You know that Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are important for your muscle growth and energy, but you may not know what the best BCAA ratio is.
You may have seen ratios for many popular BCAA products from 2: 1: 1 to 10: 1: 1.
But what exactly is the BCAA ratio ?
First of all , if you don't know the basic things about BCAA , I definitely recommend you to read The Complete BCAA Guide
As we know that BCAAs are the 3 essential amino acids:
However, since the different supplements contain different ratios of these 3 essential amino acids, there is a lot of confusion about which BCAA ratio is the best.
BCAAs are called the branched chain of amino acids because of their structure. Each has a fork that looks like a branch. BCAAs help giving energy and even fat loss, but the main advantage of BCAAs is their ability to stimulate muscle growth .
After all, it is the number one goal for most of us, woman and man.
For muscle building, BCAAs are the most essential amino acids. Among the 3, leucine is the MVP (Most Valuable Player: best player elected in the NBA).
Leucine is king
Leucine acts much like the key of a car.
The car, in our case, is a muscle cell or a fiber. The ignition starts the process of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which accumulates the muscle protein that leads to stronger muscle growth.
In other words, more scientific, leucine activates a complex called mTOR, which increases the synthesis of the muscle protein and therefore the muscular growth.
Research suggests adding leucine in your post-training protein and carbohydrates for greater muscle protein synthesis, rather than just taking carbohydrates and protein.
Because leucine is so important for muscle growth, you should make sure to use a BCAA product that contains more leucine than its counterparts , the isoleucine and valine.
Best BCAA Ratio
I recommend you choose a 2: 1: 1 BCAA product.
Many products offer a much higher ratio in favor of leucine, some at 8: 1: 1 and some even at 10: 1: 1.
In the minds of people, the product that proposes a 10: 1: 1 ratio is 5 times better than a 2: 1: 1 product.
But before going to spend your hard-earned money on these allegedly superior products, it's better to be informed.
The most crucial time to take BCAAs is around your workout, whether you take it before, during or after (yes, it is in addition to your BCAA-rich protein that you need to take). One reason for this is that you need a lot of leucine to induce the synthesis of muscle proteins. This is what leads many people to assume that the highest ratio is the best.
Some products even suggest that you should give up the other 2 amino acids and just take leucine. This is a big mistake.
Based on a study that contrasted simple leucine versus the other three with a ratio of 2: 1: 1.
Recommended BCAA Products
Why you shouldn't go for higher ratios ?
Baylor University scientists have given college-aged men a leucine supplement and a BCAA 2: 1: 1 supplement, and and split them into 2 groups , each group had to do workout, they noticed that the group which have taken higher Leucine supplements suffered from muscle pain or myofascial pain syndrome.
But BCAAs with 2:1:1 ration increase protein synthesis even better than leucine . This is one of the reasons why you should choose a ratio of 2: 1: 1 (or something close) when it comes to supplementing you.
Another reason to use a ratio of 2: 1: 1 is to increase your energy and reduce your fatigue . BCAAs are used directly by muscle fibers as a source of fuel. This is especially true during intense exercise, like bodybuilding (with minimal intensity).
Many studies suggest that taking BCAA before physical exercise promotes muscular endurance. More importantly, BCAAs help to reduce your fatigue during training. This is due to the role of valine in your body.
During exercise, tryptophan is taken up by the brain in large quantities. This tryptophan is converted in your brain into 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), better known as serotonin.
These high levels of serotonin during exercise tell your brain that your body is tired. This leads to a decrease in your muscle strength and endurance.
Valine competes with tryptophan to enter the brain. As you would expect, the valine wins.
This means that when you take BCAA valine before and / or during your training, less tryptophanes enter your brain to be converted to serotonin. This allows your muscles to contract with more force for a longer time before getting tired.
In other words:
- You can put more repetitions in the room (or at home)
- You will recover faster between the series
- You will maintain a better force
- You will maintain better endurance during the last part of your training, despite the efforts.
Valine can also help you stay more alert (focus) and keep your brain more active during the day when you are not training.
For these reasons, I recommend that you choose a 2: 1: 1 BCAA ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine when you take a dietary supplement with BCAAs before, during and / or after your wrokout session.
Stimulate your fat loss
If you want to maximize your fat loss, there is still a reason why the ratio of 2: 1: 1 is the best. This is due to the inclusion of isoleucine. Isoleucine appears to play a major role in providing BCAAs with an anti-fat benefit.
Japanese researchers have found that mice that received isoleucine with a high-fat diet have less fats than mice that did not receive additional isoleucine.
This is due to the ability of isoleucine to activate special receptors called PPAR, which increase fat burning and inhibit fat storage.
PPAR works to increase the activity of genes that promote greater fat burning in the body while decreasing the activity of genes that normally increase fat storage.
It turns out that the use of a BCAA dietary supplement with a ratio higher than 2: 1: 1: can play against you in terms of energy, fat loss and even muscle gain.
Some BCAA products with a high ratio only provide 500mg or less of valine and isoleucine. I advise you to avoid these. Quantities are not enough to maintain your energy and contain your fatigue during your workouts. It may also not be sufficient to maximize the synthesis of muscle proteins and the resulting muscle growth.
As you understand, I can only advise you to use a BCAA dietary supplement with a ratio of 2: 1: 1: providing at least 1 gram of isoleucine and 1 gram of valine per dose.
But more and more, the other forms and distributions of BCAA are developing and I think that in a few years the 2: 1: 1 will be less present.
But, if you are looking for optimal gains, your best bet is to get at least 3 grams of leucine per dose . This is the suggested minimum dose to optimize mTOR activation and maximize the synthesis of muscle proteins.