BCAAs are can be extremely effective for building and retaining muscle mass. However, there are some misconceptions about what BCAAs are and what they can and can't do. This post covers some common mistakes when using a BCAA supplement.
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) have long been a vital supplement for athletes trying to retain as much muscle mass as possible when trying to lose fat.
They’re especially a great addition to your supplementation during periods of intermittent fasting or when on a drastic calorie deficit.
However, for BCAAs to be effective, they have to be taken the right way. There are some misconceptions about what BCAAS are and some confusion over what they can and cannot do.
These misunderstandings lead to improper use of the supplement which could be compromising their effectiveness.
Mistake #1: Reducing Protein Intake
There’s a false belief that taking BCAAs is somehow an excuse for reducing the intake of protein.
While BCAAs contain three essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), protein from a source like meat, dairy, or whey have a much more complete amino acid profile, usually containing most or all the 20 amino acids that make up the protein molecule.
As such, you need to maintain a high protein intake whether you’re in a muscle building or fat loss phase. Taking a BCAA supplement by no means is a reason for you to take your foot off the pedal with respects to consumption of this vital macronutrient.
Remember that of the 20 amino acids, nine are essential, meaning that they need to be acquired through food or supplementation since they cannot be produced naturally by the body. BCAAs make up three of these essential aminos. By cutting down on your protein intake, you risk depriving your body of the remaining six.
Furthermore, your protein intake should also come from a variety of sources, such as whey, meat, fish, and dairy, since all contain the essential aminos in varying ratios.
Mistake #2: Dropping BCAAs in Favor of Leucine Alone
Some supplement manufacturers are also releasing supplements that contain the sole amino acid leucine. This specific amino acid, after all, is believed to play the most important role in protein synthesis.
Research shows that leucine is essential for activating the crucial protein kinase known as the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), which regulates muscle cell growth and motility.
Leucine is without a doubt one of the most important, if not the most important, essential amino acid; its role in muscle growth is undeniable. However, this is no reason to take the amino acid by itself in place of a BCAA supplement.
Isoleucine and valine, while perhaps not as beneficial in comparison, still play useful roles.
During intense physical activity, isoleucine is broken down for energy within the muscle tissue to keep the body going. It also helps regulate blood sugar and improves the muscle’s ability to use glucose.
Deficiency in this amino acid has been linked to symptoms that include fatigue, brain fog, migraines, dizziness, and depression.
Likewise, valine also has an integral function and is needed by the body for removing excess nitrogen from the liver and transporting it to other areas of the body where needed.
Valine is also necessary for healthy cognitive functioning and stimulating the central nervous system.
As you can see, while leucine is often regarded as the star between the three branched chain amino acids, all are important. One should not be taken to the exclusion of the other two.
A good BCAA, however, should contain the three amino acids in the right ratios. A ratio of about 2:1:1 for leucine, valine, and isoleucine respectively sounds just about right.
Mistake #3: Using a BCAA That Incorporates a Proprietary Blend
These days, it’s not unusual for BCAA supplements to contain additional ingredients. For the most part, there is nothing wrong with this as long as the extra ingredients are also scientifically proven.
Revolt, for example, also contains a serving of caffeine, so it also delivers a surge of energy when taken before a workout..
This is absolutely fine and even beneficial as it gives you a 2-in-1 benefit type of deal. With that being said, though, you should be wary of Manufacturers that claim their BCAA supplement is superior due to using a “secretly guarded” proprietary blend. Further claims may include the promise of superior delivery and absorption by your muscle cells.
You should naturally be cautious if the BCAA is incorporated into these blends, especially since the ratios and amount of the amino acids aren’t disclosed.
The proprietary blend is also often an excuse to ramp up the price. It’s also an excuse for the company to release more products with new and “improved” blends that are supposedly even better and revolutionary than the previous product.
When it comes to BCAAs, simple really is better. While the addition of an ingredient or two is fine, you really don’t need anything else besides the BCAAs themselves.
Mistake #4: Not Taking BCAAs at the Right Time
Most supplements should be taken during certain times of the day. Creatine monohydrate, for example, is usually taken as part of a pre-workout formula due to its ability to improve energy output.
The same goes for BCAAs. Ideally, the supplement should be taken either before or after a workout, or even both before and after.
Some people make the mistake of taking it at a random time of the day, usually hours before or after their workout and expect to reap the same benefit; unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
BCAAs are so beneficial because they prevent muscle catabolism by promoting protein synthesis. This helps the body preserve the muscle mass that would otherwise be lost due to a calorie deficit diet or training on an empty stomach to accelerate fat loss. The latter is precisely why BCAAs need to be taken before exercising.
BCAAs provide the muscle with energy; otherwise the muscles will be depleted and give out on you during a strenuous workout since it’s essentially running on a near-empty gas tank.
BCAAs can also be taken after a workout to facilitate in the recovery process and replenish energy stores. This study published under the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition verifies the role of BCAAs in reducing exercise-induced muscle damage.
Mistake #5: Taking a Whey Protein With a High BCAA Content
Most whey protein supplements have their own amino acid profile. The same goes for other protein supplements consisting of casein, egg or soy.
Most protein powders already contain a comprehensive serving of BCAAs. However, this does not mean you should automatically forgo a BCAA supplement.
The problem with the BCAAs in whey and other protein products is that they’re bonded to other amino acids. BCAAs are most effective when isolated from the other amino acids. When linked as part of a bigger amino acid chain, it takes several hours for the BCAAs to be “liberated” and absorbed into the bloodstream and into the muscles.
BCAA supplements, on the other hand, are free-form. As such they’re rapidly absorbed by the bloodstream without requiring a lengthy digestion process.
Too many people look at the amino acid profile on their whey product and think there are ample BCAAs, so why spend extra money on a separate BCAA supplement? The logic certainly sounds reasonable, but for the best results, both whey and BCAA should be taken. Neither is a replacement for the other.
Mistake # 6: Avoiding Other Proven Supplements When Taking a BCAA
Most people who use supplements take more than just one, or “supplement stack” as some in the fitness industry calls it.
An example of a stack includes whey, pre-workout, fat-burner, and BCAAs. However, in an effort to save money, some people may do a trade-off. If they decide to take a BCAA supplement, then they may remove one they’re currently taking.
By all means, go off a supplement you honestly feel isn’t working. However, don’t swap one out for the other especially if the two products work via completely different mechanisms.
It’s absolutely understandable you want to save money. Gym fees and supplements, after all, don’t come cheap. However, if you’re going to make the investment in time, sweat, and money, then you might as well go fully in and not have one foot in and one foot out the door.
Mistake #7: Taking BCAA Only as a Fat Loss Aid
While there are indirect ways in which BCAAs help you lose weight, the supplement is NOT a fat burner.
There is a belief that BCAA supplementation helps manage weight control. Remember, BCAAs are simply a group of three important amino acids essential for protein synthesis and preventing muscle from being catabolized during workout or fasting. Unlike a fat burner, they do not have thermogenic properties.
With that said, however, they do help you lose body fat in a more indirect manner. One way it does this is by aiding in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Low serotonin levels have been linked to cravings for carbohydrates.
In this way, BCAAs are especially useful if you’re cutting back on carbs as part of a weight loss plan.
As mentioned, BCAAs also help you retain muscle mass. More muscle mass equals more calories burned on a daily basis.
BCAA by itself does not directly raise metabolism, unless they contains additional ingredients proven to burn calories. This is the case with a product like Revolt, which contains the scientifically-proven, metabolism-boosting ingredient caffeine.
A fat burner should still be taken separately if fat loss is your primary goal. An actual fat loss supplement, after all, or a legitimate one at least, contains multiple ingredients to combat body fat from multiple angles.
Mistake #8: Taking BCAAs for Other Purposes
There’s a ton of scientific literature out there lending the credence of BCAAs with respects to a host of benefits. This includes the viability of BCAAs for raising good cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and preventing diabetes just to list a few.
However, this does not mean that BCAAs should be taken as a preventative medicine for treating such maladies. If you have any of the aforementioned health problems, always follow the advice of your doctor. BCAAs are not to be treated as a cure-all medicine.
The supplement is basically an element of three very important amino acids useful for muscle retention when losing fat. Do studies suggest that there are side benefits associated with BCAAs? Yes; that is undeniable, but do not take the supplement believing that it will miraculously do away with your ailments.
Keep Every Ounce of Your Muscle With BCAAs
There’s nothing magical about BCAAs; science, though, have demonstrated the benefits of what BCAAs can do for the body when fasting or on a low-calorie diet..
You should definitely add this supplement to your diet, but do know what it does and doesn’t do because this is certainly one of the most misunderstood supplements on the market..
If you’re about to begin a fat loss plan, then supplement with Revolt. .
This product contains just the right ratios of leucine, isoleucine, and valine to help you hold onto every pound of hard-earned muscle when you’re on a fat loss phase, which can be quite catabolic..
Take a serving before you hit the gym, and your body will remain in a positive state of protein synthesis. In laymen’s terms, that means your muscles won’t shrivel to the size of prunes.