Should You Take BCAAs for Muscle Growth?


BCAAs are a collection of three amino acids with a side chain that is branched. They are leucine, isoleucine, and valine (usually in a 2:1:1 ratio).

Leucine itself is known to be an “anabolic factor” and signal for muscle protein synthesis, when calories or protein is low, this anabolic signal appears to help prevent muscle loss or even promote muscle gain. Naturally, it would make sense to take BCAAs. But your needs depend more on how much protein you’re eating during the day.

While BCAAs tend to be high in leucine, so are all complete protein sources. So whether you’re chugging down a protein shake or chomping on a steak, you’re taking in BCAAs and a pretty significant dose of leucine.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Most research on BCAAs compares the consumption of the magical three ingredients to low- or no-protein intake at all. In those scenarios, yes, you want to pump those BCAAs to help prevent muscle loss or even spark muscle gains.

If you’re eating your protein, the speed of absorption and the amino acid amounts take on secondary importance because if the total amount of protein you take in is on par with what your body needs to grow, then you’ll have everything your muscles need.

The exception to the rule occurs when you’re dieting or eating fewer calories.

Some research does suggest that taking in more BCAAs might help you preserve your muscle as you drop fat.



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming no more 2,300 mg of sodium per day, with a daily maximum of 1,500 mg for older adults. If you’re actively trying to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition offers some insight into what can be achieved using several approaches.

Using data from the 2007-2010 Dutch National Food Consumption Survey compiled between 2007 and 2010, along with a 2011 Food Composition Table, researchers determined that packaged goods producers could feasibly reduce salt content in most food groups by 50%. That would take daily average consumption from 3,042 to 1,886 mg per day. If consumers took a more active role in choosing low-sodium foods, a 47% daily reduction (3,042 to 1,627 mg) was possible.

True Strength Moment: Although it’s always a good idea to check Facts Panels, you don’t really need to tally up sodium totals from every food. One of the easiest ways to limit sodium is to prepare your own meals at home using foods in as close to their natural state as possible. That includes lean cuts of meats, fresh vegetables and fruits.



Active adults have plenty of choices when it comes to protein powders. There are single source products containing only one type, and blends that make use of two or more protein sources. An interesting study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition put whey protein concentrate up against egg albumen in a number of different formulations.

Using lab rats as subjects, researchers mixed a straight whey powder, a blend of 70% hydrolyzed whey and 30% hydrolyzed egg, a 50/50 blend of the same proteins and one that contained 30% hydrolyzed whey and 70% hydrolyzed egg in water. The anabolic response increased 2 to 4 times for all protein drinks 90 minutes after consumption with whey protein concentrate generating a 104% increase in protein synthesis and the 70/30 blend of hydrolyzed whey to egg achieving a 74% increase after 180 minutes.

True Strength Moment: Whey and egg are both complete proteins containing all of the essential amino acids, including the three branched chain amino acids more commonly known as BCAAs. Research determined that hydrolyzed whey protein did the best job of breaking down fats, a process known as lipolysis.



In reality, your body needs dietary fat to work properly. Your heart cells, for example, run almost entirely on fatty acids. Fat is also necessary for vitamin and mineral absorption, as well as cellular energy.

However, not all fats have the same nutritional value to your body. Trans fat found in vegetable shortenings and partially hydrogenated oils has zero health benefits. Despite its bad rap, saturated fat is safe to eat if eaten in small amounts—typically less than 10 percent of your daily fat intake. Unsaturated fats found in olive oil, plant-based foods, and omega-3 fatty acids have potentially healthy impacts on your body, including improved cholesterol, reduced joint pain, and protection against heart disease.

Eating fat is part of a balanced, healthy diet. But how much you need in your diet depends entirely on your body and your goals. Here’s some information to help you easily measure 20 grams of fat without a scale!