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Frequently Asked Questions

Part E: BCAA

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On Why the preference of BCAA over Whey in PWO shakes

Was curious, while listening to MDR and your conversations (which were awesome by the way, great for us “Natties” to get some exposure) you mentioned you use 15-20 gms of BCAA post workout. I know you follow this up with a whole meal about an hour later, but why do you feel this is more beneficial than say getting a whey protein that is a complete protein that has a good BCAA profile post workout? Do the BCAA’s lead to greater/faster protein synthesis than whey?

I think you are saying that whey may be better since it has all the aminos. The BCAAs in particular leucine are the amino acids responsible for stimulating protein synthesis… not the others. The others are needed as substrates but if you are eating like a typical bodybuilder (every 2-3 hours) then you will have AMPLE levels of all the other amino acids and BCAAs alone will be sufficient. And yes the reason I like free form bcaas is because they spike plasma BCAA levels to a much greater extent than whey.

That is very interesting. You would think that more people would be doing this. I am at 160lbs, do you think 15 grams is about the right amount for my bodyweight? I assume powder is best for the quickest absorption?

15g is more than enough, powder is best

On BCAA Absorption

Layne, is it necessary to take a high glycemic carbohydrate source when you take your BCAA’s? Or will they get absorbed without em?

They will be absorbed without the carbs.

On BCAA dosing:

How do you dose your BCAA’s?

I have 5g BCAA between each meal; i have about 4-6 meals per day so that’s about 30g bcaa/day

On Caloric Value of Xtend/ BCAA effect on insulin

I am working with Dave, following a ketogenic diet and am a big fan of the Xtend product which I use during my workouts!  I am getting confusing messages about it’s calorie content! I had believed it was 0 but now not quite so sure! What is your take on it & also would it cause insulin secretion at all??

It does have calories. It has 5g of amino acids per scoop which is 4kcal/gram = 20 total kcals per scoop. The reason it is listed as 0 is because they FDA will not allow a company to list free form amino acids as having calories which is absolutely asinine. BCAAs will cause insulin secretion, read my post above yours in this thread.

On Counting BCAA towards Protein requirement:

But you personally do not count the BCAAs towards your protein count, you take them on top of your 1g/pound bodyweight protein, correct?

I count them

On Benefits of Leucine / BCAA

Supposedly, leucine is the powerhouse of the 3 bcaa’s , is there any need to supplement with the other 2 ? I’m stripped for cash as a college student and plain Leucine would be cheaper then taking bcaa’s altogether ( the 3 aminos) but do not want to create an imbalance etc…

Leucine is what stimulates protein synthesis but isoleucine also stimulates glucose uptake, so it does have benefits, but if you are on a budget pure leucine will work fine

On BCAA Timing:

Layne, since we’re on the subject of bcaa’s. When is the best time to supplement with them? I.e. pre-workout, during, post. I just started taking Xtend (grape flavor). That stuff tastes like Cool Aid! By a recommendation I was told to drink it during my workout, But the directions say immediately post workout. With 16oz. of post workout whey protein (ON), maltodextrin, and creatine. Another 16oz. of bcaa fluid seems like a bunch of fluid at one time. Would you suggest combining them?

Sure you can combine them, would work well. I space out my BCAA like this

5g breakfast
5g preworkout
10-15g postworkout
5g before bed
5g when i wake up to pee during the night lol

On benefits of BCAA supplementation:

Question for Layne. I am reading quite a few positive reviews about BCAAs. But I don’t understand why someone needs it if they eat proper nutrion pre en post workout. When you eat a balanced meal 1 to 2 hours before your workout and about an half our before a whey shake with oats you have plenty of BCAA in your nutrition that helps to combat protein breakdown. So what’s the advantages of BCAA during your workout or some BCAA midnight in comparison to a blended protein shake.

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote

Despite the numerous positive benefits to BCAA supplementation, there are many skeptics who suggest that BCAAs are overpriced and that one can just increase their consumption of whey protein which is rich in BCAAs. Unfortunately this is not the case. The BCAAs in whey are peptide bound to other amino acids and must be liberated through digestion & absorbed into the bloodstream to exert their effects. Even though whey protein is relatively fast digesting, it still takes several hours for all the amino acids to be liberated & absorbed into the bloodstream. BCAAs in supplement form however, are free form BCAAs and require no digestion and are therefore rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, spiking blood amino acids to a much greater extent than peptide bound amino acids. Even a few grams of BCAAs will spike plasma levels of BCAAs to a much greater extent than a 30g dose of whey protein, impacting protein synthesis and protein degradation to a much greater degree. The reason a supplement has such a powerful effect on blood levels of BCAAs is that unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are not metabolized to a significant extent by the small intestine or the liver, therefore an oral supplement is more like a BCAA injection since it reaches the bloodstream so rapidly.

On Why Layne likes BCAA supplementation:

Why do you love bcaa supplements so much when my protein powder + my multi have a higher number of bcaas in a serving as do many of the bcaa supplements out there. I use optimum whey protein (2 scoops) and animal pak multi vitamin post workout amongst other things.

This should answer your question

Recommended BCAA dosing:

What is the recommended dosage to notice results with BCAA, because they are expensive and not to mention im in college, 5g pre/ 5 g post

5g with breakfast, 5g preworkout, 10g post workout, 5g before bed would be very good

On BCAA supplementation on a tight budget:

Guess bcaa’s are out for me, that would run me like 60 dollars a month on top of food and my foundation supplements (whey,creatine,multi,antioxidants and fishoil)

You could do 5g preworkout & 10g post and still get decent results


What do you think about EAA as supplements compared to BCAA only?

EAA contains the BCAA as well as all other EAAs.

What are the cons and pros if we compare these to eachother?


Powder BCAA vs Capsule BCAA

I know you are a strong advocate for the the supplementing of BCAA`s, the problem is that I can only get my hands on BCAA capsules. And I was wandering how the capsules compare to the powder,absorption wise? And would a 1g capsule equate to 1g of BCAA powder?

In terms of cost effectiveness powder is far better, but absorption wise there probably is not much difference
On sipping BCAA’s

“even though blood amino acid levels were elevated 3 hours after a meal, protein synthesis had stopped. [Layne] hypothesizes that perhaps a spike in blood Leucine levels (via pure Leucine or BCAAs) could be used to kick start protein synthesis again.”

…so basically, put 10 scoops Xtend in your water jug and sip throughout the day….that will do the trick
i wouldn’t sip it… i would bolus it. so 2-3 hours after a meal and a few hours before your next meal, have 5-10g bcaa
Do BCAA behave like creatine in terms of Saturation/ Maximum amount of recommended BCAA

Very much like creatine we know that once saturation points are reached we are basically taking unnecessary amounts.. When it comes to Bcaas how much is enough 30,000 mgs 40,000 mgs even 50,00 mgs? Assuming your diet is 100% on point with Carbs Fat and using Protein at 2 grams per lb LBM.
BCAAs are somewhat different. Creatine is present in very small amounts so it’s easy to saturate the cell. Amino acids actually concentrate in the cell; but are also in a state of flux into and out of the protein bound, extracellular & intracellular pool. Without sounding stuck up it would be really really hard to explain. Essentially it would be very hard to figure out a ‘max’ level for BCAAs because they are in such a state of flux

So if someones consuming between 40 to 60,000 mgs BCAAS daily Knowing they are using 2 grams protein per lb LBM, would you think they are at any deficit? How many Mgs daily do you recommend?

Absolutely not. 2g/lb is way overkill and adding BCAAs on top of that is exceedingly overkill

On during workout nutrition:

What do you think of the idea that the most anabolic time of day is actually when you’re working out (because of the increased blood flow pushing nutrients into the muscles). Advocates of this idea state that if you don’t use special formulation providing exact amounts of essential amino acids, the increased blood flow is useless. There is also further rhetoric about essential amino acids being far superior to whole food for muscle building.A lot of what he said sounded like outrageous marketing rubbish and/or just wacky uneducated theories.

I think BCAA & EAA can be better in various situations. There is no reason to use both though, overkill. The blood flow can be helpful but I don’t think it makes it that much more anabolic than post workout where blood flow is also elevated. I would disagree with most things he said, but I wouldn’t say that you need that exact breakdown or it’s ‘useless’

On Using Leucine as a replacement of carbs in PWO nutrition during low carb dieting:

When you are following a very low carb or ketogenic diet, what are your thoughts on replacing post workout carbohydrates with leucine, glycine and glutamine? It was mentioned by Christian Thibaudeau, who I have huge respect for, in one of his most recent articles.

“Leucine can spike insulin almost as well as carbs but it doesn’t take you out of ketosis or prevent you from being in a fat-adapted state. Glutamine and glycine are two amino acids that have been shown to restore muscle glycogen almost as well as carbs. The 35-55g of combined G&G will almost have the same effect on glycogen replenishment as a similar dose of carbs”.

That is a big stretch to say that leucine increases insulin same as carbs. Absolutely not. The insulin spike is significant but not near as much as an equal carb dose. Additionally, carbohydrate induced insulin response is biphasic, with the stored insulin in the pancreas being released immediately and sometime after that, insulin is produced by the pancreas and keeps being produced until the glucose clears. This secondary release of insulin is actually the comparatively larger release. Amino acids like Leucine only cause the initial release of stored insulin, but there is no biphasic response, no sustained release. So in all actuality, insulin release in response to leucine is very different from carbohydrate. As far as glutamine & glycine restoring glycogen; they can through gluconeogenesis… but not as well as carbohydrate. Carbohydrates from diet can get into the bloodstream at a rate of about 50g/hour I believe whereas the maxed out rate of gluconeogenesis is about 5g/hour. So no… they don’t restore glycogen as fast.

BCAA timing issues:

Would it be advantageous to take an amino drink before bed? When would it be the best time to take an amino drink during the day? Considering the prohibitive cost, if there was one time during the day, what time would you choose?

I take a bcaa/Leucine supplement in between meals (i eat every 3.5-5 hours) & take a Leucine/bcaa dose in between

“i take a bcaa/Leucine supplement in between meals (i eat every 3.5-5 hours) & take a Leucine/bcaa dose in between”. Don’t you get extremely hungry?? do you have larger meals?

No, your body adjusts to it like anything… it takes a few weeks but on a high protein diet your body can make enough glucose to maintain your blood glucose between meals. I don’t get hungry hardly anymore at all… even when dieting and even if i go 5 hours between meals. and yes my meals are larger

On the need of BCAA’s:

How much bcaas / leucine would someone weighing about 160 need a day?

You wouldn’t NEED any, 20g BCAA or 10g of leucine would be useful though

question about bcaa’s versus whey, if i took 15g of bcaa postworkout like you do (around three scoops xtend) with fast digesting carbs, is wpi beneficial after this?

i think 15g bcaa by itself is probably sufficient to do the job with some fast digesting carbs so long as you have some whole food a few hours later

On BCAA effectiveness during Ketogenic diets:

Layne, So gluconeogensis is the bio-synthesis of glucose, and starting with pyruvic acid the body converts amino acids into glycogen?? I’ve also read that amino acids aren’t the only source the body can pull to form glucose, it can also use lactic acid, and glycerol from Fat, have you heard of this? If so, is there a general percentage of how much each option is utilized during or before gluconeogensis? Which brings me to this point…If one is on a ketogenic diet would supplementing (high dosages) of bcaa’s even more relevant to a bodybuilders diet? Would a ketogenic individual have a better response to bcaa’s?

I’m not sure why a person on keto would have a better/worse response… i’d imagine about the same. You are right on gluconeogenesis. many different substrates though the main ones are amino acids. Which ones are used really really really depends on the physiological situation. I’m afraid you want a simple answer to a ridiculously complex question and I can’t give you that on that one.

Is the high amount of leucine say 4-5 grams (out of 10Gs of a bCaa mix of 2:1:1) with the post-workout whey shake enough to cause an insulin spike to work as a carrier/transport for aminos, creatine, beta-alanine etc etc thus negating the need for high gi index carbs in the post workout shake?

insulin responses are complex. when insulin is released in response to carbohydrates it is in 2 phases… the first phase is the release of stored insulin and about 15-20 minutes after that insulin rises again from produced insulin in the pancreas, in other words the insulin response is biphasic. The insulin response to leucine is only monophasic… only stored insulin is released, but the pancreas does not produce a secondary insulin response. Basically leucine only causes a release of stored insulin. Therefore i’d so no, it’s not sufficient if you are looking for a decent insulin response

On BCAA stability/Potency in Solution:

not sure if this is a stupid question and I hope this hasn’t been asked before but
once you mix your BCAA’s how long before they’re no longer viable or lose their potency? or do they? I generally mix 5 g with crystal light after working out but I don’t finish drinking them for another 30-45 mins while I commute to work.

hell… it would be fine for months.

On Dissolving BCAA’s

This is probably gonna appear to be a stupid question but, as far as BCAA’s and glutamine are concerned do they need to be dissolved in water? i hear a lot of pros talk about how they just pop the powder into there mouth and swish it with water. ive been dissolving my creatine in warmer water (read it in a berardi article). i was just curious if you had any thoughts on this? although i guess it would make sense considering many BCAA supps are capsules or tabs.

Doesn’t matter

On using Whey and Carbs vs. BCAA and Carbs:

Do you take whey directly after your workout or dex and leucine?

usually xtend (bcaas) & dex or waxy maize

On cycling Protein and BCAA’s:

Is there any benefit to cycling the use of BCCA’s, and occasionally taking time off from them? (maybe during the deload weeks?) Also what are your thoughts on similarly cycling your level protein intake, I’ve read opinions that lowing it for awhile will improve the body’s use of it? I currently use your recommended levels of protein intake.

No to both cycling questions. they are not hormones, they are macronutrients. I don’t nessecarily see downregulation being a problem

On the effects of EAA/ BCAA on Keto :

During a keto diet…would it be counterproductive to be taking in EAA’s and BCAA’s pre workout…somewhere i read about insulingenic amino acids or something like that…what does this actually mean and should i stay clear of these during a keto diet?

EAA’s and BCAA’s aren’t going to negatively affect Keto Diet. BCAAs have been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and if anything they have been shown to aid fat loss & muscle retention while on a diet. People have this all or nothing view of insulin… like if you release any at all it stops all fat burning everywhere… which is absolute nonsense

On BCAA’s and Fasting:

If someone was gonna do something silly like a fast for a day or two, or even an intermittent fasting type diet where one eats most of their calories in a short feeding window at the end of the day, do you suspect taking a leucine supplement taken every few hours during the fasting days/or fasting window would be beneficial to help offset the muscle loss? If so, what would you recommend in terms of amount and spacing?

yes; however if you were fasting i would not use just leucine. Leucine depletes the other 2 BCAA from the plasma when taken alone. This is not a big deal if you are eating a high protein diet because there will be ample BCAA to guard against this but if you are fasting you will definitely get a depletion so I would recommend 8g of BCAA every 3-4 hours

On BCAA dosing between meals:

Would your suggestion of having BCAA’s in between meals have any effect on the refractory period that might be necessary before getting another elevation in muscle protein synthesis the following meal.

Example, if eating 4 meals every 5 hours, you get BCAA’s with each meal. But your putting BCAA’s in the body every 2.5 hours if taking them between meals as well. Couldn’t this possibly mimic the frequent feeding ‘infusion’ type situation that will prevent a potent stimulus the next meal. Would it make sense to perhaps take a dose of BCAA’s or Leucine 15 minutes before each meal, get a maximal spike near the meal and accompany it with the full spectrum of aminos shortly after. Then allow the 4.5-5 hr period to go by unabated.
i don’t think so, i think meals lead to a steady release of aminos but by having a bcaa bolus in between each you will definitely cause a big spike in amino acid levels which should give you a synthetic response.

On studies that suggest compositional changes when supplementing with BCAA/Leucine

Do you know of any studies on BCAA/Lecuine that show using it adds a significant amount of lean body mass than without like we know whey, Ba, and creatine do. It seems every one Ive seen just showed it just increased protein synthesis in some way. But I cant think of any controlled ones where using it lead to more muscle on a normal BB diet. In other words, I’m looking for research that supports its use in the OFF SEASON during mass gaining. If there is nothing showing this let me know its ok.

This is going to sound like a cop out, but you guys have no idea how hard it is to produce compositional changes; 10 weeks is nothing out of a humans lifetime so trying to get compositional changes out of that is pretty damned tough. Also, not many people willing to fund that… who is going to fund it? that’s probably a 50-100k study to run and what reasoning will you provide for people to fund it? “we want to see how to get people huge.” not going to fly lol.

there is a study in rats showing that leucine supplementation improves body composition in rats… actually there are 2.

I hate to do this to you and ask *another* BCAA question, but do you think that there is any benefit to having a couple servings of xtend prior to the workout, say in the hour or two running up to the workout? I’m currently having 3-4 scoops during my workout/cardio session, but I was wondering if there is any advantage to taking some in before this period, if it would have a “super-saturation” effect (or if there’s even such a think)? FYI…I take in adequate protein, between 1g and 1.5g per pound of LBM. Thanks

maybe a scoop or 2

On sipping BCAA’s:

I just wanted to know if the post about sipping on BCAA refers to BCAA’s in general or just in reference to meal timing. Because I sip on Xtend during my workout and just wanted to know if this is a good or bad idea??

I was referring to people who sip BCAAs throughout the day, sipping during a workout is short term, only about an hour or so, I don’t really see a problem with it

Troubleshooting BCAA dosing:

If I started using 5 grams of BCAA’s at 6 meals a day in between meals 10 grams pre workout and 30 grams post workout what differences and gains would i expect to see?compared to taking no BCAA’s

30g of bcaa post workout? did i read that right? that is SUPER overkill

Im trying to figure out what would be the best amount of BCAA’s to take and what benefits id get…i must have read it wrong after searching through the whole thread

10-15g would be max benefit level IMO at any one sitting

ok so 5gms in between meals…15 grams post workout…considering ive never took bcaas before what noticeable benefits would i get from taking them in these amounts?

Well, over time should get more muscle mass; should also notice some resistance to increased fat gain
On determining BCAA amounts:

I got some body armour bcaas today. In four tablets there is : 2000mg of leucine..1000mg of isoleucine..and 1000mg of valine. So in four tablets would this be classed collectively as 1gramm of bcaas? or with the mgs added together 4grams? or would I have to take 18 tablets to get 5gramms?

4 tablets would = 4g