Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) consist of three key essential amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. These three amino acids play a key role in muscle protein synthesis - the main mechanisms behind building muscle and reducing muscle breakdown. Although BCAAs are an extremely popular supplement, few people are aware of the individual differences between their favorite brands. Just like the variance in type and quality of different proteins, a large difference can be found in your BCAA product. There are many ways in which a BCAA supplement can differ, including:
- The ratio of the three BCAAs,
- Additional ingredients and fillers used,
- Sweeteners and colors,
- The quality of the actual BCAA.
1. RATIO OF THE 3 BCAA
You’ve probably seen different ratios, varying from 1:1:1 all the way to 10:1:1. This describes the amount of Leucine to isoleucine and valine. While many supplements may use this as a “marketing tool”, manipulating the classic ratios may actually have a negative effect on your physique. Unbeknown to most, the most optimal ratio of BCAA products is 2:1:1, so a 4g serving should provide:
This is vitally important as Leucine is the key amino acid for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Because of its importance, many supplement companies market the idea of a higher ratio, such as 4:1:1, 8:1:1 or even 10:1:1, as being superior. While this may sound correct in theory, science and research show otherwise. In short, when the ratio increases in favour of Leucine, you are basically taking a Leucine supplement, not BCAA. When scientists researched this, they found that supplementary Leucine post workout was less effective than a complete BCAA 2:1:1 product. As all 3 amino acids play an important, integrative role, they should be consumed as a complete product. The other two amino acids also provide benefit, for example Valine can reduce fatigue, rate of perceived exertion in your workout and reduce the effects of serotonin on the brain (which leads to fatigue / tiredness). Finally, our muscles naturally contain a 2:1:1 ratio, meaning we should use this to replenish our natural stores. If we do dose one specific BCAA too high, research has shown that we can deplete the other two BCAA, which is counterproductive and can cause negative effects.
- 2g of Leucine,
- 1g of Isoleucine
- 1g of Valine
2. ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS AND FILLERS
Many other products continually use fillers and additional ingredients to “boost” their BCAA product. Again, this is a common marketing trick seen in the industry, with the supplement company trying to combine additional minerals and ingredients which are supposedly “beneficial”. While this may be the case in efficacious doses, these products usually only contain 10% of what is needed to be effective. It’s similar to eating just one bite of a chicken breast and expecting to grow, yet people continually buy into these “multi-ingredient” BCAA products. If you’ve not already guessed the real reason behind this, it is, of course, profit. BCAA alone can be fairly expensive; whereas other amino acids are extremely cheap. By adding the 1 gram of this and 1 gram of that, they can easily sell that 500g BCAA tub for more money. To the average consumer, it may even seem like they are getting better value for money! Always check the label: that 500g BCAA tub may actually only be 250g of BCAA! This means you are actually paying double the price for your BCAA products. Aim for BCAA products that contain at least 80 – 90% BCAA, e.g. 5g of BCAA powder should provide a minimum of 4.5g BCAA.
3. SWEETENERS AND COLORS
Following on from the point above, many BCAA products are filled with a ton of sweeteners and artificial colors. While some natural sweeteners can be fine, most commercial BCAA products contain several spoons full of sweeteners and flavorings. Not only is this a quick trick to increase the amount of physical powder in the tub, which, as discussed above, is a clever marketing trick, leading the average consumer to think..
BIGGER TUB = MORE POWDER = BETTER VALUE
but it can actually be detrimental to your health, diet and physique! While some sweeteners in moderation can be ok, (with some natural sweeteners even being beneficial), this isn’t always the case in the supplement world. Common issues when supplements and sweeteners/colors are combined include:
While we may not be able to avoid all artificial sweeteners and colors, if you are making every attempt to lead a “clean” and healthy lifestyle, it’s worth considering the 10 scoops of sweetener and colors in your BCAA product.
- A decrease in fasting blood sugar levels, which could cause fatigue and weakness during the exercise bout.
- Digestive issues and bloat, leading to discomfort and decreased performance.
- Impaired gut function over the long term, which can lead to fat gain, reduced nutrient absorption, less muscle and health issues.
- Sweeteners can also increase cravings for sugary food and make you more hungry – however, this depends on the type of sweetener, the amount and the individual.
- Artificial colors can cause skin issues
- Artificial colors are constantly being banned by the FDA, with some research showing they are linked to mood and behaviour disorders.
4. QUALITY OF YOUR BCAA PRODUCTS
As mentioned at the start, not all BCAA are created equally. There are various ways for companies to produce products such as BCAA and Glutamine, with the most common and cheapest method involving an undesirable, long extraction process. This process starts with the hydrolysis of proteins to create the BCAA product, which can take several hours of heating involving commercial chemicals. This process also causes the by-products of amino acids hydrolysates, which require filtering before the product is fit for human consumption. Unfortunately this process will occur for most of the BCAA products we see on the market. Due to the growing demand and popularity of supplements, natural fermented supplements are unable to compete with the requirements of modern day manufacturing in terms of volume and production time or cost. In fact, to create natural, fermented products it usually costs 300% – 400% of the cost of commercial synthetics! It’s important to be aware of the negatives from synthetic BCAA / Glutamine production; this artificial manufacturing process can decrease thequality and increases theallergen andintolerance risk. In fact, most BCAA products are made from..
DUCK FEATHERS & HUMAN HAIR
So if you’re adding in some BCAA or taking a regular pre-workout, you are likely to be chugging down some human hair on a daily basis. Just like eating natural whole foods, it’s important to take in NATURAL supplements, that your body is designed to process. Many doctors and functional medicine practitioners agree anything synthetic has a higher chance of being rejected/excreted from the body whereas natural, fermented products are digested without issue. This is one reason KAGED MUSCLE uses natural, fermented BCAA and Glutamine only.
Purchasing a commercial BCAA / Glutamine product may not help you optimize your physique or health. We see many individuals making great lifestyle changes, removing artificial foods, ingredients and toxins; however, they continually buy commercial pre workouts and BCAA products. Remember, the cheaper product may actually be more expensive when you consider fillers, BCAA ratio and quality.If you’re trying to optimize your health and physique, avoiding these artificial supplements will help in the long term, especially with the emerging link to artificial products and gut health, intolerances, Xenoestrogens, hormones and toxins.
100% Vegan Fermentation Process
When purchasing your BCAA or Glutamine products aim for natural, fermented products that are Allergen free. BCAA should be purchased in a 2:1:1 ratio without additional fillers. Visit theKAGED MUSCLE store section to read more about this product.