With the possible exception of diet colas, the one idea I have flip-flopped on the most is if BCAA (branch chained amino acids) are a valuable supplement. In the post Thinking About Supplements – 2012 Edition, I mentioned I lost faith in BCAA.
BCAA – I know Leangains loves BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) as does my mentor Art De Vany. The most common benefit associated with BCAA is that it preserves muscle during fasted training. I was already highly skeptical before I listened to Brad Pilon on the Fat Burning Man podcast. He made a solid case that BCAA is absolutely not needed to prevent muscle loss during fasted training.
Well, today I read a post by Art De Vany that has got me ready to try BCAA once again. How I dropped to 5.6% body fat and gained muscle, part 1** makes the case that BCAA can suppress appetite.
I have only sparingly used BCAAs over the years, but now I am a big fan. They keep me from getting hungry, keep my brain from lacking energy, promote muscle growth, and, above all, protect and stimulate my mitochondria. As you will see below from my references, the BCAAs give my body a metabolic advantage on both sides of the energy equation.
And how much does Art take?
I take about from 1 to 2 grams of Guardian BCAAs with B12 a day. I use a teaspoon if I am hungry and do not want to stop to eat. I take another mid day for an energy boost, if convenient, and another an hour after dinner and well before bed.
Now I took BCAA a few years ago, but just on days when I was fasting and lifting. I don’t recall an appetite effect, but I was only having a few doses a week. Considering I am now taking control of my appetite, this sounds like a cheap experiment. And if one could get an energy benefit then that might help me reduce caffeine levels.
Has anyone noticed an appetite or energy effect from BCAA?
** no longer online
Evelyn aka CarbSane
Jul 7, 2013 — 6:36 am
There’s quite a bit of research on leucine for appetite suppression. I’m a bit skeptical of many of the claims that DeVany makes in that article (I saw it a while back). What I’m most surprised by is that he takes it as a supplement (that he sells) but avoids red meat and dairy: the two foods most rich in BCAA. Kinda counter to the evolutionary angle 😉
Jul 7, 2013 — 6:53 am
@Evelyn – I like De Vany’s economist approach to solving nutrition and fitness questions, but I often disagree with his conclusions. I do find his diet far too restrictive for me. The BCAA idea is cheap enough to test. I won’t be getting his brand though.
Jul 7, 2013 — 1:10 pm
Like you, my experiment with BCAAs a couple of years ago was under-whelming. I’m probably going to do another experiment in a few weeks’ time – and will report back.
I’ve lost track – have you experimented with creatine?
Evelyn aka CarbSane
Jul 7, 2013 — 1:55 pm
Yeah, MAS, I have nothing against the BCAA, just find his approach a tad disconnected. If they are healthful, why avoid the foods they come in? Right?
Jul 7, 2013 — 2:01 pm
@Glenn – Years ago I played with creatine and I liked it. I’ve been meaning to start back up, but I wanted to lose the 5# (now 10#) first. Thought mixing creatine into the mix now would confuse the results.
I liked your podcast on creatine.
@Evelyn – We agree. I would be constantly hungry and bored to tears on a De Vany style diet. I also suspect that De Vany (like Sisson) are genetic gods and could thrive on about any diet.
Jul 7, 2013 — 2:59 pm
Yes, that’s the same reason I haven’t got back to taking creatine – I’ll pretty sure it will lead to what appears to be weight gain but will only be muscle (with water) gain. But for now, I’m focused on losing 4-5 pounds…
I agree with Evelyn’s responses to ADV’s ideas, BTW.
Jul 8, 2013 — 5:43 am
“…keep me from getting hungry, keep my brain from lacking energy, promote muscle growth, and, above all, protect and stimulate my mitochondria.”
In short, another magic bullet.
Jul 8, 2013 — 12:04 pm
Just to tangle this up a bit more, Lustig’s view seems to be that BCAAs are in the same category of damaging substances as fructose and alcohol:
“And if it’s turned into fat, it doesn’t matter whether it was dietary fat to start with, or whether it’s sugar in the case of most people in this country, or branch chain amino acids, , which you find in corn-fed beef, or for that matter, alcohol. These are all substances that go to the mitochondria, don’t have a pop-off valve to something that’s safe and get turned into liver fat and cause disease.”-Dr. Robert Lusting (interview with Diane Rehm)
God help us, when will it be safe to go back to the dining room?
Evelyn aka CarbSane
Jul 8, 2013 — 12:43 pm
Lustig really ticks me off. The reason why BCAA are elevated in some is because they are the most insulinogenic AA’s , which means they need insulin more than others for uptake into cells. They are specifically singled out for this in my Guyton & Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. So they are another marker for “insulin resistance” . Likely more indicative of relative insulin insufficiency.
As you can see from the image I’m linking to, BCAA are ketogenic AA’s. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_18sX-aRGjo0/TBP4nvpphfI/AAAAAAAAAGc/2kOTFv4e4Y4/s1600/ScreenHunter_01+Dec.+01+16.32.gif
Jul 10, 2013 — 10:08 am
I thought only the Leucine was ketogenic; Valine is glucogenic and Isoleucine swings both ways. In any case, there are some that say BCAA are actually supportive of mitochondrial function (as opposed to what Lustig is saying in the quote about them getting turned into liver fat and causing disease) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413110003049