Hi! I'm Sara Solomon, a Team Bodybuilding.com & BSN athlete. Today I'm discussing BCAAs, caffeine, and creatine: I explain the what, why, when and how. Enjoy!
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs stand for branched-chain amino acids. They are a recovery and endurance superfuel. BCAAs are a powder that you mix with water to create a delicious cocktail. They:
- Speed your post-workout recovery and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness
- Provide you with electrolytes and 10 grams of amino acids per serving (they are sugar free and have negligible calories).
I use them when I train fasted (I'm an intermittent faster) because I'm lean and my workouts are very demanding and I want to minimize muscle protein breakdown. I want to make it clear that consuming BCAAs means I am not training completely fasted, which I want to avoid doing because training completely fasted would be detrimental (it's catabolic). I want to build muscle and get stronger ... but I want to achieve this without totally sabotaging my intermittent fasting regimen... hence BCAAs.
According to Martin Berkhan, pre-workout ingestion of BCAAs in the fasted state ensure that:
- Muscle protein synthesis is stimulated and protein breakdown is inhibited.1 BCAAs contain leucine, which is a key player in protein synthesis.1
- Maximal benefits for muscle protein synthesis are achieved with minimal caloric load.1 You would have to eat more than 500 calories to get an equivalent amount of BCAAs into your circulation.1
- According to a 2004 study in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism; BCAAs may enhance protein synthesis in skeletal muscle during recovery from resistance exercise training by increasing the phosphorylation of p70S6k when ingested in a fasted state prior to commencing the workout.2
Many of you have been asking about my fasting regime, so for more information: Click here for my Fat Loss Fast System.
I like aminoX Edge because it is also my pre-workout (it has caffeine, which gives me energy).
BCAAs: When & How:
I drink 1 serving (10 grams) of aminoX Edge 5 to 15 minutes before my fasted training session to sidestep the increased protein breakdown that happens when training completely fasted. AminoX Edge is both my pre-workout and my BCAAs in one product. I prefer not to take the caffeinated version after 3pm, to ensure I will have no issues falling asleep at night.
I typically break my fast about 1 to 2 hours post-workout, so I don't consume anything other than water post-workout.
I do, however, like to drink BSN R3Build Edge when I break my fast. It has BCAAs, glutamine and creatine which support my strength, muscle-building and recovery efforts. Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information about creatine.
If you train really early in the morning and break your fast later in the day, then have 10g of BCAAs 5 to 15 minutes prior to your fasted training session. Then about an hour after your workout, have another 10g of BCAAs, after which you will consume 10g of BCAAs every 2 hours until you break your fast. This will keep protein synthesis stimulated and it will minimize muscle protein breakdown.
Don't worry, you will still benefit from fasting even if you have the BCAAs (just don't have any carbs during your fast). Fasting increases your insulin sensitivity, so your insulin levels will quickly return to their fasted state levels despite having the insulinogenic BCAAs. So you won't ruin your fast by having the BCAAs, and the good news is that you will be able to get results from your fasted muscle-building/strength training sessions.
My Favourite BCAAs:
- I'm a huge fan of BCAA products by BSN Supplements (aminoX, aminoX EDGE, R3Build Edge). That's why I wanted to be sponsored by BSN!
- They taste GREAT! Grape, strawberry orange and fruit punch are my favourites.
- aminoX and R3Build Edge do not contain any stimulants.
- aminoX Edge does contain stimulants (caffeine). This makes it a great pre-workout (it gives you energy). It helps me get through my workouts (endurance aide).
- aminoX and aminoX Edge have 10g BCAAs per serving.
- They are sugar-free (sweetened with Splenda) and have negligible calories. Kindly note that you can purchase an unflavoured option of aminoX if you want to avoid artificial sweeteners. Although BCAAs are insulinogenic, these products are a good compromise for fasters who train in fasted state (compared to the other option of consuming nearly 500 calories to get the equivalent amount of BCAAs in your system). Note: if you want to avoid BCAAs, you always have the option to train during your eating window. Here's my advice: Do what is sustainable for you because sustainable habits make it easier for you to remain consistent. Consistency will get you results... stressing over every detail will interfere with getting results.
- I like BSN R3Build Edge post-workout because it has 4g BCAAs, 5g glutamine and 5g creatine per serving which support my strength, muscle-building and recovery efforts. Ladies, creatine will not cause you to bulk up, but it might help you have better workouts overall. Nor will it cause you to bloat as long as you consistently follow a low-dose protocol (3-5g/day). And no, you don't need to load creatine in order for it to work. Creatine is NOT an anabolic steroid, and hundreds of studies have never shown it poses any type of health risk. In fact, your own body produces creatine, and the meat and fish that you consume contain creatine. How does creatine work? Supplementing with creatine allows for more creatine phosphate to be available to replenish ATP stores. If your body can replenish energy more easily, it allows you to train at higher intensities and volumes without fatiguing as quickly. There is no need to cycle off creatine, you can take it daily.3
**Contain affiliate links. I only recommend products that I use and love. But please do not feel obligated to purchase anything through my links. Click the Terms of Service to read my affiliate disclosure.
- Karlsson, Hakan et al. Branched-chain amino acids increase p70S6k phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism. July 1, 2004 vol. 287 no. 1 E1-E7. http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/287/1/E1.full
- Kendall, K. Why Women Should Take Creatine. January 24, 2017. http://bit.ly/2iKxJeE
Note: I am sponsored by BSN Supplements. I wanted to be sponsored by them because I really love their products!