BCAAs on Keto
Branch chain amino acids- A very common substance known fairly well in bro science and gym culture. BCAAs have been around for a long time and are commonly part of any hardcore gym goers supplement stack. A lot of people don’t really know much about these and yet spend hundreds of dollars and drink gallons of it a year. What does it really do? Is it good for a ketogenic athlete? There is a lot of mystery around BCAAs and there effect on fat adapted individuals. Lets take a moment and break down what they are and how essential they are for us as human beings.
BCAAs – What are they?
Branch chain amino acids are literally that. They are the chain amino acids , the ‘building blocks’ of muscle growth in our bodies. The three BCAAs are Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine These three branch chain amino acids are called such due to the fact that they are the only three amino acids with a branch hanging from the side. Together, they represent around 35–40% of all essential amino acids present in your body and 14–18% of those found in your muscles. BCAAs play several other roles in your body too. First, your body can use them as building blocks for protein and muscle. Leucine is thought to have the biggest impact on your body’s capacity to build muscle proteins. Isoleucine and valine are more effective at producing energy and regulating your blood sugar levels. Valine is also a great nitric oxide enhancer and can help create the ‘pump’ effect we see so often in the gym.
Do we need BCAAs?
In short, yes we do. As you read above, BCAAs make up of 35-40% of our amino acid profile. Whats also ironic is that all three of these amino acids are essential. This means that our body does not produce them and we have to get them from external sources. Surprisingly , BCAAs are a lot more common than you probably think. As most supplement companies would have you believe that you cant get an adequate amount with out drinking their state of the art powder, the truth is a lot more simple. Food! A diet built on whole foods gives you plenty of amino acids! Lets give an example – BEEF ( Leucine 3165mg per every 100g , Valine 1918mg per every 100g & Isoleucine .4g for every ounce (28g). If someone were to eat 1lb of beef a day they would intake up to 10g of Leucine! The recommended anabolic dose is only 3g! There are also many more strong sources such as – Parmesan, chicken, pork & pumpkin seeds! With all of these amazing whole food sources out there, it is safe to say that as long as you are eating a meat based- whole food diet, your on the right track. So what is the purpose of drinking BCAAs in the first place? If you are a carb based athlete and in the middle of a competition prep or cut, it could help significantly with maintaining more muscle mass. As far as ketogenic based athletes, there is not much research done on this subject. It has been shown that due to ketones muscle sparing properties, supplemental amino acids have little effect on fat adapted individuals if any at all. In fact, due to most amino acids spiking blood sugar, one could say that drinking them could be detrimental to over all muscle mass goals. I am currently doing an experiment of drinking 5g of pure leucine immediately after my workout. Surprisingly, even though amino acids have been shown to spike blood sugar, leucine is the only ketogenic amino acid. This means that it is the only amino acid that can be converted into ketone bodies. That along with it playing a major role in protein synthesis, it shows a lot of promise to help with muscle growth for the fat based athlete. My N=1 experiment has just started so only time will what its effectiveness really is.
So in conclusion we can sum it up in 6 basic points :
1. BCAAs are chained amino acids that make up almost half of our amino acid profile
2. They are essential and have to be ingested from an outside source.
3. A meal rich in meats and whole foods provides plenty of all BCAAs
4. Powders for the carb based athlete may be beneficial during an extreme calorie deficit.
5. Due to ketones muscle sparing properties, amino acid supplements are not needed on a ketogenic diet.
6. Leucine show potential promise to be a great aid in muscle building for the fat adapted individual.
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