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Home Articles & Videos Supplementation Muscle Building Amino Acids & BCAAs



Aminos Are Essential: Lift Longer

And Grow Stronger With BCAAs
In addition to being one of the most
effective supplements for muscle
growth, BCAAs delay fatigue, support
strength and mental focus, and even
boost fat-loss. Get the details!

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by Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Last updated: Jul 12, 2013
The branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are the three essential amino acids leucine,
isoleucine, and valine. From a chemical structure standpoint, each of these amino acids has a
forked outcropping that looks a lot like a branch. That's where they get their name. If they were
named for what they do in the body, they would have been called AAAsfor amazing amino
You may have heard that BCAAs help support muscle growth. That's no BS. In fact, a study that
I presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that
trained lifters taking a BCAA supplement around workouts for 8 weeks gained about twice as
much muscle and strength as those taking a whey protein shake without additional BCAAs.
But the benefits of these three simple acids go far beyond mere muscle growth. Let's get deep
into the science of an important performance supplement!

Branch Out to Work Out Longer ///

Part of what makes the BCAAs so special is how the body handles
them. Typically, when you ingest amino acidseither individually or as
a whole proteinthey first travel to the liver. Here, the liver either
breaks them down to use as fuel or directs them toward building and
repairing muscle and other tissues. BCAAs, on the other
hand, tend to be spared by the liver and get sent directly to
the muscles, so that the muscle can use the BCAAs directly
for fuel or to build and repair
This gives BCAAs a two-pronged
relevance to athletic training.
During workouts, they can act as
a fuel source, and when the workout is over, they can help build
muscle. These effects explain why instructions on BCAA products
usually advocate you take them before, during, and after a
The more intense and the longer your workout, the more BCAAs
will be used for fuel. So you can see how taking a dose of BCAAs
before workouts can help you sustain your energy during a
workout and train with more intensity from start to finish. You may
not feel them in the same way as a pre-workout supplement, but
first-time users often report that they BCAAs make their workout
feel more pleasant and manageable.




Bodybuilding.com - Aminos Are Essential: Lift Longer And Grow Stronger With BCAAs
feel more pleasant and manageable.

Branch Out to Get Bigger and Stronger ///

The BCAAs built their popularity with bodybuilders on the reputation of being able to increase
muscle size. But how does this work, exactly?
As you likely know, muscle tissue is made of protein. And protein is made up of amino acids,
which are strung together like a pearl necklace. The way that muscle grows is by stringing
together amino acids to make more protein. This is known as muscle protein synthesis.
Although the three BCAAs are critical components in the "strings" of proteins that make muscle,
their role in muscle-building is more than serving as building blocks.
Research has shown that the BCAAs, particularly leucine, increase muscle growth by directly
stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Leucine acts like a key that turns on the process that
strings the amino acids together to build muscle protein. Additionally, leucine boosts insulin
levels. Insulin is an anabolic hormone that further stimulates protein synthesis.

Another way that BCAAs work to enhance muscle growth and strength is by boosting levels of
growth hormone (GH). Italian researchers found that athletes taking BCAAs for one month had
higher levels of growth hormone after workouts. The higher your GH levels after workouts, the
greater the increases in muscle size and strength you can expect.
Yet another hormone that BCAAs influence to promote muscle growth and strength gains is
cortisol. Research has shown that athletes taking BCAAs have lower levels of cortisol during
exercise. This blunting of cortisol levels is thought to increase muscle growth because cortisol
encourages muscle breakdown and interferes with the anabolic hormone testosterone. Numerous
studies have confirmed that athletes taking BCAAs have significantly less muscle breakdown
after exercise and recover more quickly.

Branch Out to Delay Fatigue ///

Acting as a direct energy source for muscles is not the only way that BCAAs boost your workout
intensity. They also work via the brain to delay fatigue.
During exercise, the neurotransmitter serotonin
(5-HT) signals to the brain that the body is
fatigued. This leads to a reduction in muscle
strength and endurance. The amino acid
tryptophan is responsible for producing 5-HT in
the brain, whereas the BCAAs, namely valine,
compete with tryptophan for entry into the
brain. Research has
shown that taking BCAAs
before workouts lowers the
amount of tryptophan that
gets into the brain and
therefore delays fatigue.
This ability of BCAAs to delay fatigue via this brain mechanism also means that BCAA
supplements aren't just beneficial for the body, but the brain as well. By reducing levels of
exercise-induced 5-HT in the brain, you reduce
mental fatigue, which keeps you sharper
mentally. This is one reason that endurance
athletes and other high-intensity competitors
supplement with BCAAs: to keep sharp when
they're approaching physical exhaustion. Many
people sip on BCAAs throughout the work day
for the same reason.
BCAAs have also recently been found to aid in a different type of endurance: life span.
Researchers from Milan, Italy discovered that mice supplemented with BCAAs in their drinking




Bodybuilding.com - Aminos Are Essential: Lift Longer And Grow Stronger With BCAAs
Researchers from Milan, Italy discovered that mice supplemented with BCAAs in their drinking
water had higher amounts of mitochondria in their muscles, higher activity of the longevity gene,
SIRT1, and lived 12 percent longer than those not getting BCAA-enriched water. So
supplementing with BCAAs daily can keep you in the race longer in addition to making you

Branch Out for Fat-Loss ///

The BCAAs are clearly great mass-building supplements, but they also can aid in fat-loss.
Researchers have yet to determine precisely how this happens, but they've offered up several
theories to explain the startling results they've seen.
One of the first studies to discover this benefit was a 1997 study of competitive wrestlers, which
found that those who were supplementing with BCAAs while following a low-calorie diet
experienced a greater drop in body fat, particularly in the waist, as compared to those taking a
placebo. My study from 2009 also found that the lifters taking BCAAs lost about twice as much
body fat as those taking whey protein without added BCAAs.
A study out of Brazil found that leucine supplementation for six weeks caused a large drop in
body fat. The researchers proposed that the increase in protein synthesis stimulated by leucine
increased energy expenditure so much that it helped to burn off body fat. Leucine has also been
found to reduce hunger, causing you to eat less while you burn more, which ultimately leads to
In the most recent study on BCAAs fat-loss effects, Japanese researchers discovered that mice
given isoleucine while eating a high-fat diet gained significantly less fat than mice not getting
supplemental isoleucine. This was due to isoleucine's ability to activate special receptors, known
as PPAR, that increase fat-burning and inhibit fat storage.

BCAA Dosing ///

Each time you take BCAAs you should go with about 5-10 grams. The most critical time to take
them is around workouts, so add 5-10 grams to your pre- and post-workout shakes.
If your goal is to build mass, also consider taking a dose of BCAAs first thing upon waking to
help stop the muscle breakdown that is turned on during your night of fasting while you sleep.
You can also take a 5-10 gram dose of BCAAs at any other time of day to get a mental energy
boost, reduce hunger, and aid muscle growth.

1. Bassit, R.A., Sawada, L.A., Bacurau, R.F., et al. The effect of BCAA
supplementation upon the immune response of triathletes. Medicine & Science in
Sports & Exercise 32(7):1,214-1,219, 2000.
2. Blomstrand E.A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. J
Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):544S-547S.
3. Blomstrand, E., Saltin, B. BCAA intake affects protein metabolism in muscle after
but not during exercise in humans. Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and
Metabolism 281(2):E365-374, 2001.
4. Borsheim, E., et al. Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from




Bodybuilding.com - Aminos Are Essential: Lift Longer And Grow Stronger With BCAAs
4. Borsheim, E., et al. Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from
resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism
283(4):E648-E657, 2002.
5. Coburn, J. W., et al. Effects of leucine and whey protein supplementation during
eight weeks of unilateral resistance training. J Strength Cond Res 2006
6. Cota, D., et al. Hypothalamic mTOR signaling regulates food intake. Science. 2006
May 12;312(5775):927-30.
7. Crowe, M. J., et al. Effects of dietary leucine supplementation on exercise
8. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 Aug;97(6):664-72.
9. D'Antona, G., et al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation promotes survival
and supports cardiac and skeletal muscle mitochondrial biogenesis in middle-aged
mice. Cell Metab. 12(4):362-72, 2010.
10. de Araujo JA, et al. Effect of chronic supplementation with branched-chain amino
acids on the performance and hepatic and muscle glycogen content in trained rats.
Life Sci. 2006 Aug 29;79(14):1343-8.
11. De Lorenzo, A., et al. Effect of acute and chronic branched-chain amino acids on
energy metabolism and muscle performance.Diabetes Nutr Metab. 2003 OctDec;16(5-6):291-7.
12. De Palo, E.F., et al. Plasma lactate, GH and GH-Binding protein levels in exercise
following BCAA supplementation in athletes. Amino Acids 20:1-11, 2001.
13. Donato, J., et al. Effects of leucine supplementation on the body composition and
protein status of rats submitted to food restriction. Nutrition 22(5):520-527, 2006.
14. Gomez-Merino, D., et al. Evidence that the branched-chain amino acid L-valine
prevents exercise-induced release of 5-HT in rat hippocampus. Int J Sports Med.
2001 Jul;22(5):317-22.
15. Greer, BK, et al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and indicators of
muscle damage after endurance exercise.Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007
16. Hassmen, P., et al. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation during 30-km
competitive run: mood and cognitive performance. Nutrition 10(5):405-410, 1994.
17. Karlsson, H. K., et al. Branched-chain amino acids increase p70S6k phosphorylation
in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab,
2007; 287(1):E1-7
18. Koba, T., et al. Branched-chain amino acids supplementation attenuates the
accumulation of blood lactate dehydrogenase during distance running. J Sports Med
Phys Fitness. 2007 Sep;47(3):316-22.
19. Matsumoto, K., et al. Branched-chain amino acids and arginine supplementation
attenuates skeletal muscle proteolysis induced by moderate exercise in young
individuals. Int J Sports Med. 2007 Jun;28(6):531-8.
20. Mourier, A., et al. Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino
acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite
21. Int J Sports Med 1997 Jan;18(1):47-55.
22. Nishimura, J., et al. "Isoleucine Prevents the Accumulation of Tissue Triglycerides
and Upregulates the Expression of PPAR{alpha} and Uncoupling Protein in DietInduced Obese Mice." J. Nutr., March 2010, in press.
23. Ohtani, M., et al. Amino Acid Mixture Improves Training Efciency in Athletes. J.
Nutr. 136: 538S-543S, 2006.
24. Shimomura, Y., et al. Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on
skeletal muscle. J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):529S-532S.
25. Stoppani, J., et al., Consuming branched-chain amino acid supplement during a
resistance training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss.
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6(Suppl 1):P1, 2009.
26. Talbott, S., et al. Effect of Branched Chain Amino Acids on Salivary Cortisol Levels
During Endurance Exercise. Annual Meeting of the International Society of Sports
Nutrition, Las Vegas, 2006.
27. Tipton, K.D., et al. Acute response of net muscle protein balance reflects 24-h
balance after exercise and amino acid ingestion. American Journal of Physiology,
Endocrinology and Metabolism 284(1):E76-E89, 2003.

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Bodybuilding.com - Aminos Are Essential: Lift Longer And Grow Stronger With BCAAs

Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Jim holds a doctorate in exercise physiology and has
been the personal nutrition and health consultant for
numerous celebrity clients...
View All Articles By This Author



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Rep Power: 0

I do use BCAA's when I train fasted.... What I don't like is that

all research is thoery and assumptions. I would never add
BCAA's to a protein shake why because it is protein with
BCAA's already in it. I think BCAA's only serve benefit when
training fasted.. Also I never pay attention to a study done on
mice and rats that is just nonsense.

Body Stats
ht: 5'9"
wt: 180 lbs
bf: 12.0%

Feb 20, 2013 6:55pm | report


Rep Power: 0

Agreed. Also I spoke to my biochemistry professor

about this and he said that it is best to get your amino
acids from food which gives you a balanced amount of
several AA's. Supplementing a few AA's and having a
much lower amount of others isn't ideal for humans (he
gave me specific examples why but I forgot since it
was quiet some time ago).

Body Stats
ht: 5'9"
wt: 202 lbs
bf: 17.0%

Feb 20, 2013 7:02pm | report

I have been doing IF and training fasted. I take BCAAs
before I train. Is that the only time I should take them?
I eat a huge meal after every workout (Only one meal
on training days). Then I go to sleep.
Rep Power: 0

Body Stats
ht: 6'4"
wt: 230 lbs
bf: 75.0%

Feb 20, 2013 9:50pm | report


Rep Power: 0

My understanding is that the appeal of BCAAs is down

to the speed of delivery, and that fact that postworkout, whilst a whey or casein shake will take time
to digest, a BCAA dose will hit muscles much more
quickly. In fairness I have taken them over the past,
and noticed a significant improvement in recovery
time. Sure, getting all your nutrients from food would
be nice, however it isn't a realistic option for some
people, and I think BCAA tablets/powders can be
added to a diet to assist in this, the same way protein
shakes are used.

Body Stats
ht: 5'10"
wt: 184 lbs
bf: 7.0%

Feb 20, 2013 11:37pm | report




Bodybuilding.com - Aminos Are Essential: Lift Longer And Grow Stronger With BCAAs
if you're taking BCAA's while training fasted you're
defeating the purpose of training fasted
Apr 29, 2013 6:14pm | report

Body Stats
ht: 5'5"
wt: 141 lbs
bf: 22.0%

Rep Power: 0

Thanx good info

Body Stats

Feb 21, 2013 6:00am | report

ht: 5'7"
wt: 165 lbs
bf: 17.0%

Rep Power: 0

Great article. I'm going to start taking BCAA's now haha

Body Stats

Feb 21, 2013 8:38am | report

ht: 5'11"
wt: 171.2 lbs
bf: 14.6%

Rep Power: 0

some gainers have them stocked in already. 2n1
Jan 2, 2015 1:14pm | report

Body Stats
ht: 6'0"
wt: 165.4 lbs
bf: 8.7%

Rep Power: 0

that dude curln that bar is huge!!!

Body Stats

Feb 21, 2013 9:23am | report

ht: 5'6"
wt: 161 lbs
bf: 8.0%

Rep Power: 0

He snorts his BCAA's

Body Stats

Feb 21, 2013 10:48am | report

ht: 6'1"
wt: 201 lbs
bf: 15.0%

Rep Power: 0

I stick to universal's uni-liver. Most bcaa powders are filled
with artificial flavors and sweetners
Feb 21, 2013 1:56pm | report

Body Stats
ht: 5'10"
wt: 195.55 lbs
bf: 14.0%

Rep Power: 0


Rep Power: 0

unless you're eating organic fruits, vegetables and

meats free of pesticides as well as a protein powder,
any type of beverage or food free of artificial
sweeteners, and coloring the amount in any flavored
BCAA powder wont hurt you at all.

Body Stats
ht: 6'1"
wt: 195 lbs
bf: 9.0%

i don't know you but i'm pretty sure you don't eat
THAT healthy and i'm not a doctor but i don't think
that'll kill you. so if a flavored BCAA is the worst thing
you'll have all day, you'll live.
Feb 22, 2013 11:43am | report




Bodybuilding.com - Aminos Are Essential: Lift Longer And Grow Stronger With BCAAs

Excellent article. BCAAs will slowly develop a similar
reputation to that of creatine. Essential.
Feb 21, 2013 2:29pm | report

Body Stats
ht: 5'8"
wt: 161 lbs
bf: 15.0%

Rep Power: 0

bro that picture has to go. thats mad sketchy.

Body Stats

Feb 22, 2013 11:45am | report

ht: 6'1"
wt: 195 lbs
bf: 9.0%

Rep Power: 0

I'll listen when you are brave enough to upload one.

Body Stats

Feb 23, 2013 8:53am | report

ht: 5'8"
wt: 161 lbs
bf: 15.0%

Rep Power: 0


Body Stats

Feb 23, 2013 3:34pm | report

ht: 5'5"
wt: 171 lbs
bf: 25.0%

Rep Power: 0


Rep Power: 0

I've recently begun using BCAA's as an addition to my protein

in the morning, and post-workout. Thus far I haven't noticed
any additional size, but I have however, noticed that I am able
to lift with more intensity for longer periods and not suffer
from the soreness that would have affected me in the past.

Body Stats
ht: 6'9"
wt: 318.4 lbs
bf: 25.2%

Article Rated: 9
Feb 21, 2013 3:51pm | report


Rep Power: 0

@ACE0809 what do you want research to be if not

assumptions and theory? How can you really ever know if
something is true? I know BCAAs have helped my training not
saying everyone has to go out and buy a whole big stack of
them but they do help. Also I will trust a guy more with a PHD
and who is jacked than someone with just one of the two.

Body Stats
ht: 5'11"
wt: 180 lbs
bf: 11.0%

Feb 21, 2013 9:30pm | report


Rep Power: 0

First off nice read. Secondly I feel a lot like some of you here. I
take BCAA tabs before every solid meal as well as whey
protein with BCAA. I feel like when im dieting the BCAA's
save me from losing a lot of Muscle mass because they are
used for fuel as well as repairing your muscles. Otherwise
there really is no need to take them when bulking, you will
waste your money.

Body Stats
ht: 5'11"
wt: 193 lbs
bf: 13.0%

Feb 22, 2013 1:51pm | report


Rep Power: 0

Good article. I have had great results with BCAA's, however I

have been doing some research and have yet to find any
evidence showing the effects of BCAA's taken outside the
workout time frame. Would these AA's be ultimately stored as
glycogen and/or adipose via gluconeogenesis? If so, then
wouldn't taking them at other times of the day be counter
intuitive to keeping a lower body fat? Or is the over all caloric


Body Stats
ht: 6'2"
wt: 190 lbs
bf: 8.0%



Bodybuilding.com - Aminos Are Essential: Lift Longer And Grow Stronger With BCAAs
intuitive to keeping a lower body fat? Or is the over all caloric
value of these BCAA's negligible?
Feb 22, 2013 4:21pm | report

I thought BCAA's were already in a Whey Protein supplement
and that was why Whey was the best protein to take among
other reasons... So this article is saying to take additional
BCAA'S as well as Whey?
Rep Power: 0

Body Stats
ht: 6'2"
wt: 185 lbs

What are the best brands of BCAAA to take?

Apr 3, 2013 9:58am | report

Every time I read one of these articles I want to buy more
supplements. Looks like MP Assault already has BCAAs and
so does my post workout shake. Purchase avoided = )
Rep Power: 0

Body Stats
ht: 6'0"
wt: 216 lbs

Apr 10, 2013 2:31pm | report

been looking for a good, simple explanation of exactly what
bcaas do. search is over.
Jun 26, 2013 12:27pm | report
Rep Power: 0


Rep Power: 0

I really like this article because I can relate to the benefits of

taking BCAAs. I've been taking. BCAAs for over a month now
and I can say confidently that it really does help you with
recovery. I sip on them intra-workout and with my post
workout shake, and I'm barely sore the next morning.

Body Stats
ht: 6'2"
wt: 205 lbs
bf: 20.0%

Personally, I would recommend any one to try it out and see

how it works for them before judging it.
Jul 7, 2013 9:00am | report

I love bcaa ...

Body Stats

Aug 2, 2013 7:32pm | report

ht: 6'0"
wt: 234.13 lbs
bf: 15.0%

Rep Power: 0

Showing 1 - 25 of 35 Comments



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