So you decided to lose weight.
Maybe your doctor told you that you’re at risk of being pre-diabetic, maybe a friend tagged you in very unflattering, unsightly picture (oh, I’ve been there…), maybe you’re going on a trip down south or that bathing suit season is soon approaching, maybe you’re getting married or divorced.
Wether it be for health, quality of life, regaining control, improving appearance or general fitness people decide to slim down for a lot of reasons.
So, you went shopping, got brand spanking new gym clothes, got your gym membership and your workout plan ready, just bought a healthy grocery and now you’re at the supplement store.
Everything is over priced, the employee giving you advice is overweight and trying his hardest to make you buy the supplement line with the highest profit margin because he makes commission on it.
He’ll probably suggest a pre-workout (caffeine), maybe creatine, whey protein, maybe omega-3, a green supplement, glutamine, and surprise surprise BCAA.
What are BCAA ?
BCAA is short for Branched-Chains Amino Acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, muscle can’t grow without them. The ones that are sold at supplement stores usually contains 3 essential amino acids.
These 3 specifically are “essential” which means it needs to be provided by your diet since your body can’t synthetize it on its on.
Ok, Back to weight loss.
Now, for most people that means cutting their calories and ramping up the amount of cardio they’re doing.
This can be problematic, especially when cutting calories aggressivly for faster fat loss.
Increased cardio, when also cutting calories aggresively can lead to decreased muscle mass
Catabolism – every bodybuilders nightmare
The body desperatly wants to hold on to its fat so it turns to its muscles to satisfy its energy needs (using muscle amino acids for metabolic fuel)
Decrease muscle mass leads to a decrease in resting basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories your body burn doing nothing) and boom now you’re stuck doing more and more cardio in order to see ongoing weight-loss results.
You become what we would call ”skinny fat” – I know, the phrase kind of defies logic. How can someone be skinny but fat at the same time ? What kind of satanic curse is this ?
We are refering to low levels of lean muscle mass but high levels of fat mass.
Here’s what i mean :
BCAA and weightloss
This is where BCAA comes in :
Taking this supplement, before or during claims to delay fatigue.
Taking them post workout will ”lower muscle damage” by ”feeding the muscle” (replenishing amino acides) keeping you in an anabolic state.
It promises to :
- Increase protein synthesis (anabolic)
- Reduce protein breakdown (anti-catabolic)
Yes, they are delicious but do you really need them to lose fat mass ?
A lot of studies have tried to prove ”The efficacy of branched chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation and resistance training for maintaining lean body mass during a calorie-restricted diet” this occurring at the same time with losses in fat mass.
” Dudgeon et al.”
BUT looking more closely, the results seems to contradict the data concerning changes in fat mass.
They claimed a significant change in fat mass for the subject supplementing with BCAA compared to a placebo group (supplementing with a carbhohydrate beverage – like Powerade or Gatorade). Keeping in mind that all subjects were prescribed the same hypocaloric diet and exercise programs.
HOWEVER, while both group lost fat mass, the group supplementing with a carbs beverage actually lost more fat. Table 2 states that the BCAA group lost 0.6 kg of fat mass while the CHO group lost 1.4 kg.
Researchers often use the wrong statistical measures to analyze the data so that they can support their hypothesis (When supplement company finances the research it helps…). In other words, they make the numbers speak in their favor.
There are two very important points you’re not told about BCAA research:
1. Most Research usually demonstrates muscle-related benefits of BCAA supplementation on subjects that didn’t eat enough protein.
2. You can simply get your BCAAs from food instead, and this is cheaper and (in my opinion) more satisfying.
While it’s true that BCAAs are effective for preserving muscle, you’re paying for three amino acids but leucine is the only one that effectively suppresses muscle protein breakdown – Save money and get the same results by buying pure leucine.
My conclusion : BCAA are overrated
If you’re eating enough protein every day (before and after your workouts) you have no reason to add BCAAs to your monthly supplement bill.
P.s Avoid being ”Skinny Fat’, eat some protein, spend time in the weight room and start lifting more than 5lbs.