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BCAAs Plus Whey!

Is it really necessary to add BCAAs to whey protein?

BCAAs Plus Whey!

Lately I have been getting a lot of questions about whether or not it is absolutely necessary to add branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to whey protein shakes because whey is already rich in BCAAs.

Let me just get right to the point and say it: YES!

Now let me explain to you the reasons why I recommend adding extra BCAAs to a protein shake that is already rich in BCAAs.

The BCAAs include the three amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Research shows that for muscle growth, leucine is the MVP. That's because leucine has been found to kickstart muscle protein synthesis.  That is, leucine stimulates certain components in muscle cells that start the process of muscle protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is the building of muscle protein from amino acids. The muscle literally strings amino acids together to form long protein chains that make up the structural components of the muscle. And that equals an increase in muscle size. Research shows that it takes around 3 grams of leucine to sufficiently kickstart muscle protein synthesis. And that's in normal-sized men. Someone who has more muscle could require even more.

While whey protein is one of the richest sources of BCAAs, a scoop of most whey proteins does not have a full 3 grams of leucine.

Whey protein provides about 2 grams of leucine, 1 gram of valine and a little over 1 gram of isoleucine per 20 grams. It would take about 30 grams of whey to get just enough leucine. And it would take about 35 grams of casein. Since you should be using a mixed protein of whey and casein, you would need closer to 40 grams of protein to get the minimum amount of leucine you need to really boost muscle protein synthesis. That's about what you should be consuming after workouts. But do you really want to trust minumum amounts of leucine to be adequate for you? No you don't. That's just one reason why taking extra BCAAs with your protein shake is a good idea. Plus, taking BCAAs gets them to your muscles even faster than the BCAAs from the whey. That's because the leucine, isleucine, and valine in whey are bound up in long protein chains that need to be broken apart. Sure whey gets digested fast. But because the BCAAs in a BCAA supplement are what are known as free-form amino acids (that means that they are not bound together with other aminos) they get to your muscles even faster. So having a dose of BCAAs helps to get the leucine to the muscles ASAP to kick start muscle protein synthesis and then when the aminos from the whey show up soon after, they are put to use for building the actual muscle protein that leads to bigger muscle mass.

Another reason that I recommend getting extra BCAAs in addition to your workout protein shakes is because BCAAs provide your muscles a source of energy and they reduce fatigue.

Valine competes with tryptophan for entry into the brain. During intense exercise tryptophan is taken up by the brain and converted into serotonin. This makes you sluggish and fatigued. Having extra valine around (more than the 1 gram in a scoop of whey) prevents tryptophan from being taken up by the brain and prevents fatigue during the workout. This is also why I recommend using BCAAs and not a straight up leucine supplement.

The BCAAs, as a whole, have also been found to lower cortisol levels during exercise.

Since cortisol is a catabolic hormone that increases muscle breakdown and interferes with testosterone production and testosterone function, keeping it low during workouts can help to enhance muscle growth. That is yet another reason why I recommend adding ample BCAAs, and not just leucine, to your whey protein shakes.

So how much BCAAs do I recommend taking along with your protein shakes?

Play it safe and have at least 5 grams of BCAAs any time you have a protein shake, such as first thing in the morning, prewokrout, postworkout, and even in between meals.

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