A common piece of advice handed down by trainers around the world is to sip on Branch Chain Amino Acids all day because it tastes better than water and its going to help preserve muscle and force your body to use fat for energy. 

How do I know this is common? Because when I was a grommet this is what I got told when introduced to the world of BCAA supplementation, I regurgitated it to clients and friends not knowing what I do now, and its something that comes up frequently in consultative conversations. 

Lets have a look at why this is bad advice. 

When you influx the body with a large amount of amino acids, they’re going to compete with one another through the blood brain barrier. So the more Leucine you take in, the more Valine, the more Tryptophan etc, they’re going to compete with one another and in a lot of cases, people are inhibiting Tyrosine and Tryptophan from getting into the brain. Two months down the track, you’ve been dosing 40-50 grams of Branch Chain Amino Acids daily and all of a sudden you feel depressed and apathetic, have no motivation, and it completely destroys your personality creating the classic ‘tired but wired’ symptom. 

80% of your Serotonin is made in the gut and now you are competing with that to get into the brain also. Not all Serotonin will get there because its being taken up by the branch chains. BCAA’s are formulated for during and or around the workout because it blocks Serotonin. Serotonin relaxes you and when you’re working out, obviously you don’t want to be relaxed. 

BCAA are commonly known for stopping muscle protein breakdown and aiding recovery. The way it creates a muscle sparing effect, is by using them as fuel instead of your muscle which is excellent. But the issue with drinking them all day is that you’re providing your body with an immediate energy source and this could be the very reason why you aren’t getting leaner even while sticking to a good diet. 

If your goal is to achieve muscular development and improve body composition, consuming 5-10 grams of branch chains around your workout is a great idea but away from that, focus on consuming more whole proteins rather than mass dosing single nutrients and amino acids. 

What people don’t seem to understand is that 1 gram of a nutrient is a lot. So when you start taking 50,000mg of individual nutrients daily….. you’re asking for trouble. Secondly to this, if you’re stimulating mTOR all day, everything is anabolic including fat and you’ll be promoting insulin resistance and inflammation. 

The thought process:

“If I sip on this all day I am going to keep burning fat and preserve my muscle”

The reality:

The body will use the Branch Chain Amino Acids as a source of fuel instead of tapping into your subcutaneous fat stores and most likely create cognitive consequences.