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Can BCAA Help Me Build More Muscles?

Kamal Joshi
Kamal Joshi
Even if you’re not a gym rat (these days, who is?), chances are you’ve heard of BCAA. You’ve been told that it is the holy grail of all supplements and without it, you’re not going to make any gains.
Let’s examine this claim.

What is BCAA?

By now, you already know that the right amount of good quality dietary protein is critical for building a good physique. When you eat protein, it gets broken down into its component parts viz. Amino Acids. You could even say that Amino Acids are the building blocks of life.

There are two types of Amino Acids: non-essential and essential.

Nonessential amino acids can be synthesized in the body, whereas essential amino acids must be obtained from the diet.

Of these 9 essential amino acids, leucine, valine, and isoleucine are known as Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCAA). Leucine is a key amino acid that triggers the initiation of muscle protein synthesis. The higher the leucine content of any protein source, the better it is for muscle building. However, that doesn’t imply that you need to supplement with Leucine. You can get leucine from whole foods too. In fact, that holds true for valine and isoleucine as well.

Here are the dietary sources of BCAA:
● Valine is present in soy, cheese, peanuts, mushrooms, whole grains, and vegetables.
● Isoleucine is plentiful in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
● Dairy, soy, beans, and legumes are sources of Leucine.

Why is BCAA sold as a Supplement?
Here’s the blunt truth: the dietary supplement industry is not strictly regulated and is free to make any claims to promote products and even label them “essential for muscle-building or fat loss”.
The definition of the supplement itself is this: “a thing that can be added to something else to complete or enhance it.” So, if you can complete your requirements through whole foods, supplements are optional.
BCAA can be helpful to people whose dietary protein intake is low. BCAA along with strength training can prove helpful in increasing Muscle Protein Synthesis and muscle mass over time.
Thus, like all supplements, it is need-based and not a must-have!

Can BCAA help you to build more Muscles?

If we exclude water and fat, the human body is made up almost entirely of protein. Protein is the main component of muscles, bones, organs, skin, and nails. It is the main building block of your body. The process by which muscle protein is built is called Muscle Protein Synthesis. Parallelly, there is another ongoing process called Muscle Protein Breakdown which is critical for the functioning of the immune system.

You put on muscle mass when Muscle Protein Synthesis > Muscle Protein Breakdown. To increase Muscle Protein Synthesis, you need to work out and you need to add a little more protein to your diet as compared to a person with a sedentary lifestyle.

Since the 1980’s, many sports nutrition scientists have taken an interest in BCAA. The metabolism of BCAA is involved in some specific biochemical muscle processes and many studies have been carried out to understand whether sports performance can be enhanced by a BCAA supplementation. Much of this research has failed to confirm this hypothesis.

In other words, you can avoid BCAA if you can complete your protein intake through whole foods. You don’t need extra protein or BCAA to increase Muscle Protein Synthesis. You need to supplement with BCAA only if you are not able to complete your protein requirements with the help of whole foods.

As per current literature, 1.6 x (your lean mass in KG) grams of protein is enough for the muscle-building phase. For example, if your Weight is 100 KG and your body fat is 20% so your lean mass will be 80Kgs. You will need at least 80 x 1.6= 128g of protein for building muscle. You can easily get this much protein by incorporating high protein sources such as Chicken, Dairy, Soya Chunks, Cheese, and Paneer in your diet.

So, don’t waste your hard-earned money on BCAA. Get your protein from whole foods.

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1819434
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26500462
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5691664