and compete with the fatigue-inducing amino acid tryptophan for entry into the bloodstream of the brain. Of course, in return you can take full EAA complexes or whey protein, but BCAAs also work.