Whether this is your first time getting serious about weight loss, or your tenth time in the foray, one thing remains the same; calories count. Seemingly small and innocuous foods can have catastrophic caloric loads, making it extremely difficult for you to lose weight.
Even the otherwise godly whey protein can cause problems as it relates to insulin control, leaving you in a rightful conundrum. Avoiding it should be the most obvious solution then, right? Not exactly.
Protein is well-known to be the building block of muscle. Consume too little of it, and you can stand on the sidelines and watch as your precious gains whittle away. So what can you do?
You can use a branched chain amino acid supplement, otherwise known as a BCAA supplement. Such supplements contains the 3 branched chain amino acids, 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine, usually in an ideal ratio of 2:1:1.
These amino acids do not present any sort of noticeable caloric load, at least if consumed straight and without additives.
Wondering what makes these BCAAs so special? We thought you’d never ask.
BCAAs Help Preserve Muscle Mass
One of the most dreaded things about a calorie restricted weight loss diet is the fact that along with the unwanted blubber, a lot of precious muscle can be lost in the process. This can be very bad if you’re not careful.
The reason? Catabolism. On the opposite end of the spectrum from anabolism, catabolism is a destructive process. It fragments large molecules (such as muscle protein, glycogen and stored fat) into simpler ones such as amino acids, free fatty acid fragments and glucose.
When you’re restricting calories, your body finds them where it needs to. Holding on to muscle is not a high priority if calories are scarce.
This is why you use BCAAs. These amino acids bolster anabolism and can maintain a neutral to positive nitrogen balance, which is what you want to keep your gains. A study[i] published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2016 confirmed this, as it compared glucose to BCAA administration while calories were restricted.
Supports Fat Loss
One surprising benefit of BCAA supplementation during a cut phase is the fact that it can actually help you lose more fat. Much of this benefit comes about as a result of the leucine present in the combination, which may be augmented further if combined with glutamine, another important amino acid.
Although the reasons for this aren’t fully understood, findings positively corroborate with the use of BCAAs[ii]. The effects, however, appear to be more noteworthy in overweight and obese subjects[iii], compared to those that are highly trained.
Can Help Mitigate Muscle Soreness
Muscle soreness is an unavoidable consequence of exercise. It signifies muscle breakdown, and if proper nutrition is implemented, recovery. Dealing with DOMS- delayed onset muscle soreness, takes two very important variables, namely rest, and nutrition.
On a calorie restricted diet, the nutrition aspect is likely to suffer. The end result? Prolonged pain. BCAA supplementation can help promote recovery and in turn reduce DOMS duration[iv]. In short- muscle damage should be followed up with some sort of nutritional recovery protocol, or you’ll be spinning your wheels without getting anywhere.
May Help Offset Fatigue
Fatigue is very real on a calorie restricted diet. Reducing calories will inevitably cause metabolic changes, which may be more mental/psychological than actually physical. BCAAs are surprising in this regard.
Much of their benefit here is owing to the fact that they compete with tryptophan for uptake in the brain, and subsequently lower serotonin levels. High serotonin levels are associated with exercise induced fatigue, something you are dealing with much more frequently when restricting calories consumed.
BCAAs should be essential fare if you’re serious about maintaining your muscle mass with shredding fat. They are helpful on so many fronts that it simply is counterproductive to avoid them. Be sure to look for a product that contains the BCAAs in the ideal ratio mentioned, and avoid those with flavourings and additives.
[i] Dudgeon, W.D., Kelley, E.P. & Scheett, T.P. In a single-blind, matched group design: branched-chain amino acid supplementation and resistance training maintains lean body mass during a caloric restricted diet. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 13, 1 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-015-0112-9
[ii] Stoppani J, Scheett T, Pena J, Rudolph C, Charlebois D. 2009 international society of sports nutrition conference and expo new orleans, la, USA. 14-15 june 2009. Abstracts. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009;6 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):P1?P19. Published 2009 Jul 31. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-s1-p1
[iii] Zemel MB, Bruckbauer A. Effects of a leucine and pyridoxine-containing nutraceutical on fat oxidation, and oxidative and inflammatory stress in overweight and obese subjects. Nutrients. 2012;4(6):529?541. doi:10.3390/nu4060529
[iv] Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9:20. Published 2012 Jul 12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20