The fitness and supplement industries have grown immensely and with all the bullshit misinformation we already have to sift through, there are plenty of opportunities in there to also push unnecessary supplements onto people who don’t know what they’re really getting out of them… or if they are even worth the money.
I’ll start with this. Supplements are not essential if you’re looking to change your physique and improve your lifestyle. I’m always upfront with my clients about that point as supplements are exactly what their name implies – to supplement what you’re already doing. So, if you don’t already have a handle on your diet and training habits, there is no reason for you to really consider additional supplements just yet.
You can’t expect to fix or establish foundational habits with fat burners or BCAAs…
Speaking of Branched Chain Amino Acids…
BCAAs and blends of the sort are notorious for being added into supplements and pushed with the claims of aiding in muscle growth and performance.
Now, amino acids are the building blocks of protein and allow us to build and repair muscle. Leucine, specifically, is shown to be a key player in stimulating muscle protein synthesis. This makes it reasonable for people to believe that BCAA supplements can do the same job and help to facilitate muscle growth. However, the literature tell us otherwise.
When compared to whole food sources of protein (an equivalent of 20g whey), BCAA supplementation alone produced a protein synthesis response of about only half of that provided from the whey protein.
In a recent publication, when adequate, daily protein intake was accounted for (roughly double that of the RDA guidelines), high doses of leucine had no additional benefit to muscle gains and strength in conjunction with a 12-week resistance training program.
Total Protein Intake Is Key
If you’re getting enough high-quality protein each day, odds are that you’re already obtaining all of your essential amino acids via the diet. An additional BCAA supplement wouldn’t enhance your results any further if you’ve already got your protein intake covered! It would be an extra cost, more than anything.
Personally, I have no issue getting my protein in, though I still like to throw in Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) every now and again as just another means of getting my water in for the day. Nothing more to it for me really; although, EAA’s are very helpful for vegan and vegetarian clients who have a harder time hitting all essential amino acids via the diet alone. They’ve also been shown to help with muscle protein breakdown and recovery, but again total protein is most important.
When it comes to protein intake, we always recommend aiming for about 1 gram per pound of body weight. If you’re newer to tracking and are just getting into new habits, a good guideline to set is to simply place protein in each of your meals – aim for about 25-30 grams of high-quality protein and try to spread those feedings in about 3-4 meals throughout the day.
DE Andrade IT, Gualano B, Hevia-LarraÍn V, et al. Leucine Supplementation Has No Further Effect on Training-induced Muscle Adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020;52(8):1809-1814. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000002307