The “throwing your BCAA’s out” meme isn’t new. It’s been around for some time, but I’ve noticed it trend recently in the circles I visit. It’s funny, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. Right now, there is a huge problem in the quality of our food. It is clear that the current produce and meats provided today do not have as many nutrients as the same foods of even just 50 years ago. Take out nutrients in your food intake, and add in high-intensity training, and you have a possible problem in getting the right amount of macro and micro nutrients.
But the question it’s making you ask is spot on: are you wasting your money on certain supplements? Should you forgo BCAA’s in favor of something else? Let’s delve in!
Full transparency: I not only take BCAA’s myself, but I also sell one under MacroLab’s MIL-SPEC brand. So let’s clear the air on any bias right there, and I’ll explain why below.
What are BCAA’s and When to Disregard Them?
In my Supplement 101 guide, I list them as a number 8 recommended supplement to have. BCAA’s stand for Branched Chain Amino Acids and they can promote muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle growth overtime. Why? They are the three building blocks of your body in the form of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They make up more than a quarter of your entire muscle mass and are essential for muscle growth and repair. So, case closed right? This must be an essential supplement?
Well, yes and no. There are a variety of reasons why you shouldn’t, or don’t have to, take BCAA’s. You’re probably getting enough BCAA’s for your body’s needs if you meet these conditions:
- If you get enough whole food proteins (which make up almost a quarter BCAA’s), you probably don’t need them.
- If you take enough whey protein (most of the good ones have BCAA’s added – check your supplement label), you probably don’t need them.
- If you’re tracking your caloric intake and ingesting enough protein on a daily basis (about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight), you probably don’t need them.
Conditions For Taking BCAA’s?
There are a few conditions you need to consider on whether or not you need them:
- If you train fasted (like myself), wherein you haven’t eaten in around 4-5 hours and your insulin levels are low, I absolutely recommend taking it. Not only will it help in protein synthesis, it will also stop the body’s catabolic processes in breaking down muscle and convert you back into an anabolic, muscle-building state. I like dual purpose supplements with good ingredients, so mine also have around 175mg of caffeine and green tea extract, making it both a pre-workout energy drink and a BCAA.
- If you are an athlete or competitor putting high demands on your body in a training environment of more than 5+ days a week, then you should consider it since you’re placing your body in a high-demand state for amino’s. You might need to utilize every avenue you can to get ample muscle and this is one way to do so, even if you’re consuming enough proteins.
- If you are a female or male struggling to meet your daily protein needs, or not hitting the advised 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you are not meeting your nutritional needs in the form of protein, you might not be getting the needed amount of recovery and muscle synthesis. Now, this depends on if you are actively training as well. If you’re not meeting your caloric needs in the form of protein, nor are you training, then you have other problems to consider and take care of. You need to buy better groceries and start training rather than worry about the supplements you need.
- If you have trouble meeting your hydration goals. Instead of taking a myo mix or other water-flavor enhancer, utilize the dual purpose of a good tasting amino drink to become better hydrated while also increasing the likelihood of getting all the aminos your body needs.
We can make the argument that, given the right amount of quality and quantity of nutrition, you don’t need any supplements. And that is accurate! However, most people do not get the right amount of quality or quantity on a daily basis. And if you’re not tracking your intake, you have no idea whatsoever. In my professional opinion, ensure that, for most days, you are striving to get the quantity and quality of your nutrition through whole foods. And then supplement based on your fitness level and needs – the more days and hours you train a week, the more likely you will need to supplement to reach the intake you need.
If you don’t train, you don’t watch your intake, and you eat a lot of fast food and garbage, don’t buy any supplements. Fix your nutrition first. If you don’t know where to start, I’ve got the answer for you! Even if you don’t choose me or my program, you need to make sure you fix this issue if you want to go anywhere successfully in life!