At some point I will write a full article on why BCAAs are a complete waste of money but for the time being I'll, briefly, address why one of the studies used to support its use is basically bullshit:
Full paper: Amino Acid Supplements and Recovery from High-Intensity Resistance Training
The purpose of this study was to investigate whether short-term amino acid supplementation could maintain a short-term net anabolic hormonal profile and decrease muscle cell damage during a period of high-intensity resistance training (overreaching), thereby enhancing recovery and decreasing the risk of injury and illness.
8 previously resistance trained males were randomly assigned to either a high branched chain amino acids (BCAA) or placebo group.
Subjects consumed the supplement for 3 weeks before commencing a 4th week of supplementation with concomitant high-intensity total-body resistance training (overreaching) (3 x 6-8 repetitions maximum, 8 exercises).
Blood was drawn prior to and after supplementation, then again after 2 and 4 days of training.
Serum was analyzed for testosterone, cortisol, and creatine kinase. Serum testosterone levels were significantly higher (p < 0.001), and cortisol and creatine kinase levels were significantly lower (p < 0.001, and p = 0.004, respectively) in the BCAA group during and following resistance training.
These findings suggest that short-term amino acid supplementation, which is high in BCAA, may produce a net anabolic hormonal profile while attenuating training-induced increases in muscle tissue damage. Athletes' nutrient intake, which periodically increases amino acid intake to reflect the increased need for recovery during periods of overreaching, may increase subsequent competitive performance while decreasing the risk of injury or illness.
What the abstract appears to be suggesting...
BCAAs, acutely, lower cortisol, creatine kinase and increase testosterone more than placebo in resistant trained males and therefore may be beneficial to workout recovery. These acute changes may, or may not, lead to more gains in the long term.
What you'd only know if you read the full paper...
These "resistance trained" males are described as having at least 1yr of training experience but they hadn't actually done any training for at least 6 months before the commencement of this study. Huh...that makes them equal to newbies in my book.
The reason this is such a big deal when it comes to this type of research is that newbies tend to response well to a wide range of stuff simply because of the fact that they are newbies - this can "mask" the true effectiveness of a protocol. By using trained subjects you can find out how effective a supplement really is since they tend to be more resistant to its effects.
Basically, the "resistance trained" portion of the abstract is pretty much bullshit (#1).
One of the main aims of this study was to look at the effects of BCAAs on the hormonal response to overreaching. Here's the thing, how exactly can you have an overreaching phase when the WHOLE training period was only 7 days? Answer: you can't (bullshit #2).
It would've been much more appropriate to run the training programme through the entire length of the study (12-13 weeks) and then implement a 7 day overreach. Then again, it would've been appropriate to have actual trained males and not newbies (who really shouldn't be doing any sort of overreaching, never mind after just a week of lifting).
Subjects who consumed more than 0.8g/kg of protein (RDA) were excluded from the study (bullshit#3).
In fact subjects averaged 0.7g/kg here (54.5g) along with the 3.3g BCAAs + 2g glutamine, which means that the results are completely irrelevant since athletes, the targeted demographic, consume 2-4x that amount of protein.
If we use a conservative amount of 1.6g/kg (124.6g average for the subjects in this study who weighed 77.9kg) and add on top of this the fact that 15% of total protein intake tends to come from BCAAs...your looking at 7.2g more BCAAs then what was consumed here.
Hence, this is why the study is a completely irrelevant to the targeted demographic and, as a result, a waste of funding & time.
3 massive limitations, none of which are mentioned in the abstract.
Yes, I'm hammering home the point about NOT relying on the abstract for anything and only forming a conclusion about a singular study when you have the full picture - only achievable by getting your hands on the full paper.
Discussion & take home point
This study is often used to justify BCAA use due to it being conducted in trained athletes but once we dig in a little bit its easy to see why its completely irrelevant to our community and doesn't justify a damn thing.
"But Zilla, the study clearly shows that BCAAs reduce cortisol & creatine kinase while increasing test so obviously BCAAs are better than nothing" I hear you say. Well, your wrong dear reader.
The vast majority of the data (1 & 2 of many) has shown that the hormonal hypothesis for growth is wrong. In other words, acute hormonal changes like that witnessed here are not a reliable indicator of protein synthesis, anabolic signalling, muscle hypertrophy or anything else of relevance.
This means that supplementing with anything with the objective of manipulating these hormonal objectives is, in fact, a waste of time.
I'll leave with this: don't buy BCAAs. Show your wallet a little more respect than that
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01-18-2017, 04:03 PM #1
How to interpret research part II - BCAAs
Last edited by MrRippedZilla; 01-18-2017 at 05:58 PM.Procrastination is the thief of dreams.
01-18-2017, 05:11 PM #2
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01-18-2017, 06:00 PM #3
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Last edited by trodizzle; 01-18-2017 at 06:15 PM.Disclaimer: I am not a licensed expert so the views expressed in this post should be considered, like, my personal opinion man.