Pack on the Mass, Without Adding Fat
by: Robbie Durand
Branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation has been shown to increase protein synthesis and decrease muscle protein breakdown. BCAA are a group of essential amino acids that are a major substrate for protein synthesis and recovery. Many studies have shown that BCAA can enhance muscle recuperation, increase muscle strength, and may even enhance testosterone production. One of the lesser known effects of BCAA’s is that BCAA use has been associated with body fat loss. For example, one study of wrestlers found that BCAA supplementation with energy restriction was more effective in reducing body fat than energy restriction alone. In that study, a combination of moderate energy restriction and BCAA supplementation was found to reduce body weight and visceral adipose tissue in a short-term intervention. Those consuming the high-BCAA diet had the greatest reduction in body weight and body fat percentage. Another population study based on a 24-h recall dietary survey suggested a negative association between BCAA intake and obesity. Meaning the larger the intake of BCAAs, the lower the incidence of obesity. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrients reports that higher BCAA in the diet was associated with lower obesity.
A total of 948 randomly recruited participants were asked to finish our Internet-based dietary questionnaire. Associations between dietary BCAA ratio and prevalence of overweight/obesity and abdominal obesity were analyzed. Dietary BCAA ratio in obese participants was significantly lower than non-obese participants. The researchers found negative correlations between the ratio of dietary BCAA and body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference. This means higher BCAA was associated with a lower waist circumference. Further studies indicated that dietary BCAA ratio was inversely associated with 2-h postprandial glucose (2 h-PG) and status of inflammation. In conclusion, a higher ratio of dietary BCAA is inversely associated with the prevalence of obesity, postprandial glucose and status of inflammation in young northern Chinese adults. The researchers had a few ideas as to why the BCAA group had lower body weight and waist circumference. They suspect the amino acid leucine could impact leptin, an adipose-derived hormone regulating energy intake and expenditure. Also, leucine has been found to have appetite suppressing effects in the brain as well. This study suggests that taking BCAA’s can not only increase lean muscle mass but also may contribute to reduced fat mass as well.
14 Grams of BCAA Prevents Lean Muscle Mass Loss
Nutritional supplements such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAA; valine, leucine, isoleucine) may augment or stimulate skeletal muscle regeneration by suppressing post-exercise protein degradation, therefore leading to greater gains in lean mass. The newest research published in the prestigious Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that BCAA supplementation in trained individuals performing resistance training while on a hypocaloric diet can maintain lean mass and preserve skeletal muscle performance while losing fat mass.
Seventeen resistance-trained males (21–28 years of age) were randomized to a BCAA group or a carbohydrate (CHO) group who both received their respective supplement during the 8 weeks of a prescribed body building style resistance training protocol. Subjects were prescribed a low calorie “cutting” diet that was to be followed during the study. Each participant was randomly assigned to either the BCAA supplement group (BCAA; 14 grams of a BCAA nutritional supplement containing seven grams of BCAA prior to and following each workout for a total of 14 g of BCAA) or the carbohydrate dietary supplement (CHO; 14 g of a carbohydrate based nutritional supplement (POWERADE ®) prior to and following each workout).
All subjects performed a progressive bodybuilding split style resistance-training program 4 days per week for the 8-week study duration. At the end of the study, both the BCAA and carbohydrate group exhibited changes in body composition, though the groups responded differently to the intervention. The BCAA group lost fat mass and maintained lean mass while the carbohydrate group lost lean mass and body mass. Both groups increased 1RM squat, but the increase in the BCAA group was greater than the carbohydrate group. The BCAA group increased 1RM bench press while the carbohydrate group decreased strength. These results show that BCAA supplementation in trained individuals performing resistance training while on a hypocaloric diet can maintain lean mass and preserve skeletal muscle performance while losing fat mass.
Dudgeon, W, D., Kelley, E, P., & Scheett, T, P. (2016). In a single-blind, matched group design: branched-chain amino acid supplementation and resistance training maintains lean body mass during a caloric restricted diet. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 13:1
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