BCAAS The final verdict

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No surprise, but once again confirmed: BCAA supplements have no added value in terms of muscle growth and muscle strength.

RESEARCH

After all, that is the outcome of a new review in which hypertrophy expert Brad Schoenfeld, among others, contributed. For that review, led by Schoenfeld’s pupil Daniel Plotkin, all relevant literature available to date was collected and analysed.

AMINO ACIDS

BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids, the collective name for leucine, isoleucine and valine. Those are the three most important amino acids for muscle growth: they help reduce muscle breakdown and they stimulate muscle building. And of those three, leucine is the most important.

‘LOOSE’ BCAAS

However, it is not necessary to consume ‘loose’ BCAAs. Perhaps on the contrary: BCAAs probably do their job best in ‘companion’ of the other amino acids. If you eat whole proteins, you automatically get the necessary BCAAs.

‘LOOSE’ LEUCINE

The foregoing also applies to leucine, which is also still offered ‘individually’ by many supplement manufacturers. The important function of leucine in the process of muscle growth lends itself perfectly to a sales pitch.

HYPE

Of course, BCAA supplementation still produces better results than if you eat no protein at all. According to Plotkin and co, that’s probably also what sparked the hype around BCAAs: a handful of old studies that didn’t approach BCAA intake from a practical standpoint.

Subsequent studies that did, invariably indicated that BCAA supplementation has no added value compared to the consumption of whole protein sources (whether or not protein powders).

Plotkin therefore concludes:

(…) The proposed benefits of BCAA used in the marketing of supplements appear to be at odds with the anywhere state of the current literature, which does not support the efficacy on supplementation on muscle strength and hypertrophy.

ADVICE

For muscle growth and muscle strength, it is best to consume whole proteins, also around the training. For example milk, eggs, chicken or (whey) protein powder. Aim for a daily intake of about 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight, and spread this more or less evenly over four or five intake moments.

If you are cutting and looking for healthy protein sources with a low caloric value, check this article.

Anyway, #saveyourmoney applies to BCAA supplements.

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