Ask The Trainer #28 – BCAAs As A Protein Substitute (Part 2 of 2)

Ask The Trainer #28 - BCAAs As A Protein Substitute (Part 2 of 2)

QUESTION (From Part 1):

Hi, Chad,

Great to see you writing for EFX. As a personal trainer with decades of experience myself, the people I rely on for trustworthy advice are few and far between. However, I know I can count on you for fact-based and personally-tested training guidance (and not the dreaded “Bro-Science” so many fitness writers churn out uncritically). Additionally, as a natural athlete, your suggestions are widely applicable to the majority of trainees who are drug-free.

So here is my question: When one is seeking to lose fat and gain muscle (and who isn’t?) what is your take on using properly balanced BCCAs as a (sometimes) substitute for protein supplementation in order to keep calories down?

Keep up the good work, Brother, you are a source of inspiration and information to many.

Yours in Health,

Tony DiCosta


ANSWER (Continued From Part 1):

The magic behind the efficiency of free-form branched chain amino acids is the fact they don’t require digestion. As I mentioned previously, they metabolize in muscle tissue, not the digestive system or liver. This means they have the ability to ignite energy production, protein synthesis, and recovery… within just a few minutes!

This is the reason I never consume my protein shakes directly before, during, or after a workout like most people. I need those amino acids in my bloodstream immediately to provide maximum benefits, not 3 hours later when catabolism is already underway.

I know most people think they’re doing themselves a favor by adding branched chain amino acids to their protein shakes, or by combining them with some other protein. This is NOT efficient.

Chad ShawWhen you do this, the BCAAs will simply piggyback with the protein peptides, then break down and assimilate at the same rate as the peptide bonded amino acids. In other words, there is no additional increase in protein synthesis by combining BCAAs and protein together.

In fact, if you don’t take BCAAs in a fasted state, it’s pretty much a waste taking them at all. However, taking them in junction with ‘Intermittent Fasting’ (which is a fabulous way to stimulate the production of anabolic hormones and destroy body fat), has an extremely powerful effect!

Now that we have a better understanding of how BCAAs work, it’s safe to say that substituting a couple servings of protein with BCAAs each day could definitely be advantageous to fat loss. As you mentioned, this would reduce your total calorie count for the day, thereby making it easier to keep your calorie count down.

This isn’t just my opinion. There’s research that actually proves it…

A recent study at Charleston College (South Carolina) studied 36 “experienced” lifters, randomly assigning them to one of 3 groups:

Group 1: Consumed 14 grams of BCAAs during workouts.
Group 2: Consumed 28 grams of whey protein during workouts.
Group 3: Consumed 28 grams of carbohydrates (sports drinks) during workouts.

All of their workouts and diets were standardized to keep the playing field even. But, at the end of the 8-week trial, the results were NOT even at all! The group taking BCAAs burned more fat, added more muscle, and gained more strength than those using only whey protein or carbohydrates.

I’ve noted similar results via my own experimentation. I avoid eating anything roughly 2 hours prior to my workouts. Then, I take 10 grams of powdered BCAAs directly before training, along with my pre-workout drink. I also sip on an additional 5 grams of BCAAs during my workout. Doing this has been shown in some studies to boost testosterone levels by as much as 50%!

Finally, immediately after my workout, I take an additional 10 grams of BCAAs to kickstart the recovery process. About 1-2 hours later, I will consume a well-balanced meal. Ever since I began this practice, I’ve noticed increases in strength, lean mass, and muscle definition.


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Whenever I need to drop a few pounds very quickly, such as for a photo shoot or to make my weight class in a powerlifting meet, following this BCAA routine has worked wonders for me. The end result was always increased fat loss, more muscular detail, without any loss of muscle size or strength.

One final suggestion is this: If you use BCAAs this way, buy them in powdered form. There are countless brands offering BCAAs in capsules or tablet form. Don’t use them. You will blow through an entire bottle in just a matter of days!

As always, it’s great to hear from you , ony. Thanks again for your kind words and for offering such a great question!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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